The Effects of Stress on the Body — What, me worry?

Effects of Stress on the Body: Old Man. Lines on the face.
Old man worrying. One of the effects of stress on the body is lines on the face. Photo: Highway2783 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.org.

The effects of stress on the body can be devastating.

A friend of the family recently had a nervous breakdown. He can’t sleep. He can hardly eat. He has lost a great deal of weight and there is the smell of death about him. He has given up.

For someone 73 years young, he had looked trim and dapper. Now, only days later, he looks frail and weak.

His problem is one of extreme attachment and worry. How? He’s holding onto his sins too tightly. He’s feeling a gargantuan guilt for what he has done to others. He feels that God hates him for those things. He is wallowing in a cesspool of worry, self-resentment, guilt, and more.

What triggered this? Only recently did he discover that the project of the last ten years of his life had been a failure. He had wasted thousands of dollars (actually their Philippine peso equivalent) of other people’s money. He had diverted much of those funds to a swindler who had promised much, but had delivered nothing.

What he is feeling now is the impingement of ego. He is now “wrong” on so many levels, it hurts for him to think. It hurts for him even to exist. In giving up, he is sliding toward death. For him, the effects of stress on the body are very apparent—the lost weight, the shaking, the nervous twitches. His decision is an implicit suicide based on selfishness and ego. And ego is that which separates self from God and others. It separates the true, immortal self from the infinite.

My wife and I attempted intervention. We asked him to come stay with us, and he did for a few hours. With love and positive reinforcement, it might have worked. My training in problem solving, confidence-building drills, plus our devout prayers could have helped to pull him away from the brink. His son had other plans.

After his son, “rescued” his father from our attempts, my wife suspected that he had become ashamed that someone else was taking care of his father. Later, I learned that his son was a former drug addict who frequently stole money from his father, and stole property from others to support his former habit. Perhaps we were jeopardizing his “cash cow.” Does that sound cruel to use such a term? Is it cruel for a son to treat his father that way? Whether it was shame or greed that motivated his son, the apparent source of his actions was ego. The son was suffering from the negative end of perhaps several dichotomies—selfishness-selflessness, shame-pride, greed-moderation, and possibly others.

Tracking Down the Source of Stress on the Body — The Source of All Worry

Effects of Stress on the Body: Yin and Yang.
Symbolic dichotomy of Yin and Yang. Source of the stress we feel comes from something similar. Graphic: Kenny Shen (PD).

What does this mean, “dichotomies?” The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as, “Division into two usually contradictory parts or opinions.” Perhaps the earliest dichotomy mentioned in literature was that of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. This was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “Good” and “evil” are the contradictory parts.

As we know, nothing in life is ever so “black and white.” “Good” and “evil” are not perfect poles in opposition. Within the mortal realm, there is always a little evil in every good, and a little good in every evil. Some nice things are more good than others. Some bad things are more evil than others. There are no “digital” jumps from one state to another, but only an analog stream of qualities that are greater and greater “good” in one direction, and greater and greater “evil” in the other.

Good vs. evil is only one example of a dichotomy. There may be countless others. Some of them are, “right-wrong,” “generous-selfish,” “wise-stupid,” and “compassionate-indifferent.”

A special dichotomy is that of the “victim-perpetrator” pair. There is a bit of the perpetrator in every victim, and a bit of the victim in every perpetrator. The vicious cycle of hurt and retribution—of perpetual blood feuds and the like—is an insanity that is hard to rise above. The continuity is self-reinforcing. The only way to break the cycle is to inject something that does not belong to the realm of continuity. We need to inject something that is from the realm of discontinuity—creation. The specific creation for the victim is “forgiveness.” The creation for the perpetrator is “responsibility.” But the victim also has to take responsibility, and the perpetrator also has to forgive.

Our family friend needs to forgive himself and to take responsibility for his actions. The responsibility of which I speak has nothing to do with guilt. Such an emotion or attitude as guilt is only a continuity-based burden, and not worth the paper on which it is written. One of the effects of stress on the body is an increased susceptibility to illness. Another effect of such stress is a perpetual lack of luck. Such a person is the proverbial “jinx.” More than merely coping with stress, they need to stop being self-concerned. How to reduce stress in their situation is to turn their attention on helping others. That’s not easy when the person feels incompetent, unloved and thoroughly unlucky.

Effects of Stress on the Body: Angel St. Michael vanquishing Satan.
Raphael’s painting of St. Michael vanquishing Satan. This symbolizes the fight between good and evil, at the core of all worry.

All of these continuous ranges of dichotomies are part of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. “Good” and “evil” are only the most obvious of those dichotomies. They help to lock the immortal child of God into the here and now, and separate from the infinite.

Long ago, it was our decision to leave the Garden. What do I mean by “our?” Wasn’t it Adam and Eve who were in the Garden? In the symbolism of Genesis, Adam and Eve are many things. In one verse, Adam is described as a group rather than an individual. But more to the point, Genesis 1:26 states that man was created in God’s image. In other words, we were created as spiritual beings with the power of creation. That means we are immortal. So, yes, we were around during the fall from grace and the departure from the Garden.

