If you gently place the palms of your hands together, in a praying position, then they won't move. They also won't move if you are pushing them together very hard. Since either way your hands don't move, both situations look the same to someone who is watching you. But you can tell the difference. When you are pushing your hands together you can feel the pressure.

Now imagine you have some money, and you can either spend it on food or going to the movies. You want to do both, so they are like two hands pressed together. Let's say you decide to go to the movies. How would you feel about going to the movies and not having the food? I think there are two types of reactions. People who are "stressers" feel the pleasure of going to the movies, but at the same time they feel the pain of not eating the food. People who are "accepters" only feel the net pleasure, which is the pleasure of going to the movies minus the pain of not eating the food.

You might think that the stressers and the accepters would feel the same amount of net pleasure. But the problem is that the stressers are aware of what they are missing. So, when they think about the net pleasure they are feeling, they compare it with the combined pleasure of the movies plus the food. The accepters, on the other hand, are never really aware of what they are missing. So, when they feel the net pleasure of going to the movies, they don't think about what could have been.

Basically then, the accepters tend to be much happier about what they do since they aren't thinking about what they are missing. But the problem with accepters is they tend to make simple judgements based on intuition. Simple judgements are often good enough. But if you stop and feel out your decisions, the way the stressers do, you can often come up with an even better decision. Plus you will avoid those occasional situations where your intuition would have backfired on you.

If the ideas that you should strive for balance in your life and that you should do things in moderation irks you, then you are probably a stressor. To see why, imagine that you decide to moderate yourself by going to an inexpensive movie and getting cheap food as well. Doing some of both is the best thing to do since you get brunt of both the food and the movie. (Look into the economics concept of the specialization of resources for more on this point.) So, the accepter has no problem with this moderation since it actually feels the best anyway. But if you are a stresser, then you will be focusing on the part of the movie you missed and then the part of the food you missed. You will go back and forth thinking about how each one could be better if you just spent a little more on the food or the movie. The result is that the stressers actually feel the worst in this situation. They feel like they are getting the worst of both options.

Because of this, stressers usually end up doing one of two things. They either select one or the other option completely and try to ignore the other, or they confuse themselves so much by trying to make a decision that they never end up actually making one. Often, if they do make a decision, it is so riddled with complexities that the decision's power is very weak.

John LeFlohic
May 27, 1999