Power Struggles and Other Stressors
I remember having a power struggle with one of my children that centered on whether or not she was going to make her bed. I won’t go into the details, but I assure you it wasn’t pretty. I can’t remember whether I won. The only thing I remember is how awful I felt afterward. I didn’t want to give in because I thought more than a neat bedroom was at stake. It seemed to me that if my daughter failed to obey me in this one instance, she would find it easy to do so in others. While that may have been true, I think I could have used other techniques that would have done less damage to our relationship and that wouldn’t have ended in the dreaded power struggle.
It takes wisdom to know where to invest our emotional resources. My guess is that most of us err on the wrong side of the equation, becoming emotional about things we should either ignore or learn to handle more calmly.
Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology, reminds us of the physiological toll that chronic stress takes, promising that “if you experience every day as an emergency, you will pay the price.”
Sapolsky goes on to explain,
“If you constantly mobilize energy at the cost of energy storage, you will never store any surplus energy. You will fatigue more rapidly, and your risk of developing a form of diabetes will even increase. The consequences of chronically activating your cardiovascular system are similarly damaging: if your blood pressure rises to 180/100 every time you see the mess in your teenager’s bedroom, you could be heading for a cardiovascular disaster. . . . If you are constantly under stress, a variety of reproductive disorders may ensue. In females, menstrual cycles can become irregular or cease entirely."1
Body and soul, mind and emotions—we are complex interweavings, fearfully and wonderfully made but sometimes all-too-easily damaged. Today, let us ask God for wisdom in preserving the health he has given us.
- Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), 13.