Truthfully, I never would have had the insight and understanding that led to me to write my new book, The End of Stress, if thirty years ago I hadn’t experienced a perfect storm of stress. That storm should have taken me down, either by killing me, or leaving me seriously disabled and unable to support my family.
Ironically, it did the opposite. It propelled my life forward.
The catalyst for my perfect storm of stress was being fired from a job I’d spent years climbing the ladder to reach and then nine days later being diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was married with four small children and the doctors told me to prepare for the worst. I had to wait six weeks for the surgery and I spent the first two weeks terrified, pacing the floor every night, afraid I’d never work again and that my family would end up homeless.
Then one fateful night I reached a point where I questioned which was worse: the dire problems that could happen to me in the future, or the abject fear that was happening to me every day. It was obvious that fear was the worst part of what I was going through as I awaited the fateful surgery. I had enough sense to realize the simple truth that peace was a far better experience than a constant state of mental terror.
I made the decision, right then and there, to approach the surgery with a peaceful attitude. But how? The only way I could think to be more peaceful was to challenge my fear, simply by refusing to believe any of my fearful thoughts that predicted a horrible outcome. When I became frightened, I would ask myself, what does my experience become when I don’t believe this fearful thought? I learned this approach from Carl Rogers, the great American psychologist, and I’d used it with other people but never on myself.
To my great relief, it worked. The more I practiced challenging my fears in this way, the more it worked and the easier it became. Eventually, I could shift a fearful thought or perception at will. The way the shift happened was at first I would feel relief to be out of fear, which relaxed into the clarity of being calm, which eventually opened to an expanded state of peace. It was like crossing troubled waters and reaching safety on the opposite shore, all in a matter of moments.
The surgery was a complete success, sparing me a life of disability and I even got a better job. It was clear to me that my change in attitude from fear to peace produced the good outcome. There is now a mountain of research that has established that our mental state is everything. Make no mistake, a positive, peaceful state of mind is the key to the health, success, and love we all desire. My perfect storm of stress taught me to make peace the first thing I attend to, as I face each new day.