I recently Google searched ‘living with tension to see what was written on the subject. There seems to be an abundance of articles on the subject.
The main theme seems to be: ‘How to lead a stress-free life’ or ‘How to avoid tension or stress’. This I would argue is easier said than done; sometimes the tension evoked is out of our control, not to mention that many of us are unaware of what exactly causes us to feel tension.
What we find stressful and the way we deal with that stress is established from our past experiences, this impacts our lives through our unconscious mind.
I agree in one respect that we should all try and avoid tension, but there is an opposing perspective.
‘throughout our lives, we are taught to put our best foot forward so as to be seen in the best light possible’ – this can be detrimental to our overall happiness. Not connecting with, and voicing, our negative emotions stops us asking for what we need, voicing our opinion and looking inward in order to discover why we feel the way we do.
Ultimately this leads us to not being our true self; stopping us from living authentically in the world.
Could being able to manage, control and live with tension actually be beneficial to our happiness?
Here are some ways that hiding tension is detrimental to our lives:
Work can be a place filled with tension. Not just tension others put on us, such as your boss or work colleagues but also the tension we put on ourselves to meet goals and do the best work we can.
Many of us are so fearful of tension that we repress it at all costs which, in turn, leads to stress percolating through our lives. This can lead to being tense at home, or to us turning to emotional crutches to negotiate our day, such as drinking, gambling or recreational drugs. It also leads to us saying no to taking on work and not applying for that raise or promotion.
Essentially it ends up stopping you from saying what you want and realising your full potential.
Hiding from the tension we feel can also have an impact on our life away from work. How many times have you been in a social situation and wanted to speak to someone you see from afar, not just in regards to a romantic relationship but also in regards to a shared interest. Even complaining about food or getting the attention of a waiter in a restaurant, many of us feel bound with the tension and the way we are expected to act, that we find it impossible to be truly ourselves when in social situations. This again impacts on the way we are in private, with loved ones, what our goals are in life and what we feel we can fully achieve.
Many of us try to distance ourselves from tension when alone. We read a book, get our phone out or watch television. It’s OK to unwind by partaking in activities. There is a difference however in watching television to having it on in the background to distract from being alone. This tension we feel when we are alone are those thoughts, emotions and feelings that we try to put to the back of our mind in order to ‘function’ in the world. By living with and connecting with the tension, when alone we can start to unravel the truth about the emotions that affect our thoughts, feelings and actions on a daily basis.
How your life can change by living with tension
By being able to live with tension at work, with others or alone, we can start to connect with ourselves and learn what we want out of life. By confronting the voice telling you, ‘that’s not you’ or ‘you are not good enough’ you will realise that actually you have a choice in who you are and what you want out of life. You can start changing your goals as you are not shackled by the tension you’re feeling and the doubts from your inner voice, you will have more time as you won’t run to a social crutch (for example your phone), you can be more confident in asking for that promotion or raise, asking for that person’s phone number or simply knowing what you want out of life. We can start pushing boundaries in our life and find how who we really are and what we want without the shackles of tension defining who we are. Essentially we can start living authentically with others and ourself.
How psychotherapy can help you live with tension
I see tension almost like a muscle, the more we live with it without running, the greater the tension we can hold and yet still be comfortable.
Many of us do not know what makes us tense, as it has always been normal to distance ourselves or run from it.
By examining and understanding our past experiences we can start to unravel our emotions. Allowing us to Shine a light on our inner dialogue so as to know what brings about tension in our lives and how we can start to work with, rather than run away from it.