Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Pressure Points

In A Perfect World

Walk down any street in any city, and chances are you will pass by at least one person who is feeling under pressure.

That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily relate to the way they feel. The sense of pressure under which they are laboring may seem a weak or unreasonable reaction to something which you find easy to handle. Yet, some of the things that stress you out could strike an outsider as absurd.

You’d think that, as co-inhabitants of the same planet, we would react in similar ways to similar triggers. Yet we all know, from personal experience, that this is simply not true.

Have you ever had your teeth set on edge by the scraping of a nail on a blackboard? Many people have shared that unpleasant experience… but just as many others are utterly unaffected by the sound. At the same time, there may be a different noise that drives those people crazy. My point is that, however much we have in common, there are a wide variety of areas where stimuli impact us differently. Our personal pressure points are one of those areas.

Let’s look at the different areas of life where pressure can rear its ugly head.

First, in the practical realm. A big Yom Tov is coming. A family simcha is waiting to be planned. An important project has been dumped on your desk. You feel the weight of responsibility to get it right. You don’t want to repeat the nightmare experience of the year before, when you had to pull two consecutive all-nighters to finish up because you were not sufficiently organized. Your mind is cluttered with myriad items to add to your to-do list. The mere anticipation of all the work that needs to be done makes you feel tired before you start. Pressure.

While a Type A personality may thrive on difficult challenges, Type B types tend to wilt under them. The sense of having something heavy weighing on your shoulders is reflected internally, in a sensation of indigestion-like fulness. You feel burdened and uncomfortable, your heart uneasy and your mind not at peace. Pressure is the enemy, and it will continue to be so until the challenge has been met and put behind you.

Not surprisingly, the inner discomfort makes the objective pressure even harder to bear. It makes the job of meeting the challenge far more difficult than it has to be. Think of the student who is so panicked and discouraged when facing a big test that he can hardly clear his mind enough to study. Or the balebusta who lets her emotional insecurity interfere with her ability to plan, delegate and execute. Instead of rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done, she expends a great deal of emotional energy worrying that she’ll exhaust herself with the effort, resenting that she has to do the job in the first place, or bracing herself for failure.

But practical challenges, daunting as they can be, pale to insignificance beside social ones.

The trials here run the gamut from neighborhood politics to deeply personal family dynamics. Part of the human condition is the need to jockey for space, for a voice, for recognition. In the workplace, we yearn to prove ourselves; once that’s happened, we are anxious not to lose the status we’ve achieved. Socially, feel the pressure of fitting into and being accepted by a chosen circle of friends. And even when we’ve finally got both feet firmly planted in the “in” crowd, we feel pressured to hold onto the gains we’ve made.

A sticky relationship can generate a tremendous amount of pressure. We are driven by a hunger for love, by a need to be heard and respected and, especially where our children are concerned, the desire to do right by them. We are tugged from the outside, by the needs and demands of the relationship, as well as on the inside, where our fears and insecurities live.

And then there is the pressure that we feel to be a good person and a good Jew.

In the realm of bein adam lachaveiro, some individuals find it hard to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone. We all want to do good and, indeed, feel an internal pressure to do so. But our intrinsic laziness and apathy can team up with the yetzer hara’s insidious voice, to keep us simmering in the pressure cooker of our own frustrated spiritual ambitions.

For others, the “people” part of Yiddishkeit is a snap. It’s in the area of bein adam laMakom that they struggle. They feel the pressure of their desire to draw closer to Hakadosh Boruch Hu, but continually fall short of their goal. While they have no problem giving tzedokah, visiting the sick or delivering food to the needy, opening up a siddur and davening with any sort of meaningful and enduring sense of connection seems beyond them.

They see other people pouring out their hearts in tefillah but the words do not touch them in the same way. Or, if they do, they find it hard to overcome their natural desire for comfort and do what it takes to daven consistently and in the correct setting. And if davening is not the problem, learning is. They feel the pressure to make genuine strides in their Torah study but are held back by emotional or intellectual deficits.

The pressure is on to rise in ruchniyus, and it’s a constant one that never goes away.

 

*****

What can we do to ease the various pressure points in our lives and maximize our chances for success?

First, we can appeal for help from the only One Who is in a real position to provide it. Hashem is always rooting for our success, and part of how we get there is by humbly recognizing our limitations and our need for assistance from a Power that is higher, stronger and far more effective than anything we might muster up on our own.

The second thing we can do is calm ourselves by taking the long view. By remembering other times when we faced similar challenges and prevailed. Or, if we didn’t prevail as well as we’d have liked, to at least learn from our mistakes! Also, by forgiving ourselves for committing the heinous crime of being imperfect, we can reduce the internal pressures that exacerbate the external ones.

We can cast aside our pride and ask those around us for help. We can acknowledge our weak areas without ignoring the ways in which we are strong. We can refrain from beating ourselves up when the pressure becomes too intense. We can congratulate ourselves for having worthwhile goals, even as they continue to elude us.

In short, we can become our own best friend.

A good friend accepts us as we are. A friend readily overlooks both your past failures and your present deficiencies because she knows that, deep down where it counts, you are solid gold. A friend stands by and cheers as you run your personal races. It is this kind of acceptance which gives us the courage and the grit to keep on trying.

Accepting ourselves with love reduces the pressure that plagues us on the inside. Who wants a nasty critic living inside one’s own heart?  It also unlocks strengths which, for one reason or another, we’ve been keeping under wraps.

And ultimately, by freeing us to face our challenges clear-eyed and with serenity, it paves the way for the success we so ardently wish for! W

alk down any street in any city, and chances are you will pass by at least one person who is feeling under pressure.

