What is Good Stress?!

Milen Ivanov • 10 November 2019
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For some time now I am considering trying the so called Activation Therapy devised by the Russian scientist Garkavi and her collaborators. I found this book where Dr Garkavi presents all of her many breakthrough findings in the form of lectures. Unfortunately the book is in Russian and I do not know if it is translated in English. At any rate, it should be.

I was wondering if I should somewhat familiriase myself with the theory or get straight to the protocols and see if they work. I chose to have a look at the concepts and I am happy I did, because I found something I have badly misunderstood when I was introduced to this material during Level 1 coMra Course.

The term stress comes from Selye who discovered that when body is overdosed by whatever influence, it manifests specific reaction; in particular:

  • The thymus gland shrinks;
  • The adrenals enlarge.

There are more and even more were discovered by modern diagnostic methods, but for the purposes of this blog I am going to cut all details and technicalities to the minimum.

What made this a revolutionary discovery back in 1936 was the realisation that these reactions come in response to any overwhelm, irrespective of the specific origin. So, this is the first defined nonspecific response. In more descriptive terms, this means a response to the quantity of the stimulus rather than its quality.

The common sense tells us that there must also be good stress, that is, one beneficial for the well-being of the body. Therefore, Dr Selye precised the above term referring to depleting reaction to overwhelm, to distress.

However, he was not able to give similar precise phenomenological description - in purely physical terms - of the "good" stress. Such description is needed for making technology, be it healing or wellness technology.

One of the greatest contributions of Dr Garkavi is filling this gap. She and her collaborators stretched their guinea pigs across the whole scale of the chosen stimulus, and with the modern technology they could go over the whole scale; and found two more distinct quantitative responses, called training and activation responses. They applied their discovery to healing and prevention of literary thousands of people and I also want to get the benefit of it.

Very briefly, activation is when the challenge is faced with inner vitality.

What I did not get from Level 1 coMra Course (even when assisting in teaching it once) and what I would like to share here as my fascination of the day, is the following, which is easier understood when looking at distress, but it is far more important for my purposes when applied to positive stress.

So, Dr Selye found that the reactions he described are characteristic mostly for the first, acute, phase of stress. Then, if the overwhelm prolongs or goes greater, the second phase occurs where the body kind of numbs and is no longer so distressed. If the process continues, however, the body enters into third - degenerative - phase where all wheels go off and it may terminate in physical death.

What Dr Garkavi found out is that if the intensity of the stimulus goes up, the phases repeat! That is, even though the body is in third phase and busy collapsing, when much stronger push is applied, it picks up the first phase, but it is now a desperate thing. That is, first phase on the higher level of attack is much more depleting and destructive. Same, of course, for the other two phases.

Of course, all this makes great deal of common sense, which is a mark of great science, but the contribution is that it was described in very concrete physical terms as above.

Now, the fascinating thing is that the same applies also to training and activation responses and this has profound implications for healing.

My understanding of activation - which is the most beneficial state for healing - was something along the lines of what does not kill you, makes you stronger, that is, if the body manages to withstand the challenge, it overcomes it and gets stronger. This is, of course, true, but such paradigm gives rise to the tendency in allopatic medicine to over-treat the patient; which produces distress, in particular.

So, activation is possible at three different levels of intensity of the stimulus and the most beneficial is not the highest level, as I misguidedly assumed!, but the lowest!

Because, even though at the high level of intensity, the body still copes well when in activation, this is depleting of its resources.

The morale being that, if at all possible to choose, it is preferable to have activation at lowest level of stimulation, that is, at the highest level of sensitivity.

In practical terms, I'd better be alert and sensitive and deal with my challenges while they are at low "volume" level!

*Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay