Having been in the practice of psychiatry now for a number of years, I’ve noticed a great many things, and one of these is the number and severity of emotional stressors that people experience in life. It seems self-evident that stress is common, but it’s amazing how frequently sufferers seem oblivious to either the number of stressors, their intensity, or the impact these stressors are having. People end up in a doctor’s office with all manner of emotionally related symptoms...headaches, other aches and pains, lack of energy, appetite disturbances, gastrointestinal disturbances, and interpersonal problems. The doctor performs the requisite studies, but is often left without any specific general medical, non-emotional explanation. Often, until a history is taken, the patients don’t think of themselves as particularly stressed out. But then, the doctor starts counting the stressors up. He shakes his head and wonders to himself, how the heck could they not be affected emotionally, and, perhaps more significantly, why don’t the sufferers recognize it?
A lot of us take on every responsibility that comes down the pike, and society is eager to add more and more to our plate. Some of us find it impossible to say “no,” whether simply out of a sense of who we’re trying to be, or out of mere difficulty in being assertive when the situation calls for it.
Society is in a tremendous state of flux. It seems almost impossible for the average family to survive these days on one income alone. Both men and women are greatly confused about their roles in society, but the pressures and the changes have snuck up upon us so gradually that we are seldom conscious of them.
>During a session not long ago, while discussing the pressures that time exerts on all of us these days, I started counting the number of timepieces in my office for the benefit of my patient. There were two clocks on the walls, one on the end table, two on the desk, (one of these an LCD in the office telephone), one each in my cell phone, PDA, laptop computer, one on my wrist, one on the patient’s wrist and one on his cell phone, and three in varying stages of disrepair in my desk drawer, with batteries having run down, and so forth. That makes fourteen timepieces of one type or another in one solitary office. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it—I mean, it isn’t a clock store. Even though you may not realize it, that sort of presence, fourteen clocks in one room, produces a not-too-subtle pressure that time is all-important, and that’s the way we tend to act. No one seems sure where all the attention deficit disorder is coming from these days, but it’s hard to imagine that all the buzzing and chiming din of the ever-increasing number of electronic devices doesn’t have some bearing. The decibel level is unbelievable at times.
We need to find some peaceful intervals during the day to reflect on where we’re going in life and what our priorities should be, unless we want passively to accept the agenda that an ever busier world is eager to impose upon us.