According to Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and a pioneer in the practice of forgiveness therapy, “What happens when you’re stressed is blood flow draws away from the parts of the brain that think creatively and straightforwardly. That is what stress is designed to do. The purpose of your body’s stress response is to make you stupid.”
While that statement sounds somewhat controversial, his point is that when your body goes into stress mode, its focus is on either escaping the danger or attacking the source of danger. It doesn’t have time to plan, reason or analyze. Its purpose is to survive!
The truth is that most of the time, our stress response is not appropriate for the situation. Another word for stress is anxiety which is another word for fear. So, when we are stressed or anxious of fearful, in today’s world we have to mentally suppress the “flight or fight” imperative and try to cope with the situation in a rational way. So while our body wants to run or attack, our mind wants to stop and think. They are in direct opposition. That’s why we find it so hard to think clearly when we are under stress.
The problem we face in our modern society, is that we are almost always in a state of stress. Whether it’s in traffic where we have to be wary of people cutting in front of us, or at work where the boss might yell at us about a mistake, or in a relationship where our partner reacts badly over something we did or didn’t do, we are generally in a potentially stressful situation. That stress is often expressed as anger, resentment, anxiety, hatred, irritation, frustration or a desire for vengeance.
So what physically happens when we are in that state of emotion? Our bodies immediately flood with adrenaline to produce a rush of energy, cortisol rushes to increase the body functions needed in stressful situations and norepinephrine flows to increase the brain’s alertness and focus. In the rest of the body, norepinephrine also increases heart rate and blood pressure, triggers the release of glucose stored in our cells for sustained energy, increases blood flow to skeletal muscles, reduces blood flow to the digestive system, and shuts down the bladder. All of this is great for facing sabre-tooth tigers, but if we’re in that state every day for many hours in a day, our bodies are eventually going to burn out.
Unfortunately, unforgiveness is a creator of chronic stress. By harboring negative emotions, like anger, resentment and hatred, we create a state of chronic anxiety (also known as stress). The result is that the overcharged body turns against itself and, even worse, so does the mind.
Remember a mind under stress is a mind that is deprived of rational thought because as Dr. Luskin states when the body is stressed, “blood flow draws away from the parts of the brain that think creatively and straightforwardly. That is what stress is designed to do. The purpose of your body’s stress response is to make you stupid.”
Functional Forgiveness is designed to help you regain control of your mind by helping reduce the automatic stress response that we slip into because of habitual reactions caused by the everyday conditioning of our lives. When we develop awareness of our behavior through Functional Forgiveness training, we begin to think more clearly, make better decisions and walk away from the behaviors that hold us back from the life we want to enjoy.