IN A developed country, a house equipped with all the luxuries of life may give the appearance of comfort and prosperity. Enter the front door, however, and what might you find? An awkward, unhappy atmosphere. The teenage children respond to their parents by saying sullenly, “Yes,” or “No.” The mother yearns for her husband’s attention. And the father just wants to be left in peace. Living elsewhere by themselves, the aging parents of this couple long for the company of the family, whom they have not seen for months. On the other hand, families facing similar stresses have been able to resolve their problems and are truly happy. Do you wonder why?
2 Consider a family in a developing country, perhaps in another corner of the world. All seven members of the family live in a shack that is ready to collapse. They are not sure when they will be able to get food for the next meal—a sad reminder that man has not been able to rid the world of hunger and poverty. Yet, there are many families on earth who confront poverty with a happy spirit. Why?
3 Even in affluent lands, financial problems can develop. A family in Japan bought their house at the height of the economic “bubble.” Feeling assured of future raises, they took on heavy mortgage payments. When the “bubble” burst, however, they could no longer make the payments and had to sell their house at a price far below what they had paid. Though they do not live in the house anymore, the family is still paying off the debt for it. To add to the burden, they are struggling to pay bills resulting from unwise use of credit cards. The father bets on horses, and the family sinks deeper into debt. Many families, though, have made adjustments that have resulted in happiness. Would you like to know how?
4 No matter where you live, human relationships can be a source of constant distress, making life less than satisfying. At work you may become the target of backbiting. Your accomplishments may incite others to jealousy and make you a victim of unfair criticism. A person you have to deal with from day to day could rub you the wrong way with his strong personality. At school your child may be bullied, harassed, or ignored. If you are a single parent, you know that this does not improve your lot in life when it comes to your relationships with others. All such problems today add stress to the lives of many men and women.
5 The effects of stress may quietly accumulate over a period of time until the breaking point is reached, without warning. Thus, stress has been called the silent killer, and chronic stress, a slow poison. “Today, stress and its resulting illnesses impact workers in almost every corner of the world,” says Professor Robert L. Veninga of the University of Minnesota. It is said that stress-related diseases cost the U.S. economy $200 billion a year. Stress is even called America’s latest export, and references to the word “stress” can be heard in many of the world’s major languages. When you are stressed and fail to finish things that are scheduled, you may develop guilt feelings. A recent study reports that the average person spends two hours a day feeling guilty. Still, some have been able to cope with stress and make a success of their lives.
6 How can you cope with such daily problems and live a satisfying life? Some consult self-help books and manuals by specialists. Are such books dependable? Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book on child-rearing has been translated into 42 languages and has a circulation of almost 50 million, once said that “inability to be firm is . . . the commonest problem of parents in America today.” He then went on to say that the professionals, including himself, were largely to blame. “We didn’t realize, until it was too late,” he admitted, “how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self-assurance of parents.” So, then, we might well ask: ‘Whose advice can we safely follow in order to live a satisfying life today and in the future?’