Causes Of Stress: What Can Whitney And Alex Teach Us?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

On October 6, 2011, the third episode of a new comedy series called “Whitney” aired on the NBC television network.  This episode started off with the two lead characters, Whitney and Alex (her beau), going to a local store for a smoothie.

As they are standing together in line at the register, a buxom woman passes by Alex, and he stares at her momentarily.  Whitney takes offense to this and confronts Alex about his behavior.  Alex denies that he was “checking out” the woman, and Whitney becomes even more upset, because she’s now convinced Alex is lying to her.

The Silent Treatment

After they leave the store, Alex maintains his “innocence,” and this leads Whitney to punish him by giving him the “silent treatment.”  Alex’s friends encourage him to keep stonewalling, and Whitney’s friends support her in maintaining her silence.  Eventually, after several days, Whitney gives in and starts talking to Alex again.  When she does, Alex explains that he was just trying to protect their relationship.

Whitney’s parents had been guilty of multiple infidelities, and Alex didn’t want her to fear he was going to do the same.  When Whitney saw Alex’s  “lying” behavior in this new light, she was filled with gratitude and love for her partner.  Her anger and hurt immediately disappeared, and she was moved by optimism and hope for the future of the relationship.

What Can We Learn From This Episode?

What can this episode teach us about the causes of human stress?  Well, for starters, it shows us that lying, even for a good reason, can cause all sorts of problems that could have been avoided by honest, open communication.

Second, it shows that if we put too much faith in the encouragements of our friends, this sometimes can make our problems worse rather than better.

But most importantly, this episode shows us how big a role “blindness” plays in the origin of many of our interpersonal conflicts.  Whitney was totally “blind” to the possibility that Alex could have any positive motive for denying what she obviously knew to be true (i.e. he reflexively ogled a pretty woman).  All she could “see” was the negative aspects of the situation (i.e. he was lying to her).  And since the couple was cut off from being able to communicate about their feelings and perceptions, by the silent treatment that was invoked, there was no way for Whitney to learn what Alex was truly thinking.

But once Alex revealed the deeper motivations that were driving his lying  behavior, Whitney’s blindness was corrected, and she was able to see Alex’s actions in a more positive light.

“Blindness” Often Causes Human Stress

How often have you been caught up in similar types of blindness?  How often have you viewed someone’s behavior in a mostly negative light, only to find out much later that this person really had loving or caring motives at heart?

Most of the time, we are completely unaware of how much “blindness” plays a role in causing much of the stress we experience.  It happens much more often than you think, so you might want to give it a thought, every once in a while.

This is just one small example of the role that non-obvious causes play in contributing to our stress.  There are literally thousands of other examples, so stay tuned, and we’ll cover many more as time goes on.

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