Immortal? Now, wait a minute. Everyone dies, right? Bodies do, but not the immortal children of God. We are asleep, spiritually. Once we wake up, we will no longer taste death. The body will still die, but the consciousness will continue. This is the everlasting life of which Jesus spoke.

In the Garden, we chose to ignore. We were selfish in our decision. We chose to become separate from the whole. That is the nature of selfishness. In other words, we turned our back on God. That was the original sin. Only by doing this could we know guilt and shame. Only by our decision could we have ever discovered resentment, victim, perpetrator, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, and a host of other self-degrading attitudes.

That one act put us to sleep as spiritual beings. We created a pseudo-self (ego) through which we could become aware. We placed our trust in physical continuity and in the senses we received from our bodies, filtered by our egos. Because this false self (ego) is a created object, it is subject to the laws of the physical universe. It is subject to action and reaction (including karma). It is vulnerable. Our attachment to it holds it as important. Anything that tends to make the ego self seem wrong or bad is an attack on the “self.” It is painful, especially when ego is held too tightly. Such grasping only strengthens the effect of karma. The true self behind those constructs (ego, karma, and the dichotomies) knows when it has done “bad.” When the debt comes due, the body may not know the reason, but the true self does.

For those who are not so self-obsessed, the attachment to ego is much looser. There is less vulnerability. The person is healthier both socially and spiritually.

Man is both spirit and flesh. When Jesus said that he who tries to save his life will surely lose it, he was talking about this dual quality of the composite “self.” The physical body is associated with the continuity-based ego self. If someone protects their ego/body, one moves further away from awakening as a spiritual being—Jesus’ everlasting life.

The body and ego are only as valuable as they are useful toward that end. Physical resurrection is not the intent of Christian “salvation,” despite what church dogma may hold to be “true.” One’s body is not going to be exhumed from its grave and reanimated. Our resurrection is all about spiritual reawakening. After all, we were created in the image of God—a spiritual being with the power of creation. The bodies are only secondary, and a distant one at that.

Homo sapiens were created only as a tool to help us wake up. Catatonic spirits in animal bodies would have had no way of discussing spiritual things. This is a key theme in a non-fiction book project I finished in February, 2014: The Bible’s Hidden Wisdom: God’s Reason for Noah’s Flood.

God’s Worry Before the Flood—Neanderthals

Effects of Stress on the BodyHold on a minute! What’s this about Neanderthal? This requires some explaining, but I’ll give you the short version.

While researching the background for a novel—Edge of Remembrance—I made an outrageous number of discoveries. Many of them were biblical in nature. I had encountered two implausible dates for events found in Genesis. Where they led me is detailed in The Bible’s Hidden Wisdom.

I found what I needed in Genesis. The code I discovered is simple and elegant. The proof it generated also gave us a new timeline for Genesis—one compatible with science. No longer do biblical literalists have any reason to disrespect science. Their interpretation that Genesis tells them the universe is only six thousand years old is now shown to be wrong, both biblically and scientifically. God and science are in agreement, and this should not surprise anyone, since He created the physical reality that science studies.

This new timeline shows us that Noah’s Flood occurred thirty thousand years ago, and that the beginnings of humanity were ten and a half million years ago. Whoa! Looks like anthropologists have a lot more digging to do.

While comparing this new Genesis timeline to several in found in science, I discovered a crime—one far more sinister than anything in recorded human history. The crime involved the premeditated elimination of an entire species—Neanderthal. You see, Neanderthal disappeared thirty thousand years ago. This is the same date as Noah’s Flood.

How is this more than a mere coincidence? Early in Genesis 6, before God taps Noah on the shoulder, there is some strange wording. It talks about men having lots of daughters. What’s the significance of this? Didn’t they have sons, too? It also talks about the sons of God mating with the daughters of men. This isn’t described as being particularly wicked, but it seems to lead into a wickedness—the very reason to wipe the planet clean with the Flood.

The sons of God are the spiritual children of God wrapped in Homo sapiens flesh. So what does “daughters of men” mean? Besides referring to the fairer sex, the distinction here is between “of God” and “of men.” There have been many conflicting interpretations of these two groups. Here is an interpretation that trumps them all. (Isn’t it arrogant of me to say such a thing? Perhaps. I’ll risk it, because the message is too important.) The “of God” talks of the men made in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2—spirit wrapped in Homo sapiens flesh. The “of men,” then, must not be Homo sapiens. Apparently it refers to another man-like species which was neither so blessed with souls nor possessing such a divine purpose as that held by Homo sapiens. And what is this other species? The Bible doesn’t say much about them, only that their hybrid offspring “became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” In the next verse, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

Why would inter-species mating be so wicked? To answer this, perhaps we have to go back to the reason for God creating Homo sapiens. What could that have been?

The implied purpose of the entire Bible is one of awakening the spiritual self and returning to God. So, Homo sapiens was likely created to forward this purpose. As I said, sleeping spirits are incapable of discussing spiritual things. For this, they needed a host body with the capability of intelligent speech. Did Neanderthal have this capability? There is much debate about this in scientific circles. However, if the Bible is a clue here, I suspect Neanderthal did not have the capacity to create civilization. Muddying the genetic pool would have thwarted the purpose of Homo sapiens.

