By Doni Joszef
If you’re a young adult, married, with kids (preferably cute and transported by Bugaboos), you can (really must or would not have the nerve to) consider yourself fortunate.
You survived the shidduch crisis. You survived the fertility crisis. You even survived that midnight diaper crisis. Now all you have left is the tuition crisis and the occasional midlife crisis, and you’re set.
If we manage to surpass each crisis with a smile, we get to wrap it all up as a nice, neat, nifty little life to hopefully be called “well lived” by those who outlive us.
Here’s the catch: We’re not allowed to complain about our stress. Nor should we. Complaining is counterproductive and only serves to intensify the sensation.
But many of us feel like we’re not even allowed to acknowledge the stress. So we repress it. As soon as we feel some sentiment of frustration, our inner (and sometimes outer) critics immediately bombard us with an accusatory ambush of attacks: “Who are you to complain! You’re married, aren’t you? You have healthy kids, don’t you? You have wealthy parents, or in-laws, or cousins, don’t you? Quit your whining and grow up!” Or something to that effect.
So, young adults such as myself learn to “grow up.” We suck it up and silence the subtle streaks of stress that strike up inside. We begin to feel guilty, perhaps evil, for feeling what we feel. We blame ourselves, our spouses, our parents, or our spouse’s parents. And then we feel guilty for blaming people for feeling stress that we shouldn’t even be feeling in the first place. All while we keep our smiles sturdy and sweet.
Freudian slips in the form of traditional lullabies such as “Rock a Bye Baby” and “Ring Around the Rosy”–more like horror stories than children’s rhymes–demonstrate the young parent’s silent search for stress relief in a world that doesn’t tolerate vocalizing the reality of such emotions.
But what’s wrong with repressing our stress? Is it not a noble gesture for us blessed young fathers and mothers to keep our happy faces shining as we subconsciously stack up our skeletons in a secret closet? It is not. The skeletons come out in stranger and stronger ways.
A healthier approach is to first cognitively and emotionally accept the stress for what it is. Without blame and guilt and without could’s, should’s, and would’s.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling anxious, particularly as a young parent with an endless array of newfound demands at our doors. Financial demands. Emotional demands. Physical demands.
Growing pains are part of life, and it helps to acknowledge them rather than deny them. Acknowledging stress does not evaporate it. But it gives us room to become conscious of it, which is the first step in detaching ourselves from it. Think of it like quicksand. The more you try to pull yourself away, the deeper you get sucked in. Settle into the stress. And only then will you surpass it.
Doni Joszef is a cognitive psychotherapist practicing with adolescents and young adults in Cedarhurst. He is a member of the DRS guidance department and writes for a wide range of publications. He is available by appointment. Contact Doni at 516-316-2246 or eâ€‘mail DJoszef@Gmail.com. For more information, visit DeficitOfAttention.Com.