Stress: The Nature and History of Engineered Grief

Stress: The Nature and History of Engineered Grief

Stress: The Nature and History of Engineered Grief

Stress: The Nature and History of Engineered Grief

Synopsis

"Stress" names a kind of grief unique to the modern period, a grief perpetually unresolved, evoked by the rapid and relentless changes characteristic of modernity. Yet, it was not until World War II, when the psychiatric difficulties of pilots and bombers in particular brought stress into the open, that stress became a topic of medical and psychological research and a named cause of disorders. The term borrows the notions of pressure and tension from the engineering world. Included is this book are a phenomenology of the experience of stress, a history of the construction of "engineered grief," and an assessment of stress management programs.

Excerpt

Whenever I would say that I was writing a book on stress, I would be greeted with one of two responses. The first response made me feel as if I were a St. Bernard carrying long-sought brandy over the Alps or a camel with sacks of water swaying through the desert to a lost, dusty, fly-covered soul. So I would say, "No, it's not that kind of book. It won't help you cope."

The second response made me feel as if I were yet another social (or worse, behavioral) scientist proposing yet another theory about stress, with appropriate tables filled with carefully validated data. "No," I would say, "it's not that kind of book either." I do not think that stress has the same kind of scientific merit as gravity or quantum mechanics. "Well, then, what sort of book is it?" was the next question. Here is my reply.

My inquiry into stress began in puzzlement. I had started my first fulltime job after graduate school in 1978. I was hurrying across campus one cloudy Seattle day, ruminating about all I had to do, and realizing that if I planned my life in order to do it all, I would need to have 30 hours in a day. Then, just as the clouds parted to reveal a rainbow, the idea came to me: I am under stress. For some reason this struck me as a revelation. So like the Ancient Mariner, I began to tell certain people that I was under stress. They knew exactly what I meant, and many admitted that they too suffered under the same burdens: no time, no money, no energy--the trinity of stress. Then, like a pilgrim, I discovered that I could do something about it: cope, assert myself more, relax, take time to smell the flowers, get therapy, exercise, stop smoking. Oh, yes! I did all those things (though I am not now nor have I ever been addicted to healing techniques). By virtue of participating in all . . .

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