Now, if this sounds racist, I apologize for hurting anyone’s feelings. Yet, the larger purpose of humanity transcends any such issues.

Neanderthal had to go because they stood in the way of our salvation—our great reawakening.

What is that awakening like? I have tasted it (see my blog article, Humble Confidence). With spiritual awakening comes the return of our power over creation. Some may balk at this idea. Some may decry it as blasphemous. That’s sad, because they have missed the point of it all! As children of God, His traits are our birthright. And Jesus said that we could do the miracles he did and even greater things. All we needed was the faith to do them.

Some people worry too much. Our family friend comes to mind. His worry was killing him.

Worry and the Need for Sleep — More Effects of Stress on the Body

Effects of Stress on the Body: Yawning
Yawning man. Perhaps the reason we need so much sleep comes from the nasty habit of worrying. Sleep may well be one of the effects of stress on the body. Photo: Dmytro Tchystiak (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.org.

I remember reading a report years ago about worry and sleep. It seems that a psychological profile of the rare individual who requires very little sleep shows a very low “worry” quotient. Apparently they have a different attitude about life. Perhaps they see life as filled with possibilities, rather than filled with dangers or inconveniences. A friend of mine in Los Angeles is a restaurateur from India. He told me that he frequently doesn’t sleep at all and only occasionally sleeps a couple of hours. What does he do with his “spare” time? He reads. While his wife and daughter sleep, he enriches his life with education.

When I was in college, I had a full-time job, a 15-hour-a-week commute, and one semester, I took 18 units! Ouch! I could still feel the effects of stress on my body two years later. Getting an average four hours of sleep per night was not healthy for someone who still harbored a vigorous dose of worry.

The effects of stress on the body from worry may well be the reason we seem to need eight hours of sleep every night. But don’t stop sleeping, cold turkey. Instead, start working on greater self-awareness. Listen to your feelings of worry and turn them into opportunities for gratitude and love.

Solutions to the Worry Habit — Curing the Effects of Stress on the Body

I should know better, but sometimes I worry. I can’t help but think of Alfred E. Neuman on the cover of Mad Magazine with his signature line, “What, me worry?” Who is Alfred E. Neuman? He has been the mascot of that magazine for at least half a century.

My wife, Juvy, has helped me overcome some of my irrational concern for the future. On numerous occasions, when we seemed destined to be late for something, we’d always arrive on time or early. She seems to be the original “what, me worry” gal. Just one example: we needed to catch a boat from Cebu Island to Bohol Island in the Philippines, and we had something like twenty minutes before it sailed. We left the house and made our way down to the main street. A taxi spotted us approaching, and stopped to ask with a gesture of head and hand, “Need a ride?”

“Yes, we do, and we’re in a hurry,” I said.

Effects of Stress on the Body: Taxis.
Taxis. When you need one in a hurry, you may feel the effects of stress on the body. Photo: Michal Osmenda (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Wikimedia.org.

With a gleam in his eye, the taxi driver turned his car around, and sped us toward our destination, honking, swerving and accelerating at a mad pace. Not many taxi drivers would accept such a challenge. This one delighted in it. It was the right person at the right time and place.

When we arrived at the ticket counter, the attendant called ahead to stop the boat from sailing. This was only a minute shy of its departure time. Not bad.

What is really wrong with worry? Not only does it have an adverse effect on the body and its health (stress can be a real killer), but it affects what we create in our environment and how we treat others. The effects of stress on the body may be merely secondary. They may have a far more important effect on our spiritual well-being and mental health.

We need to be responsible for what we do to others, what we allow to happen to others, and what we do to ourselves. All of these require being more aware. We even need to take responsibility for what others do to us. Karma (living by the sword and dying by the sword, or sins of the fathers) needs to be paid. For every such payment, we need to be grateful. We need to turn the other cheek in order to rise above the perpetual dichotomy.

When we take time to reflect on such things and to give praise to the source behind the power of creation, we open the door a little more toward our own awakening.

Does any of this seem strange—perhaps a weird fantasy? Why not print out this article and look at it again in ten years. The world will seem differently by then. Truth has a habit of changing the closer you get to it.

More than anything, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. And the next time you feel the urge to worry, don’t! What you do to accomplish this feat will aid in your own reawakening.

Now, tell me what you’ve done or heard of others doing to overcome this beast called “worry.”

Update: Several days after this was originally published, our elderly friend died from a combination of starvation, emotional agitation and lack of sleep—essentially a nervous breakdown. During his last few days, he found no solace in the things of this world. At his funeral, my wife and I cried. Some of his family members wondered who we were to be so concerned about his passing. Perhaps they did not love him as we did. Even now, I wish him well, no matter where he has gone. If reincarnated, he or she may be six years old, going on seven. As children, we sometimes carry heavy burdens from our past—burdens which occasionally give us nightmares. But in a loving family, children learn not to worry.

This article was published earlier, 2015:0710 on RodMartinJr.com, and originally published as “What me worry?”2008:1014 on Blog.AncientSuns.com

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