That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily relate to the way they feel. The sense of pressure under which they are laboring may seem a weak or unreasonable reaction to something which you find easy to handle. Yet, some of the things that stress you out could strike an outsider as absurd.

You’d think that, as co-inhabitants of the same planet, we would react in similar ways to similar triggers. Yet we all know, from personal experience, that this is simply not true.

Have you ever had your teeth set on edge by the scraping of a nail on a blackboard? Many people have shared that unpleasant experience… but just as many others are utterly unaffected by the sound. At the same time, there may be a different noise that drives those people crazy. My point is that, however much we have in common, there are a wide variety of areas where stimuli impact us differently. Our personal pressure points are one of those areas.

Let’s look at the different areas of life where pressure can rear its ugly head.

First, in the practical realm. A big Yom Tov is coming. A family simcha is waiting to be planned. An important project has been dumped on your desk. You feel the weight of responsibility to get it right. You don’t want to repeat the nightmare experience of the year before, when you had to pull two consecutive all-nighters to finish up because you were not sufficiently organized. Your mind is cluttered with myriad items to add to your to-do list. The mere anticipation of all the work that needs to be done makes you feel tired before you start. Pressure.

While a Type A personality may thrive on difficult challenges, Type B types tend to wilt under them. The sense of having something heavy weighing on your shoulders is reflected internally, in a sensation of indigestion-like fulness. You feel burdened and uncomfortable, your heart uneasy and your mind not at peace. Pressure is the enemy, and it will continue to be so until the challenge has been met and put behind you.

Not surprisingly, the inner discomfort makes the objective pressure even harder to bear. It makes the job of meeting the challenge far more difficult than it has to be. Think of the student who is so panicked and discouraged when facing a big test that he can hardly clear his mind enough to study. Or the balebusta who lets her emotional insecurity interfere with her ability to plan, delegate and execute. Instead of rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done, she expends a great deal of emotional energy worrying that she’ll exhaust herself with the effort, resenting that she has to do the job in the first place, or bracing herself for failure.

But practical challenges, daunting as they can be, pale to insignificance beside social ones.

The trials here run the gamut from neighborhood politics to deeply personal family dynamics. Part of the human condition is the need to jockey for space, for a voice, for recognition. In the workplace, we yearn to prove ourselves; once that’s happened, we are anxious not to lose the status we’ve achieved. Socially, feel the pressure of fitting into and being accepted by a chosen circle of friends. And even when we’ve finally got both feet firmly planted in the “in” crowd, we feel pressured to hold onto the gains we’ve made.

A sticky relationship can generate a tremendous amount of pressure. We are driven by a hunger for love, by a need to be heard and respected and, especially where our children are concerned, the desire to do right by them. We are tugged from the outside, by the needs and demands of the relationship, as well as on the inside, where our fears and insecurities live.

And then there is the pressure that we feel to be a good person and a good Jew.

In the realm of bein adam lachaveiro, some individuals find it hard to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone. We all want to do good and, indeed, feel an internal pressure to do so. But our intrinsic laziness and apathy can team up with the yetzer hara’s insidious voice, to keep us simmering in the pressure cooker of our own frustrated spiritual ambitions.

For others, the “people” part of Yiddishkeit is a snap. It’s in the area of bein adam laMakom that they struggle. They feel the pressure of their desire to draw closer to Hakadosh Boruch Hu, but continually fall short of their goal. While they have no problem giving tzedokah, visiting the sick or delivering food to the needy, opening up a siddur and davening with any sort of meaningful and enduring sense of connection seems beyond them.

They see other people pouring out their hearts in tefillah but the words do not touch them in the same way. Or, if they do, they find it hard to overcome their natural desire for comfort and do what it takes to daven consistently and in the correct setting. And if davening is not the problem, learning is. They feel the pressure to make genuine strides in their Torah study but are held back by emotional or intellectual deficits.

The pressure is on to rise in ruchniyus, and it’s a constant one that never goes away.

   

What can we do to ease the various pressure points in our lives and maximize our chances for success?

First, we can appeal for help from the only One Who is in a real position to provide it. Hashem is always rooting for our success, and part of how we get there is by humbly recognizing our limitations and our need for assistance from a Power that is higher, stronger and far more effective than anything we might muster up on our own.

The second thing we can do is calm ourselves by taking the long view. By remembering other times when we faced similar challenges and prevailed. Or, if we didn’t prevail as well as we’d have liked, to at least learn from our mistakes! Also, by forgiving ourselves for committing the heinous crime of being imperfect, we can reduce the internal pressures that exacerbate the external ones.

We can cast aside our pride and ask those around us for help. We can acknowledge our weak areas without ignoring the ways in which we are strong. We can refrain from beating ourselves up when the pressure becomes too intense. We can congratulate ourselves for having worthwhile goals, even as they continue to elude us.

In short, we can become our own best friend.

A good friend accepts us as we are. A friend readily overlooks both your past failures and your present deficiencies because she knows that, deep down where it counts, you are solid gold. A friend stands by and cheers as you run your personal races. It is this kind of acceptance which gives us the courage and the grit to keep on trying.

Accepting ourselves with love reduces the pressure that plagues us on the inside. Who wants a nasty critic living inside one’s own heart?  It also unlocks strengths which, for one reason or another, we’ve been keeping under wraps.

And ultimately, by freeing us to face our challenges clear-eyed and with serenity, it paves the way for the success we so ardently wish for!

Twitter
WhatsApp
Facebook
Pinterest
LinkedIn

LATEST NEWS

Honestly

This week’s parsha introduces us to Yaakov and Eisov, whose struggle endures until the End of Days. The differences between them were already apparent prior

Read More »

Depth Perception

One day, when feeling under the weather and not up to doing anything productive, I looked around for something to entertain me while I rested.

Read More »

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to stay updated