“Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what the hell you're doing.”
We all experience pressures in our lives. We feel pressured to perform, to conform, to please others. We experience financial pressures, social pressures, career and professional pressures - pressures in relationships, (marriages, partnerships, parenting, etc.). We want to pin the blame for pressure we feel on outer situations, circumstances, and/or people. We think we need to take our power back from these external forces. And, this accurate – when we are experiencing pressure, it’s a signal that we have an opportunity to call our energy and power back to ourselves. We just get confused on how to do that.
The dictionary defines pressure as stress, a constant state of worry and urgency. It’s a force that pushes or urges, (emphasis on force). To pressure is to compel, or make someone do something.
Earnest Hemingway coined the often-used phrase, “Courage is grace under pressure.” I wonder if what he meant was that courage is the quality that gives someone poise and a sense that they can handle pressure.
Have you ever wondered what separates people who succeed under pressure from those who collapse from it?
Perspective. Those who view pressure as exciting, as a fun way to play the game of life by making the stakes higher tend to win in life. This takes a healthy energetic system and confidence in one’s self and one’s abilities. People with a strong ego-sense can often thrive under pressure. It brings out the best in them.
When we’re grieving, our energy levels are depleted. We are not ourselves. We fold under the slightest amount of pressure. Pressure, when experienced without sufficient energy to counteract it, becomes stress, strain, and a burden. Pressure is a demand upon us that automatically creates anxiety. It makes us want to withdraw into our shells and never come out.
It’s common for people who are grieving the loss of a spouse to feel pressured by well-meaning family and friends who offer all kinds of advice. You’re likely to hear that you need to clear out your loved one’s belongings, keep yourself busy, sell the house, move in with family, move into an assisted living facility, to move ON, to fall in love again, to “get over it,” etc. Sometimes pressure causes you give in to what is being demanded and make a decision that you may regret later. We usually regret choices we make when we give our autonomy over to someone else and let them coerce us into following their agenda instead of doing what our heart tells us is right for us.
One client, I’ll call her Judy, came to me in tears one day. A group of her friends had been pressuring her for months to move her deceased fiancée’s belongings out of her house. Their opinion was that, after two years of grieving his loss, it was time for her to get rid of all reminders of him so she could “move on” and invite new love into her life. She listened to their well-meaning advice, and understood (in her head) that they might have a point. Yet, she knew (in her heart) that she wasn’t ready.
They decided an “intervention” was necessary, came to her house armed with boxes and “helped” her to pack away his books, clothing, papers, baseball memorabilia, etc. She told me how she went through the day feeling like she was watching herself from outside herself. “It was surreal,” she said, as she sobbed. “I felt like my head was going to explode under the pressure.” It was when they started going through her photo albums that she put her foot down and said, “No. These need to stay.” They carted everything away, saying, “You’ll thank us for this someday.”
What was her greatest regret? “What bothers me the most is feeling that I betrayed myself by letting them choose for me and force me into doing something I was not ready to do.” We had our work cut out for us. She was able to resolve her feelings about this over time. And, I don’t think Judy has those friends any more.
Again, how you deal with pressure is a matter of perspective. Sometimes we put pressure on ourselves to “get over” our grief, because we’re simply tired of feeling sad and overwhelmed all the time. This is something I hear a lot from my clients. However, grief runs its course in its own timing and will not be pressured into submission just because we want to get rid of it.
What is my message here? Pressure is force, and force needs a counterforce to be activated. Ultimately it is contraction and fear-based thinking. As Peyton Manning says above, pressure is an indication that we feel vulnerable and “don’t know what the hell we are doing.” Here’s the key: other people or outer circumstances don’t pressure us. Pressure is a feeling we generate inside of us in reaction to stressful outer stimulus. Since it is something we are creating, we have the opportunity to create something else instead. That is how we get our power back.
When you feel pressured, where do you feel it in your body? Typically we’ll feel pressure in our head, heart, belly. I know when I feel pressured, I feel like I’m in a vice. It’s like I have to push back just to continue existing. It took me a long time to figure out that feeling pressured is a choice.
Grace is another choice available to all of us. Grace is the opposite. Grace is generosity of spirit, it’s a gift from God, it’s freedom. Grace is prayerful. Choosing grace means that I don’t have to do everything by myself. I can call on spiritual assistance. I can trust that everything will be done in its own timing. I can trust myself to handle what’s in front of me. I can relax.
Are you feeling pressured? Relax. You don’t have to buy into it. You don’t have to do anything that you feel pressured to do. Choose grace. Choose peace. Choose freedom.
Love and Blessings on Your Journey,