Stress And Truth: Are They Related?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Stress And Truth Part 1This week, I want to open a conversation about the relationship between stress and truth.  This is a topic of paramount importance, because I believe much of our stress and unnecessary suffering comes from either not telling the truth (both to ourselves and/or others) or from not recognizing the truth about various aspects of life/reality.

Obviously, this is a very large topic, so I can only hope to scratch the surface in my three short posts this week.  But hopefully I can highlight a few key issues that will give you some food for thought.

Let’s Assume “Truth” Can Be Known

Anytime I start talking about truth, I know this is going to trigger lots of objections. Many people with argue that no one has a market on truth.  Some will say truth can never be known for sure, and others will argue that truth is mostly relative—i.e., that it can be different for different people.

I understand that both philosophically and biologically we human beings are never able to know the ultimate truth about anything.  Even science had to give up this romantic notion back in the late 1920s when the Heisenberg uncertainty principle was put forth.

So for all those purists out there—I get it.  Yet I do believe we are capable of recognizing “interim truths” which are our best approximations of how the world really works, even though we might be off just a tad.

And while some of these interim truths might occasionally be relative for a specific person, group, situation, or event, there are many interim truths about life that apply consistently to just about everyone.  For example, if you drop a heavy object off the top of the Empire State Building, it’s going to fall down and not up.  That’s a “truth” that applies to everyone.  On the other hand, if you believe the object travels down because there’s a force called gravity that’s pulling on it, you’ve just told yourself a lie, whether you know it or not.

So let’s all assume that there are some beliefs about life that are more or less true for everyone and there are some that are not.  My personal opinion is that the more you are in tune with the former, and the more you avoid the latter, the less stress and tension you will have in your life.

Four Examples Of How Stress And Truth Are Related

Let’s explore this relationship between stress and truth by considering just four simple examples.  I’m sure there are hundreds more we could point to, but these four should serve to illustrate the point.

The Stress Of Lying

Perhaps the most obvious example of how stress and truth are related is when we are intentionally lying.  When you consciously tell a lie to someone, a certain amount of anxiety and guilt will likely follow (unless you are a psychopath or you tell lies for a living).

The bigger the lie…the larger amount of stress and tension you will likely experience.  For example, people who are married and decide to have an affair are going to be constantly haunted by fears that their transgression will be found out.  While they may be enjoying fruits of their extramarital trysts, they will usually pay some type of price in the form of increased anxiety and stress, even if low-grade and barely perceptible.

And we all know the scenario where one big lie leads to telling multiple other lies to keep the ruse going, and this just further compounds the difficulties (and stress) we are likely to experience.

Negative Emotions And Truth

Very few people understand this point, but most negative emotions like anger, frustration, worry, guilt, fear, and sadness are almost always caused by some type of disconnect with the truth.  This can be as straightforward as getting angry with someone because you thought they did something wrong, only to find out later  that they either didn’t do what you thought they did, or they did it, but it turned out not to be the wrong thing to do.

The emotion of worry is another good example.  It’s predicated mostly on a lie—that your internal emotional state can somehow influence external events—which is akin to doing a rain dance.  Yet when we are concerned about something or someone and we begin to automatically worry, we don’t usually recognize that we are acting counter to certain truths about life.


As human beings, we are capable of engaging in massive amounts of denial.  We can look at ourselves and think we are telling the truth when in fact we are not even close to being accurate.

Think of all the people who suffer from addictions (and stress) because they are unwilling to face the truth about themselves.  Think of the emaciated looking anorexic who looks at herself in the mirror every day and sees a person who is “fat.”

Think about all the millions of people who suffer from low self-esteem.  Are they in touch with the real truth about their abilities or their worth, or might they be distorting the truth just a bit?

Mistaken Ideas About How Life Really Works

The final example I want to touch on today is the stress that often results when we have mistaken ideas about how life really works.

For example, if we have mistaken ideas about how relationships work best or about how to create a successful marriage, we are very likely to experience relationship stress.

If we have faulty ideas about what it takes to be healthy or what our best options are for dealing with certain health problems, we could make our health status worse and suffer significant stress as a consequence.

If we have mistaken ideas about how the stock market really works, we could suffer financial stress.  If we use Newtonian physics to try to launch a rocket to the moon, instead of using Einstein’s relativity theory, we will never hit the mark.

Obviously, I could go on and on about this. But I think I’ve made the point. Stress and truth are indeed intimately related, and the more you explore the depths of this relationship, the more insight and wisdom you will gain about what really causes much of our stress to occur.

In my next post on this topic, I’ll explore how the relationship between stress and truth can help us explain a number of mysteries about stress and human beings.

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