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TENSION Prolonged tension can lead to stress

As an insidious component of modern life, tension C2:1 occur during even the most mundane everyday aCriYlnE'S. Prolonged tension can lead to stress, that all too potent cause of serious physical and mental illness.

Q Is tension always a destructive fo rce?

A Not at ai' I ~ 'ei'v a construct. '"u-"ulating resoureefui~""" e~c ~.8ntiveness, and biologce . :::,::" r"a to promote survival. 1;\:yetty dull stiek-in-tho-~  :. ~,out tension in ou r lives:.::: ~d probably not survive.,.thout it to stimulct"~,, ,,~'sss that is destru::::~." S~Sion

Q Is there any specific type

of tension that is particularly insidious today?

A Yes. " ;).,nd poisonous­rat~,::'e~ ~sidious-isthe right:,:: '~ :J8cause it is almost certai~ ', s:::~sble for more deatl-s ~~ ~e~v a more obvious cause. C::::" ~~e most serious featvE's::::" day is that it has becc~ E' e ~ :::st mpossible to

achs. E' E' ordinary things like trave~;:: '..,ork, getting the shocc~g j-:ving the car, using a bus or ~'e~::Je~tlng repairs done -the list is e,aiess - without becoming

un.\' involved in a nightmarish INec c" hassles every day of our lives. Tl-ess:::ompletely non-productive cor" :::~s give rise to high levels of ter,s :::~ "c- which, unless we are prece',:::: ~:::ose our temper twenty times e ce, ~,ere is no outlet, and whd' erE' . E'" cetent progenitors of stress

Q What defences do people have against the build-up of tension?

A Fortu.r ecE'. "E'. era. II First, the exarrc e e~c E'~couragement of havino h::wc E'::: C E'roS success"~. ~ Cces-. allied to the skills cf erE'" c::-:c_ e-t'ade Next, the cor" :::E'r CE' ~~e~::~S is able to sueeee::: e -E'S~ doing so. Third. ~::: c" e'.oldanee,

                                adaptao I:::. e~c E'"cecE'                                 recreation

- all of thesE' ~ _ ~!zed to the full whene.E" C- r;: gets roughl Finally, the-s Of sOmebOdY ~:::t orly in lending a SV~ cece - c Jt also in helping to K~;:s ~ csrsoeetive and in giving SCJ. cess::: advice

Tension and strain, in the emotional or mental sense rather than in the mecha­nical or physical, are often spoken of as though they were indistinguishable from stress. In fact, not only are they quite distinct, but the differences between them are very important. Tension and strain are things that happen to all of us, usually every day. They are the load, the pressure, the effect that is imposed on us by the inevitable confrontations that sometimes occur between us and our en­vironment in terms of the things, the people and the circumstances around us. Stress, however, is a disease which occurs

when the tension or strain becc::,:, e­than we can cope with and ~::",-­breakdown in health develop~.

Causes of tension

Tensions occur in our lives for a variety 'J: reasons and in a variety of ways. The most basic and intense are the result of situations that inhibit expression of our instincts.

This old gentleman's worry beads have obviously done him a power of good! In fact, it is well known that 'having something to do with your hands' can reduce tension.


Q Do all people respond to tension in the same way?

A No, they do not. One of the fascinating things about tension is the way in which its effects vary so widely. A challenge or conflict which turns out to be the stimulus that is the making of one person may spell doom, disaster and breakdown to another. In general, response to an episode of tension depends both on its intensity and duration, and on the personality and outlook of the person concerned.

Q What happens if a person is subjected to too much tension to cope with?

A If the tension proves to be too much for the person's 'coping' mechanisms a situation of stress will develop. This will lead to some form of stress illness or disorder such as raised blood pressure, heart attack, peptic ulcer, depression, addiction or a nervous breakdown.

Q How does everyday tension turn into stress?

A Simply, when there is more of it than the particular person can cope with. Tension or arousal is intended to lead to - and have its natural outlet in - some form of action or performance. If that does not happen - perhaps because the action is blocked in some way, or because the amount of tension is greater than the opportunity for actiVities in which it can be either utilized or 'worked off' - then it will build up, like steam in a kettle, until the lid blows off. This may result in something as serious as a coronary thrombosis, stroke or suicide. But the solution can be simple, just get a rest and change down to a more relaxed attitude and a full recovery can soon be made. Otherwise, a vicious circle can rapidly build up in which, as a person's ability to cope with his tension becomes inadequate, he pushes himself harder to try and achieve results that he cannot attain. Often, the person who is most in need of taking a rest­ the workaholic - finds it hardest to slow down and take a look at the problems that are facing him.

The universal, primary instincts are concerned with self-protection and pre­servation of life, obtaining food and drink, and reproduction. These are re­garded as the primary instincts, since without them and the driving force that they supply, both we as individuals and mankind as a species would certainly perish. These, then, are the things which in most of us are inborn as driving forces that override all else.

