On the Nature of Stress

  • Martin Shaffer


Until the year 1936, the meanings of the term stress were clear enough. The basic sense of the word traced back to at least the 15th century, when, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was used in the sense of ”physical strain or pressure.” Subsequent usage retained this specific meaning (particularly in fields such as engineering or architecture, where one might speak of the ”stress” on a wall or against the piling of a bridge), but also generalized it. By the year 1704, for instance, ”stress” was used to describe ”hardship, straits, or adversity”—pressure upon a person instead of a thing. By the mid-19th century, the notion of stress was broadened even more to include ”strain upon a bodily organ or mental power.” Still other, related meanings continued to appear, but they too seemed to cluster around the basic notion of “stress” as some sort of force. At least that was the case until 1936.


Stress Reaction Coping Behavior Stress Control Internal Dialogue Effective Coping 
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© Martin Shaffer 1982

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  • Martin Shaffer

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