The Myth of Stress by Andrew Bernstein

Get Book
My Rating: 4/10
Published or Updated On: 
November 15, 2022

Big Picture Thoughts

Good (not new) ideas here but with a confused delivery. Skip this book and look up "should thoughts" instead. That said, the worksheet linked in my notes is a great way of dealing with them & offered a powerful early experience as I got into this stuff.

The Main Ideas

  1. Stress, in the way most people use the word, is a byproduct of how you're thinking.
  2. You can change how you're thinking to eliminate this stress.
  3. The best exercise to change your thought is Bernstein's ActivInsight worksheet (linked below)

Summary Notes

Stress never comes directly from your circumstance, it comes from your thoughts about your circumstances. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Nothing has the inherent power to cause stress in you. Things happen (divorce, layoffs, disease, etc.) and you experience stress – or you don’t – depending on what you think about of those things. Stress is a function of beliefs, not circumstances. This is why different people can have different responses to the exact same events (stressed vs not).

Lack of sleep or long hours of work? That’s physical, and inevitable. No way to avoid physiological changes to conditions. But that’s not what most of us mean when we say we are stressed.

Stress is purely psychological. Rats heating up slowly example.

Distress and eustress only makes sense if you see stress as biological.

There is no such thing as good stress.

Stress as a motivator? First distinguish between stress and stimulation. Being stimulated is good. Goals, deadlines and staying engage is important. Peak performance is flow. Flow is not stressful. It’s great activity with no stress at all.

Stress (anxiety, frustration, anger, negative) limits your ability to perform. Less creative, reduces concentration, harder to communicate, shortens stamina. It’s a demotivator. If you’re succeeding and stressed out, you’re succeeding despite your stress, not because of it.

If it comes from thoughts, is it all in your head? It starts there, but the manifestations on your body and behaviors are very real.

Insight example - when u find out someone whom you thought wronged you, just misunderstood. The power of insight (not changing a belief, just realizing). Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it’s finding new insights (info) that heals us.

Expansive thinking vs contractive thinking.

The opposite of stress is not relaxation. The opposite of stress is education, releasing stress through insights.

Counterfactual thinking is the basis of stress. People in western society have a lot of counterfactual thoughts (example of tribe with little counterfactual being super happy)

Counterfactual example of “that saber tooth is going to kill me” being advantageous for survival, how it began, neocortex.

Just because something is right now doesn’t mean you want it to stay that way (waging war, cheating spouses).

Active insight is not prescriptive, it is descriptive. Seeing reality for what it is, so you that can create change - with open eyes and a peaceful mind rather than denial or anger.

You’re not engaging goals, you’re negating contracted beliefs that keep you from achieving your goals more easily , because these beliefs produce feelings and behaviors that work against you.

Children shouldn’t lie - when they do, you get mad. Doesn’t help. in reality, they should lie at this time - you see the world as it is and are able to find more compassionate ways to change theM. It’s not condoning, you’re seeing life more realistically so you can be more effective at transforming it.

Am vs should. If you skip it and do am, doesn’t address core dissonance. You still think you should.

A reason dismantling can seem scary is because if you don’t think you should, then you fear you won’t change. If I don't believe I should weigh less, I’ll never lose the weight. But that’s simply not true. Seeing reality as it is removed the contraction in your mind and let’s you focus on your goals without the emotional upheaval and the negative behaviors that come with it.

It’s a lot easier to eat right or work late when you’re feeling clearheaded than when you’re feeling anxious and inadequate.

The idea that stress fuels you and peace turns you into a doormat is pervasive. It’s time to set the record straight and see how much more energy you have when you’re not bogged down by anxiety confusion anger and fear.

You can’t have a dialogue if you’re emotionally contracted. You need to do active insight first.

It’s all about the worksheet. 75%+ of the book is going through the same exercise with increasingly difficult topics to deconstruct. Some quite enlightening.

Appendix is full of common questions and answers

Link to the worksheet

Enjoy this? Subscribe for more.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.