Murphy's Law: August 10, 1999



Prisoners of War and the Discovery of Stress: The term "stress" which is now bandied about by the media and new-age gurus is not the same as "pressure". Pressure is outside actions imposing themselves on your body and spirit; stress is how your body deals with pressure (or fails to). Stress is a medical condition involving blood pressure and blood chemistry, and those who have been pushed over the edge too often by pressure become permanently prone to going over that edge on future occasions.

Stress was discovered, almost by accident, after WWII. University studies of prisoners of war discovered the curious fact that Americans who had been held in Japanese prisoner of war camps (where random executions were a fact of life and brutal treatment was the norm) were having more traffic accidents (as well as more incidents of domestic violence and outbursts of rage) than the general population. Americans held in German POW camps (which had been relatively humane) showed no greater incidents of "going postal" than the general population. Those who had been under constant pressure (from fear of death) in Japanese camps for years had reached the point that their stress mechanisms were permanently damaged.

So, the word to the wise would be that if you have a lot of pressure in your life, creating constant stress, you need to take steps to reduce this pressure (at least now and then) before suffering permanent damage. Steven V Cole.


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