The Wall Street Journal published an article called, “Are You Hard Wired to Boil Over From Stress?” In it, the writer said,

“Some become defensive or aggressive, while others become fearful and withdrawn, says the study, led by Marco Del Giudice, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Turin in Italy. It isn’t known what proportion of the population is wired this way. A study of 256 children, published last year in Developmental Psychology, found 10% fit the vigilant pattern.”

The article spoke about patterns of behavior.

When I read this, I think of cycles. Ending a cycle means stopping damaging behavior that you were taught because your parents were taught that from their parents and so on. A person in the cycle can’t recognize it right away.

Fearful and withdrawn became my way of dealing with threatening situations. Later in life, because I thought it was okay, I overreacted in situations. For instance, I became upset at a teenager because he wouldn’t do the dishes in the morning and evening while camping. I lapsed into anger. Several years later, long after the relationship with his father was over and I had met someone new, I looked back and cringed. I was wrong.

I had continued the destructive cycle by mimicking behavior that had hurt me. I am very aware of my own behavior nowadays. When mistakes happen, I am careful to step back and see it as a mistake, and I am quick to own my mistakes.

WSJ also said,

“Most stress-reactive people become aware early that they spend more time being angry and worked up than others. The resulting anxiety and health problems often spark a search for remedies.”

When I get into “situations” my heartbeat does speed up and my breathing becomes labored. While my mind is calm, my biologicals are vigilant. I realized this early on and began to work on myself.

Like when my husband riled up the dog and the dog made a rock fly into the back window. The window shattered. My reaction defied generations past. Instead of losing my temper, I realized getting upset would not make the situation better; just make my husband feel worse. Continuing the cycle is not in the best interest of my marriage or for my spirit. Being stress-reactive is not a Christian trait and old patterns of behavior still haunt me sometimes.

Old patterns of behavior are things like pride, a critical spirit, impatience, judgement, and being quick to jump to conclusions without listening to the other side. Those behaviors aren’t good. Pride gets me in trouble. Jumping to conclusions makes me look like a fool when the truth comes out, and being too critical when someone most needs compassion is also a fault of mine.

Old patterns of behavior may try to reassert itself, but the new pattern is much stronger. People may not realize the cycle they continue. It’s hard to recognize it until the light shines on it and the Holy Spirit brings conviction. My favorite quote that describes this is in John 3:19-21:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

So it’s your turn. What cycle of behavior have you been struggling not to continue?

hard-wired to stress

by Nikole Hahn time to read: 3 min