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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


Telic Stress

An individual's sense of motivation in life is intrinsically linked to past experiences where he has 'pushed the boat out' and made an attempt to make an adventure of his life. In practice, situations or events that lead to increased arousal and excitement may be experienced as stressful, and may produce adverse somatic and psychological consequences for individuals who remain in a 'held back' telic state of mind. On the other hand those who are in or revert quickly to the paratelic (involved) state may not only be unaffected but may actually thrive and flourish in the same situation.

Most of us have known individuals who appear to thrive on stress. A seemingly endless series of mishaps, disappointments and calamities may befall them, and they maintain a cheery outlook, a buoyant sense of humor, and an apparently indomitable spirit. To such individuals, the kinds of events and situations that would be regarded as threatening sources of stresses by others, are seen as exciting challenges to be met and overcome.

“A person who has not become fixated into one or other of the motivational states has at least the chance to lead a successful, capable and creative life, since he has the capacity to learn.”
The strongly paratelic individual could be said to have a higher threshold for high-arousal stress; however, that the same individual may be more susceptible than a telic-dominant person to the stress that results from under-stimulation. Since low arousal is unpleasant in the paratelic state, he will be the first to become depressed, despondent and 'stressed' in monotonous, tedious or boring situations. On the other hand, these situations will be viewed as relaxing and undemanding by the telic-dominant person.

It is not possible to progress from a state of relaxation to one of pleasurable excitement without a period (however fleeting) of either boredom or anxiety, to necessitate the change in mode. Similarly, a progression from excitement to relaxation must involve either a drop in stimulation and a period of boredom, or a period of anxiety that motivates a search for less arousing telic relaxation.

In the same way, telic anxiety may move to paratelic boredom only via a period of relaxation, or via a period of pleasurable arousal in the paratelic mode. The somewhat mechanical nature of these reversals gave rise to Gurdjieff's appraisal, that 'man is a machine', albeit a self-determined one. However, a person who has not become fixated into one or other of the motivational states has at least the chance to lead a successful, capable and creative life, since he has the capacity to learn, using the learning cycle mentioned earlier, to create positive COEXs of useful skills. This requires a reasonably well-integrated brain, so blocks do not inhibit access to the appropriate states.

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