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July 04, 2019 Thursday 03:57:11 PM IST

Positive Thoughts can Help Relieve Stress and Tensions


According to Greek mythology, Atlas was the leader of the Titans who fought against Zeus for the control of heavens. When Atlas and the Titans lost the fight, Zeus entrusted him with the task of holding up the heavens forever as a severe punishment. Hence, we often see Atlas being depicted in statues and pictures as holding up the heavens.

Imagine the strain and tension of Atlas in holding up the heavens day in and day out. Even though he is of divine origin as the story goes,it must be very excruciating to hold up the heavens on his shoulders! We know this is only a story concocted by storytellers of the ancient past. But doesn’t it reflect the way some of us live in the present-day world? We often give the impression that if we are not holding up the heavens on our shoulders, at least we are holding up the earth!

It is true our life is always tough as we have to face all kinds of challenges and problems regardless of who we are and what we do in our life. Hence there will always be strain and tension in our lives. However, it doesn’t mean we should live like Atlas bearing the extreme tension of holding up the heavens on our shoulders. When there is tension and strain in our life there is always the possibility to explode at the least provocation. In fact, in times like this many people go out of their mind making bad decisions.

In his research-based book, The Stress of Life, Dr. Hans Selye, who first used the term stress in a psychological context, makes an interesting observation. According to him, when there is stress in our lif,e the body will begin to produce stress hormones which will cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. Moreover, the chemical changes in our body may lead to untoward actions which will affect not only us but also others.

Thomas Becket (1119-1170) was the chancellor as well as a very good friend and counselor of King Henry II of England (1133 – 1189). However, when he was ordained a priest on June 2, 1162 and was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury on the following day, he resigned his chancellorship to focus his attention on matters related to Church. In fact, he even tried to regain some of the rights of the Church which were nullified by King Henry II over the years.

But King Henry II, instead of conceding the rights of the Church, tried to take over the control the Church by asking Archbishop Becket to agree to his new proposals. In good conscience, the Archbishop could not agree to the demands of the King and so he refused to surrender the rights of the Church. When the king threatened him with punishment, he escaped to France and spent almost six years in an abbey in silence and prayer.

Later, with the intervention of Pope Alexander III, the king relented and allowed Archbishop Becket to return to England. But at the time of the coronation of his heir apparent, King Henry II ignored the rights of the Canterbury Archbishop by asking the bishops of York, London and Salisbury to crown the young king. This led to their excommunication by Archbishop Becket followed by other stringent measures.

These unforeseen developments made King Henry II very tense and in a moment of frustration, the King said aloud, “ Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Immediately four of his knights rushed to Canterbury cathedral where Archbishop Becket was getting ready for evening liturgical prayers with monks. The knights beheaded him without mercy and rushed back to the palace with the news. Hearing the horrific news, the king realized it was his words that caused the death of the Archbishop and fell on his knees repenting of his crime donning sackcloth and ashes and eating nothing for three days.

Compared to the tension in the life of King Henry II which led to the murder of Archbishop Becket, the tension in our life may not be that severe. However, all of us without exception face situations of stress in our life which often lead us to flawed and damaging decisions. If this is the case with our life, is there a way we can get rid of our tensions and lead a peaceful life?

According to Dr. Selye, the best way to reduce our tension is to infuse positive thoughts into our mind. When we have positive thoughts, they will help calm our mind by causing positive chemical changes in our body. When we laugh, don’t we feel refreshed and rejuvenated? In Dr. Selye’s opinion, it is because of the chemical changes in our body.

Positive thoughts can always calm our mind and help us relieve our tension. However, the best way to relieve and overcome our tension is to put our total trust in God as reminded by Psalmist David. He writes, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff give me courage” (Psalm 23). Prophet Isaiah teaches us that God will keep us in perfect peace if our mind is stayed on him (26:3). Let us always remember to turn to God who is always there to help us face the stress and strain of our life by giving us peace. 

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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