Panic is supposed to be a momentary thing. Something happens, you panic, you either recover from the situation or you don’t, and you move on. The panic ends and you get on with your life at its usual tepid pace and mood. Panic attacks are a common enough problem. They don’t even need a “something” to trigger them. But they have a limited life span. Panic of any kind comes and goes.
At least that’s the way it used to be.
Today, many people are experiencing what I can only term “steady state panic”. This is a condition of constant near-hysteria generally brought on by outside forces that simply refuse to relent.
Steady state panic (or SSP as I’ll refer to it in an attempt to appear clinical) may have been invented by the modern American corporation. At least that was the first place I experienced it. I recall being constantly bombarded with messages intended to induce panic. “This is the most important quarter of this company’s existence!” (That coming with a guarantee that the next quarter will somehow exceed this one in criticality.) “If we don’t meet our numbers this quarter [and the next and the next, ad nauseum] it will be curtains for the free world as we know it!” “You must be at this crucial meeting.” And inevitably on a Friday afternoon, I’d get a, “It has to be done before the weekend.”
The funny thing was that the weekend came and went as did every missed deadline, yet the world kept turning. No one died. The sun rose and set as always. The next week, everything would start all over again and the panic mode would continue, as if we were all living out some malevolent version of Groundhog Day.
People were in a constant state of churn and anguish. There was never a moment to stop and breath, never mind smell the roses. When management talked to us, everything was going down the tubes. Strangely, when they talked to Wall Street analysts, we were walking on water and could do no wrong.
It never ended. We could never press the pause button to appreciate an accomplishment. But that’s the business world. Anyone who expects normalcy in corporate America is delusional. The bigger problem is that this attitude has bled into almost every area of our lives. Families operate in constant crisis mode. When you ask how someone is doing, listen for the phrase, “It’s been crazy.” It’s ubiquitous. Either everyone is crazy or – in the words of Brian Regan – you’re bookin’ it too tight. Maybe there’s a little of both.
Churches, clubs, political parties, sports teams, and more. Listen to the tone they all use and the messages they send. They seem hell-bent (pun intended) to put everyone into the same panic they are in.
Let me suggest that human beings are not designed to take that kind of stress. It may be one factor that contributes to the fact that we are the most affluent culture in the history of the world, yet the most psychologically muddled people in history. That’s one of the reasons God gave us the gift of the Sabbath. We need to slow down, be at peace, put the insanity behind us, even if for a brief respite. He knows it, we have yet to learn it.