Threat or Challenge? It Depends on How You See It

JT - Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is... The only problem in your life is your mind's resistance to life as it unfolds.

As the year draws to a close, I have been reflecting. Part of my process is looking at the challenges I experienced this year. However, this year I went in to a deeper place this year for the participants decided to untangle the differences between threats and challenges. Yes they both can impact our overall wholistic well-being, however in a different way. Let’s get started…

The Transactional Model of Stress

The transactional model of stress was developed by Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman and in their book Stress, Appraisal and Coping, they write

“psychological stress is a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being.”

~ Lazarus and Folkman, 1984, p. 19.

Lazarus and Folkman indicate that this relationship goes through two important phases – (1) cognitive appraisals and (2) coping. They indicate –

“Cognitive appraisal is an evaluation process that determines why and to what extent a particular transaction or series of transactions between the person and the environments stressful. Coping is the process through which the individual manages the demands of the person-environment relationship that are appraised as stressful and the emotions they generate.”

~ Lazarus and Folkman, 1984, p. 19.

To put this in to practise, when we are faced with a potential stressful situation, we can use ask two questions  –

  • First (cognitive appraisal): “Could this situation be harmful or could it benefit me (i.e. helpful)? And could it benefit me now or in the future, and in what ways?”
  • Second (coping): “Can I cope with and/or handle this situation?”

When we use the transactional model of stress, we can then identify if the stuation is more of a threat or a challenge for us.

Challenge versus Threat – What’s the Difference?

Simply, it comes down to how you perceive or see your situation – as a threat or as a challenge.

A threat is a situation or potential stressor that we think we have no control over and we will not be able to handle.

A challenge is different from a threat. With a challenge, we see that we can handle the situation or potential stressor.

Both a threat and a challenges trigger a stress response. However, they are different stress responses and therefore have difference responses on the body. Simply a challenge response is a positive connotation as they appraised that they have the resources to handle the situation. A threat response is often a negative conniption as the person identified they do not have the resources to handle the situation. It is important to note though – we are not 100% threat or challenge.

Challenge or Threat – How Will You See It?

Now you can see the difference between a threat and a challenge, I hope you can start to see or continue to see how important doing the work and developing your own resources and capabilities is. Yes it takes practise and as I say to the clients I serve, the moment I think I have it is the moment I have lost it 🙂 And remember a threat or challenge – depends on how you see it!

If you have any questions, please let me know below in the comments. And if you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and living whole-heartedlywhy not join our Toolkit?

Reference –

Lazarus R., & Folkman S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal and Coping. New York, USA: Springer

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