Hans Selye, the physician who first coined the term “stress,” defined stress as “essentially the rate of wear and tear in the body.” In recent years scientists have learned that stress underlies most, if not all, physical, mental and emotional disorders. If we look below the surface when investigating a disorder we will usually see stress as the culprit. Accumulated stress is a permanent burden that the system carries. But where does this wear and tear on the body come from?

Stress has many origins. One of these is our hidden assumptions. We build internal knots of stress because our hidden assumptions keep us busy attempting to get external input to decide whether we are on the right track or not. Instead of relying on ourselves for affirmation we look to others. In this way we create a mental framework which causes us stress and physiological imbalances.

Many years ago I saw a sad young woman in therapy. She was sad because her boyfriend and she had recently spilt up. For a long time I listened to her sob and tell me about her anguish over losing the love of her life. I felt confused because within her story there were contradictions. It seemed to me that she had unwittingly pushed the young man away. I told her that I wondered if she could “get him back” since she seemed to miss him so much. She thought about this idea for awhile but confessed that although she was very sad that he was gone, she also felt relieved.

She believed she had to “be” a certain way when he was around. Her hidden assumptions were the cause of such internal pressure that eventually she had unknowingly pushed the young man away. Her grief was palatable. Yet the pressure caused by her hidden assumptions was worse. In addition to her hidden assumptions she continually looked for signs from him that she was doing OK. She had created an impossible situation for herself.

To one degree or another we all possess hidden assumptions. How does this problem begin?

Children are natural born philosophers. They are continually seeking instruction on how to be in the world. If they receive support, love and nurturing guidance, they will do fine. If they live with unpredictability or receive constant corrections, their self-confidence will flounder and they will operate from a bank of hidden assumptions. After all, we all have to figure out how to handle the external world. It is quite easy for a child to become vigilant, always on the lookout to discern the expectations of others. This pattern flows into adulthood and disrupts happiness and causes exhaustion. Undoubtedly, a great deal of what causes the mental framework leading to depression and other physiological imbalances is a tendency to second guess yourself.

Along these lines, depression can be thought of as a symptom of one-sided awareness. It frequently occurs when the mind becomes exhausted because it is in a state of extreme external awareness. The extent of focus on the external determines the degree of depression. The advice to “get in touch with yourself” is not just a silly saying; it is good solid counsel. For more suggestions about addressing and reducing stress, I recommend reading Chapter 9 in Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way and learning how meditation can help change your internal world and increase your ability to rely on yourself for affirmation instead of relying on externals.

The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown in replicated studies to relieve stress from the physiology and to help the individual view life with more depth and breath. The TM technique is an agent of vitality that anchors us to a deeper sense of self. In a subtle but profound way, we experience a more panoramic view of our life and past and present problems take on a different proportion. Our mind is able to grasp more layers of reality and thus to perceive life with more depth. The deep rest given by this type of meditation dissolves accumulated stresses and hidden assumptions. We become connected back to the self and begin to look inward instead of outward for affirmation. This is a very healthy thing.

All warm wishes,


Nancy-Liebler_Stress Is the Culprit