I want to talk about the very important concept of emotional stability... and Fight Club, but we'll get to the second later. The easiest way to explain my concepts of stress, and stress management is to think of it as a cup.
This cup represents your ability to contain stressors from whatever the source, your threshold from stress. Everyone has their own personal sized cup, which can expand and contract over time through conditioning. For instance: if you grew up with an emotionally distant family, you never got clothes that fit you, you had a bully shove your face in dirt everyday at school, and your cup never overflowed, but constantly stayed full to the brim, then you might have a pretty big emotional cup.
The opposite is also true. If you've lived a relatively stress free life, then your cup might be small, or shrink over time, so that when stress increases suddenly, it affects you on a deeper level than it might on others.
As this cup gets full, you begin to feel drained, irritable, tired, full of hatred even, possibly even leading to depression. When you close the bottom of your cup it closes your connection to the field of consciousness. Think of it as flowing energy, it can either be good, or bad, but as long as it's flowing, nothing is built up, and everything in your life begins to flow with ease, and slow down.
There are two ways to allow this flow to work as it should: 1) you increase the size of the cup, or, your tolerance level for stress. How much you can take in before overflowing, before developing a disease, either mental or physical. And 2) opening the bottom of the cup, allowing the stress to leave you as quickly as it enters. Essentially making those petty things that bother you for some reason, seem petty and laughable as they should be. Things roll off of you, rather than you needing to "deal" with them, or "handle" them. It becomes an automatic process.
How does stress work?
So we've established the cup. Visualize the cup as the self. Now we have two streams, one in, and one out. The stress flowing in is catabolic, or destructive, breaking down, yin, whatever you want to call it. While the stream flowing out is anabolic, peaceful, building, or yang.
This is an important concept, because it shows one reason self-help books and self-improvement don't necessarily help people deal with emotional stress. They only teach the reader to ignore it. This brings about an even more interesting form of self-help popularized, but not often spoken about philosophy behind the novel/film Fight Club.
Its underlying message was that maybe we should look at self-destruction as a form of self-improvement. This concept branches from the principle that you cannot improve something you do not know, and if there's one thing most people don't know, it's themselves.
So how would self-destruction work then?
By destroying the self, you find yourself. As you peel back the layers of the fabricated life around you, you begin a deeper introspection of the self than you would by simply trying to incept ideas through "positive thinking". That, rather than creating another shell of falsity around the ego and the self to protect it, that you tear down all the ones you've put up your entire life.
This doesn't have to be through physical violence, or letting out aggression. It actually has more to do with realizing how materialistic a person you truly are. About how everything you're currently doing is a means to an end, and you never really accept that the moment you're living right this instant is a beautiful one with its own unique experiences to offer.
This is the downfall of the Western world. Our jobs are just for paychecks, we don't relish the fact that we're providing a service. Our careers are just a path to retirement, not something to do that betters the world. Our car ride to the store is an annoying 5 minutes of getting there, rather than a chance to listen to some awesome music and enjoy the fresh air. Nobody really lives in the now.
So how does this pertain to the emotional cup?
In almost every way. When people are given more stressors than they can handle, be it an arrogant boss, a job they hate, having kids (which they still love, of course), paying bills, working out, and etc, they create coping mechanisms that surround the self and the ego, protecting it from the damage of the stressors.
The point I'm trying to drive home is that when under stress, people create shells to protect their emotional stability because they lack pathways to allow stress to flow, but these same shells prevent them from knowing who we truly are.
Now, if you don't actually know who you are, then how can you enjoy anything? Do you even know what you want to do with yourself right this instant? If I asked you to write the most important thing in your entire life right this instant, would you even have an answer?
Draining the brain's main vain
In the novel/movie they break down the self through fighting. They also create a massive hole in their emotional cups in this way. This is why the narrator talks about how everything in his life slowed down after he started fighting. To him, it was his major stress reliever, which finally alleviated his insomnia that was brought on by his pent-up stress, from his materialistic lifestyle and dead-end job.
While the narrator's insomnia was cured, I find it very interesting that the narrator wasn't truly cured of his mental disorder (Tyler), until he finally understood the entire point his mind was trying to make clear to him. That being: you need to break yourself down before you can build yourself up, other wise it's just masturbation of the ego, and nothing is really being accomplished. The irony being that the last shell he had to break down was in fact Tyler himself, which was just another coping mechanism.
But wait, there's more
However, I think the real reason, which wasn't necessarily thought of by Fight Club's author, but will probably wish he'd thought of after this article is: stress management was only a part of the solution, and the author was only able to rid himself of Tyler when he finally realized his purpose, and all that he was able to accomplish. That destroying those buildings was not only a monumental accomplishment, but also something he wanted all along, because Tyler wanted it, which means the narrator did too, even if it was at a subconscious level. Which gave him real fulfillment and a level of satisfaction most don't know exists.