The Sword of Damocles

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    I like to think of people as having an inner sphere. This inner sphere protects our inner peace and happiness. It can be disrupted by outside influences. Many of us have a sword hanging over us. Some of us for example, are afraid that we'll lose our jobs if we don't don't speed up and accomplish more. Threats that hang over us like this are disruptive to our inner peace. Constantly we may hear a voice that says "you must go faster" and "you don't have time".

    In life there is almost always some kind of sword hanging over us. Even though most of the time we aren't being hit by the sword, the fact that it is hanging there affects our inner peace. Once our inner peace is disrupted it hurts other things as well, such as one's social interactions with other people one's health one ability to control one's eating and obviously one's happiness and quality of life. This disruption can lead to increased eating to relieve stress and an unhealthy increase in weight. Rushing to get the job done can lead us to do a poor quality job. We might not do things we should do because of fear that they take too long. Constant fear is tiring and reduces our endurance to do work. The emotional consequences of this stress can distract us from concentrating on our work. Time pressure may cause us not to spend the time we should to learn things that could save us time in the long run.

    All of us have a decision to make and it is whether to protect our inner peace or not. Whether to let anxiety in or not. The first step is to decide that protecting our inner peace takes priority. Once that decision is made we have to take the appropriate steps. It isn't easy to keep fear of the sword from invading our personal space. Fear of the sword affects the 3 pillars of inner peace, our self concept, our optimism for the future and our feeling that we are loved. We feel low self concept because we feel we are not performing well enough. We feel pessimism because we fear the sword will fall. We feel not loved because we feel that those who hold the sword will bring it down upon us and because of the stress and pain their threat to bring down the sword is causing us. In addition fear can motivate people to have low self esteem.   They may feel that if they berate themselves they will work harder at dealing with the threat.  This type of self motivation is discussed in the Happiness is a Choice section.  People sometimes worry that if they don't worry enough they won't work hard at dealing with the threat they are facing.  The first decision one has to make is to make a plan as to what approaches one will take and how one will allocate one's time toward dealing with the various threats that one faces.  After one has created  a plan and a schedule and decided to stick to it as best as one can, than worrying about it will no longer be helpful.  If you do worry just tell yourself I will stick to the plan and I might as well be happy.  If you haven't made a plan yet you can tell yourself that I will make a plan at such and such a time and I might as well be happy.

    Sometimes I worry that I won't allocate enough time to my work if I am not worried about it enough.  I'll spend too much time on things I enjoy doing instead.  One has to allocate some time to doing what one enjoys.   Life can't be all work.  If one's job requires an unreasonable amount of time then one should find another job.  It may be that the best approach to solving problems is not increasing the time one spends dealing with the problem but changing one's approach to the problem.  If one is being given too many unrelated projects by one's boss it may be time for a conversation with one's boss.

    The second decision one has to make is not to rush. When one rushes one's inner peace goes out the window.  One has to have an answer to the voice that says you have to go faster. The first answer is I won't go faster, my inner peace is more important to me.

    Another way to relieve stress is to take at least one day off during the week to do some relaxing activity with friends.

    When we hear the voice that says we have to rush, we have to challenge it if we wish to protect our inner peace. After the challenge we can try to displace the stress by trying to relax and to be happy.

    When dealing with fear of the future it may be helpful to remember the words of the Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav.


The whole world is a very narrow bridge,
but the essential thing is not to be at all afraid.


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