Many of us tend to associate stress with things like personal relationships, finances, physical health, family issues, work issues and important life events. However, other issues that are completely unconscious or almost entirely out of our awareness can heavily influence stress levels. Common “hidden” stressors like these often include:
Telling lies can be a huge contributor to hidden stress, and is one of the most common and widespread causes. Though telling lies that seem risky in terms of getting caught are also stressful, it’s the lies that that are believed to have lowest risk of being caught that tend to create the most hidden stress. Lies that are believed to be high risk tend to be very prominent in our awareness, and subsequently usually involve preparedness for getting caught and familiarity with potential negative consequences. Lies that are perceived as low risk are more likely to be denied and pushed out of awareness, resulting in less preparedness for potential negative consequences and much more potential for hidden and unconscious stress.
Keeping secrets to avoid unwanted negative consequences can cause extreme amounts of unconscious stress, even if the secret has been kept for a very long time, and the person keeping it doesn’t have conscious awareness that it is taking any kind of emotional toll. This kind of hidden stress tends to be directly related to an individual’s morals and belief system. The more out of line the secret is with a person’s values, the heavier the burden of hidden stress. This kind of stress often involves hypocrisy. For example: A parent who chastises their child for behaviors they frequently engaged in themselves at the same age without remorse or regret may feel hidden stress.
Hidden stress is very often related to unconscious fears. Common fears of this kind are frequently related to vulnerability, rejection, abandonment and loss. These kinds of hidden stresses are often related to romantic and other interpersonal relationships. These kinds of relationships involve emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy is impossible without vulnerability to being hurt, betrayed or abandoned.
Situations and relationships in our current life can often trigger hidden and unconscious stress related to past emotionally traumatic experiences. The more traumatic the past experience, the higher the likelihood of hidden stress created by current life triggers.
The way to eliminate all four types of hidden stressors is the same. Remember that the power of hidden stressors lies largely in the lack of awareness around them. Developing insight and awareness that they might be influencing you is essential. Take a deep and honest look at all four categories above, and ask yourself if it’s possible that hidden stressors of each type might be influencing you. If you can, be specific and list your guesses about what hidden stressors you might have in each category.
Revisit this kind of self-check periodically and stay on top of hidden stressors. Facing these kinds of issues head on may seem daunting at first, but the toll it takes over time when they remain hidden can be much worse.