What stress is and is not 19
do the damage – rather, it is the way you respond to it that does
the damage, or not.
Four failures to control
Before we look at taking control, which will ll the rest of this
book, let’s start by recognising the ways people nd to relinquish
control over their lives. Each one is a way to avoid responsibility
for our own stress.
‘There is no problem’, ‘I am in control’, ‘it’s only temporary’.
How often have you heard yourself deny what you know deep
down: you are in trouble. But don’t be too hard on yourself:
denial is the rst response we all have to adverse change, so
these responses are totally natural. We’ve spent a lot of this
chapter referring to your ‘ght-or-ight’ response, but the
rst reex we all have when faced with danger is neither ght
nor ight: it is fright. Like a hedgehog facing an articulated
Think about a dried-up old tree with shallow roots and brittle twigs. If we
put that tree under stress, what will happen? In a strong wind, it may blow
over . . . or it may simply snap in two.
Now think of a mighty oak tree, with deep roots and a solid trunk. In the
same wind, under the same stress, it just does not move. Its roots go deep
into the solid ground and its trunk is strong and conﬁdent. Or think of a
thin, supple willow. In the greatest of gales it bends and twists, moving this
way and that, absorbing the stresses without leaving the place it is rooted
to. Each has a different kind of strength – but each is equally strong.
The external stressors in your life are like that gale. How you respond to
them is your choice.