The secondary instincts are not quite so demanding as the primary, and are not so vital to man's survival. But for most people, they are vital to happiness. The first of them is the power instinct, which drives people to be competitive and am­bitious and to try to gain positions of superiority over others in terms of achievement, wealth, position or title. The second is the herd instinct, which leads people to think and act in groups and communities. Finally, denied by some psychologists, is the spiritual instinct which urges people towards goals which are non-selfish, idealistic and, at least materially, unrewarding.

These primary and secondary instincts constitute the major basic driving forces in most people's lives; satisfying them without conflict or restraint gives people a sense of security and emotional hap­piness and contentment.

If. on the other hand, the following of their demands is made impossible or difficult, mental tension and pain result. And this tension, if it is severe enough, will lead to some form of mental or physical stress illness. The likelihood of this occurring depends on the extent to which the instinct concerned has been frustrated, the mental 'strength' and capacity for adapting to a heavy tension load of the person involved, and whether or not an alternative area of satisfaction is available.

Many feelings which appear as tension are related to particular instincts. Fear, for instance, is associated with concern about self-preservation and security; anger with the need for confrontation and combat; loneliness with the desire for company and protection of the 'herd'; appetite and hunger with the need for regular nourishment; sexual desire with the need to reproduce future generations. Thus, the satisfaction of instincts is associated with and results in pleasur­able, happy feelings; while their frustra­tion results in tension and unpleasant, painful feelings.


But frustration of instincts and other desires leads not only to feelings of ten­sion and unhappiness, but also to some­thing which frequently accompanies

tension - conflict. Tension and conflict, though born of frustration and dissatis­faction, are nevertheless the funda­mental mainsprings of human endeavour and progress. They occur whenever what we want to do is not immediately pos­sible. They can result from a wide variety of circumstances. What we want to do may involve us in a collision course with another person after the same goal. Or it may be incompatible with the interests of the herd or the rules of the community in which we live. Or it may represent a struggle with some limitation imposed by our own bodies such as illness or disa­bility, or with an obstacle in the world around us, such as drought or flood. Or the tension may be the result of the demands of rival instincts and emotions that are competing with each other for domination within ourselves.

There are four possible outcomes to a situation of tension conflict: we may be successful and victorious; we may decide to submit; we may try to escape; or the tension may continue and interfere with the stability of our lives - in the form of

stress - indefinite> 3Jr:':on nor­mally occurs \\'Jf' that to

continue the conr'                 u!er m our

interests, It ma           with

   an element of u'cc f,:,;' instance,

        most membe"~ :':,ubmit

easily to the ;''::e,'d and never get into troct ~ e c,'-e always at odds and ir~ c:;c:" ~L:t, Generally, however. -' ',- ~ not submit easily '~'':'::e for new ideas and pro"rt, -"cc C- are driven to experin:e~,: ' possibilities_

Reaction" to ten"ion

In all t;",ecc-          ' tension there are three e>,o-c : 1',:,e: those that we

               can aeee:::      those that seem

                    excess: ated: and those that

All too oftEn, thE apparently simple events ofdaily lifE ,~an lEad ro a build-up in tension that nobod.\ nEds right}. The tension inherent in playing a skilled game for high stakes shrr..:.s up on~\ roo clearly on the face of the bril/zanr snooker player, world champion A,iEx Higgins (below).

are definitely not normal and represent some form of mental illness. The dif­ference between them, however, is really only one of degree. The response which occurs depends partly on the importance and intensity ofthe conflict and partly on the personality and mentality of the person concerned.

Thus it is not regarded as abnormal for us generally to submit to the conventions of our community with regard to accep­table behaviour. But we would regard persistent feelings of inferiority, un­worthiness, grovelling or guilt over small matters as inappropriately excessive. However, manifestations of persistent depression, prolonged melancholy or feelings of persecution are viewed as being definitely abnormal. In the realm of escape as a response to tension we regard jokes, hobbies, holidays, and fantasy as in plays and films as acceptable; we find heavy drinking, drug taking and out­bursts of temperamental behaviour ex­cessive; and we consider alcoholism, permanent running away, and suicide attempts as definitely abnormal.

The kinds of situation that are most likely to give rise to tension in our lives today are quite different to the very much more basic and immediate threats of

~ hunger, thirst, cold, lack of shelter, S. fighting over food and rivalry for partners ~ to mate with that were sources of emo­~, tional and physical conflict in our distant ~ ancestors' time. But they operate and ~ affect us in very much the same way - and 2 we need to be able to cope with them IlO ::i' less effectively if we are going to survive.


Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A  to Z GUIDE IN WEEKLY PARTS,  DOCTOR’S ANSWERS: PART 86, TENSION, Page 2357 to 2359.


(Sorry. Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos in the  script have been left out)

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