A Brief Primer on Stress and Resistance

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Have you ever noticed that some activities seem relatively easy to do, while others evoke reaction and resistance? It’s important to understand how this process works. We can start with a model of the psyche that graphically portrays this interplay between the conscious and unconscious zone of functioning.

chart of stress

0 is the transition point at the border of the Conscious/Unconscious boundary.

You experience the Conscious Zone of the mind as an area of light, where you are free to act. You experience the Unconscious Zone of the mind as an area of darkness, where you feel stress, anxiety, craving and desire, resistance, and dread.

When you are operating in the Conscious Zone of the mind, as the task becomes more difficult and challenging, you move from +7 to +1. Ease of action, even playfulness marks +7. The experience of challenge and having to operate at your maximum capacity indicates you have reached +1.

When you move to the 0 point, you reach the transition point between the Conscious Zone and the Unconscious Zone. You may feel a certain anxiety as you move across this border into operating from the Unconscious Zone.

At -1, you begin to feel stressed, like the task is getting to you and you are looking for something to lower the stress and demand upon you. At -7, you cannot function any more; you are experiencing your painful core emotions—such as suicidal depression, full panic attack, primal rage, or intense self-hatred.

The more time you spend relating and reacting from the Unconscious Zone, the greater physiological markers of stress you exhibit; the deeper you go into this layer of the mind, the greater emotional distress and misery you experience.

To expand your comfort zone, you need to engage activities that elicit a -1 response, and relax as you do engage in this activity. As you practice the activity more and it becomes easier to do, you may find that your stress response lowers and you are become willing to engage in the action without resistance or reaction. Through this means, you begin to open this area of your Conscious Zone to integrate new behavior; the Unconscious Zone yields this aspect of your behavior to the control of volition.

Methods such as Wolpe’s systematic desensitization, used in Behavioral Psychology; and mindfulness help this process of reintegration, as you are able to loosen the death grip of these reactive patterns of the unconscious and extend the zone of your conscious functioning.

In our intermediate meditation classes—the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—we teach methods to work with material in the unconscious. These include methods like Process Meditation, the Mandala Method, and the Rainbow Technique. These methods empower you to work with unconscious material in the -1 to -5 range.

The deepest levels of core psychological pain and defensiveness at -6 and -7 are typically out of the range of effectiveness for self-help methods, such as we teach—these are deepest levels of the Unconscious Zone best addressed with professional psychotherapy—and sometimes, medication must be used to lessen the severe reactions and dysfunctional reactive behavior that arises from these deep wellsprings of the mind.

We encourage you to monitor your behavior and notice, which aspects of your behavior come out of this Unconscious Zone. When they come up, notice what you feel… notice what your thoughts and beliefs are when this arises… and notice any desire or aversion that accompanies this reaction. This will help you identify what your deep issues are—once you know what they are, you can work with them using the self-help methods you have learned, or seek professional help when these are beyond your ability to resolve using your own resources.

Perspectives on Feelings

By George A. Boyd ©2017

When you are working with emotionalized issues of the unconscious mind, there are a variety of perspectives through which you can interface with these issues beyond the threshold of conscious integration.

  1. You can talk about the feeling – this is an intellectual discussion about the feeling, but you have no attentional contact with the feeling
  2. You can talk to the feeling – this objectifies the feeling as a visual “sub-personality,” an auditory “voice,” or a “shape,” a discrete pattern of sensation located in the body. At this level you are establishing a dialog and asking this representation of the issues, and listening for any answers.
  3. You can talk from the feeling – here, you will give the representation of your issue permission to speak through you and express its perspective, and its desires and fears. You would use this method if you were working with a therapist, hypnotist, or coach, who wanted to ask questions of this issue, so that they can understand what it signifies and formulate a strategy to work with it. This is called “giving a voice” to your issue.
  4. You can simply feel the feeling – this allows you to fully experience the feeling in the present time. You observe it arise, process, and pass away. This approach typifies the work of mindfulness or Vipassana meditation—in this method you place your attention on the feeling within your body and hold it there.
  5. You can understand the context of the feeling from its perspective – At this level you focus your attention minutely and look from the viewpoint of the feeling. You gather clues about the context in which the feeling dwells. You notice what the world looks like from its standpoint, what is its relationship with other people, what it wants or needs, what it fears and frustrates it. In this method, you are experiencing what the issue is feeling.
  6. You can “be” the feeling – at this level, you identify with the feeling. This method is used when you re-own a painful, shameful, or frightening pattern you have exiled to the unconscious, where it operates autonomously and beyond your control. Examples of this type in action includes a member of Alcoholics Anonymous publicly declaring that he is an alcoholic, or a male homosexual “coming out” and telling others he is “gay.”
  7. You can love the feeling from a transcendent viewpoint – this perspective has you regard the issue from your Superconscious mind, and regard it with unconditional love and acceptance. Variations of this approach are to send an attunement, such as anchoring the Light of the Holy Spirit in the issue, using the Light to dissolve the issue, or using the Light to transmute the layers of the issue, which are visualized as colored lamina.

We suggest that you become familiar with each approach to working with issues and develop criteria when each one is appropriate. For example:

  • At a dinner party, you might talk about your feelings (type one).
  • If you were working with a therapist, he might ask you to dialog with your feelings (type two), speak from the feeling (type three), or understanding the feeling from its perspective (type five).
  • If you are practicing mindfulness, or working with a therapist who uses mindfulness in their practice, you might be asked to simply experience your feelings as they are, without attempting to change or alter them in any way, and without judgment or criticism (type four).
  • If you are working with a New Age teacher, healer, or metaphysical counselor, you might be led in a guided meditation to make an attunement with your issue and let the Light dissolve it and transform it (type seven).

Practice each of these perspectives so you can produce them at will in yourself. Once you have some confidence doing this on yourself, you can extend this to guiding others to move through these seven different postures. This will especially valuable for those who are doing therapeutic, counseling, and coaching work with their clients.

Those who wish to learn to use meditation as a therapeutic modality may wish to consider taking our Meditation for Therapists Practitioner Certification Course.