The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines tension as “A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each other.” In other words, it is to taut pulling of ideas or concepts that in some cases are opposite to each other.
It has quite a negative connotation and can be visually, mentally and physically represented in our lives as something that has an effect on us as human beings.
We all are from time to time are affected by tension. Tension however doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can be used effectively to be able to plot out a new course, a new path, and a new way of seeing both the world and our place in it. Although we suffer from tension more than ever in modern society, there are ways of not becoming its slave and actually allow it to become our ally.
Let’s break down the Oxford English dictionary definition of tension and see how we can use it as a tool to be able to inform how we could respond to the world. The strained state or condition that we feel implies that there is something physical or reactive going on. It implies that whatever is being presented is creating something that is viscerally affecting both body and mind. This if seen like a fuel gauge on a car or warning light that flashes up when there is something that needs to be attended to, we can respond. In this way tension is of value and isn’t a negative entity. Tension becomes something to investigate, something to look into and to see what the underlying issue/problem is. Tension becomes our friend as it alerts us to what is going on.
The second part is also important to dissect. The OED, in reference to Tension, states tension is “…resulting from forces acting in opposition to each other.” In other words, tension is the result of something that causes conflict between a thought, feeling and emotion that we ‘think’ we should be having. Therefore, as we are triggered by the feeling of tension we are invited to look at what the underlying thoughts and emotions are and as a result ‘see what is’. We are asked to respond to the alarm and the investigation with a movement in both body and mind.
It is the next step that is crucial. We have to respond in a ‘positive’ way, and not allow old habits to cloud our ‘seeing’ of what is being presented to us. Tension is providing us the alarm; our response is not to run into the flames.
One way is to pause…. recognise…. respond.
If we are able to see the tension early enough we are able to allow space to see what is going on. At this stage we can gauge the level of tension as this too varies and can be subtle to totally constrictive. So by not responding to tension automatically we can enable us to take the next step which is to Respond.
Try the next simple technique to get a perspective as well as visual and physical feel for the subtleties of tension.
As you can see and feel here, tension is varied and if we were to be triggered by every example of tension we would constantly be in a bound up state. Tension is subtle, varied and if not seen ‘sticky’. It however is also transitory and if seen positively an opportunity for change. Tension, if spent time with, can become your friend. Well at least a tolerated passenger on your journey through life.