Among the popular expressions of our society, none are as maddening and meaningless as “Relax.” It's as fraudulent as any of the other great insincerities we hear all the time.
Like, “the check is in the mail” or “I really love you and we'll get married as soon as I divorce my spouse.”
When I am asked to relax, it is an immediate signal for my adrenalin to begin flowing and my muscles to tighten. Usually, it is the first true notice I am not relaxed.
There is an abrasive connotation about an order to relax. It says you're in need of stress control or maybe mental and emotional counseling.
Also, it gives the would-be relaxer a temporary sense of superiority and control.
What result is expected by such a remark? That the subject will push his or her “relax” button. Or the aura of carefree euphoria will magically envelope the subject merely by hearing this meaningless order!
Ordering someone to relax really is saying, “Your personality is out of synch with my perception of how you should be coming across, and I want you to change!”
The word relax is an oversimplification of a multi-faceted human phenomenon that can be implemented with as simple a process as deep breathing, or as complex as extended psychotherapy.
Believe me I know how to relax. The aforementioned deep breathing and gazing out at the sea do it for me. What doesn't do it is someone ordering me to relax. It's very unrelaxing.
Telling someone to relax is arrogant, presumptive, regressive, debilitating and hostile. It should be denied the manipulators who use it!
Don't worry, I'm not going to dwell on it. But I would like to say a few words about another irritating expression, “Don't worry.”
I suppose sometimes its helpful to tell someone, “Don't Worry.” At least it's better than telling them to relax.
But “Don't worry!” falls into the category of memorable last words for some doomed people who indeed should have been worried.
It was what:
- Custer said to his men when the Indians attacked
- The captain of the Titanic said after colliding with the iceberg
- The captain of the Hindenburg said when the dirigible blew up
- What Louis said to Marie Antoinette as she ascended the steps of the guillotine.
Or so the stories go. If they actually said something else, it should have been “Worry!”
When I hear “Don't worry,” I'm immediately anxious. A sense of impending doom assails me. I think if I'm not worried, I missed something.
“Don't worry” assumes I'm worried, though my mind may be free of worry.
It is not unlike the reaction when a well-meaning (albeit mindless) soul offers me an appraisal of my health. Like:
“You look pale.” Immediately I experience the symptoms which accompany paleness.
“You look tired.” Fatigue begins to drain my vitality!
“You don't seem happy.” Suddenly my mind begins to build defenses against the invasion of unhappy events.
“Do you feel all right?” I begin to feel all wrong.
These are usually well-intended comments. The problem is they create the states of being they seem to be inquiring after.
When I was a boy, certain “dirty” words were frowned upon by adults and teachers.
That generation was ultra sensitive about such words usage. Maybe we should be too, and outlaw saying “Relax” and “Don't Worry.” That said, I feel much better, thank you.
Nat Shulman is a retired auto dealer from Massachusetts. He now lives in Hawaii.