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Stress Lesson from a Stuck Elevator

Updated on October 1, 2018
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.

Standing in a Stuck Elevator Is still only - Standing
Standing in a Stuck Elevator Is still only - Standing

Just Doing Some Standing

Some time ago I found myself stuck in our elevator for about an hour. Well, needless to say, it seemed longer than that at the time, but I don't want to exaggerate now.

My initial reaction was a slight boredom, as I had no idea how long it was going to take the technician to come and fix the problem. It was quickly replaced by some practical reasoning which is going to be the theme of this article.

So, first came to mind gratefulness that my bladder was not in an urgent need to be emptied, and that alone made me ready for an indefinite test of patience. The second reason for being grateful was the fact that I was alone, I mean not sharing the situation with a hysterical or claustrophobic person.

Now, allow me to brag a little. Situations like that always find me quite satisfied with my mind which automatically scans through most practical options, and in that case it was a realization that I was expected to do merely some of that same standing which I do while looking through my balcony window.

Indeed, the whole situation got reduced to that "standing", and there was even a trace of a meditative calm in that gazing at the closed door in front of me. You know the kind, like when you are having a bath surrounded with the privacy of the ambient.

Maintaining but Never Fixing
Maintaining but Never Fixing

Getting Even with the Technician - for Fun

Of course, every little while I pressed on that red button to alert the superintendent about the situation, but even that I did in a slow manner, knowing that poking on it wouldn't make the technician come any sooner.

When my "patience-testing-chamber" finally moved and the door opened, I was facing a couple of mocking eyes of the technician that seemed to be asking: "So, how did you like it?"

Then I blurted out a question that seemed appropriate at the moment, while I knew that it required a technical answer which I wouldn't have understood anyway: "What was wrong?"

Sure enough, it was technical enough, and I didn't understand it. But then he said something that gave me a chance to get back at him for that sneer: "I have been servicing this elevator for a long time"---upon which I said with a mocking grin : "And you still don't know how to fix it?" I shook my head and walked away, missing the expression on his face.

We Can't Breathe for Yesterday or Tomorrow

This is certainly one of the simplest and most precious pearls of wisdom that I ever had a chance to learn : the only time that life is happening is NOW. And it's also one of the most overlooked ones, judging by nations, ethnicities and races that can't stop living in the past; or equally erroneously fixated on future while amassing weapons for some hypothetical foe.

It's not easy with such a mindset to imagine the phenomenal unburdening relief of living in the here and now. Soon I will tell you about a couple of powerful questions - well, powerful in my personal experience anyway.

But first we have to see as true that stress is not something happening outside of us---but rather our own response to situations which "we are not willing to deal with".

Could We Remove that Button Ready to Be Pushed by Situations?
Could We Remove that Button Ready to Be Pushed by Situations?

Willing to Escape Equals Stress

Indeed, we can be equally stressed out by an upcoming job interview and walking down the isle to say our wedding vows, because both situations are something new to our experience. Wouldn't it be nice if we were just told what time to come to work tomorrow, and if we could skip the ceremony and have that first dance at the reception? Well, life doesn't work that way, and who are we to be exempted from the way it does work.

However, it may not take much more than asking ourselves a couple of questions to find that equilibrium in our nerves when one is really needed. They could belong to that so called "reality therapy" which I once read about, and which was insisting on realizations about "what is", not any "what if's, maybe's, should be's...and alike hypotheticals.

Even in Sleep We Don't Find Peace
Even in Sleep We Don't Find Peace

We Are Not Relaxed Even when Relaxing

Check your facial muscles, your throat muscles, shoulders and stomach muscles while you are doing nothing more demanding than watering your house plants---and you may be surprised how little you are in the moment.

For nothing around you is calling for a muscular readiness for something other than watering those plants. If you were really in the moment, not only that you would be relaxing those muscles not in use, but you might even do some little baby-talking to those plants to express your love for them.

Believe it or not, but we don't completely relax even while we sleep. Some of us may talk in sleep, or have wild dreams and wrestle with the bedding for the most of the night. Like many folks may testify to that, it's not easy to unwind completely and just surrender to that oblivion called "restful sleep".

Well, I guess, we are not cats to be able to shift in a blink of eye from running around into a state of a purring bliss. To me it takes about 3 minutes, but I had to practice for it. You can too, even without a need to grow whiskers first.

Should Making a Phone Call Really Be Felt in Shoulders?
Should Making a Phone Call Really Be Felt in Shoulders?

Questions that Could Make a Difference

Now, here we come to those two questions that I was announcing a moment ago. Don't expect some magic incantation like "abracadabra" that would instantly poof away your stress. Instead, what I am suggesting is that you try applying these two questions as often as possible during the day, until they become unconscious criterion of how much the current situation presents a stressor. The questions are:

- Is there any real sign of a threat around me now and here?

- Does the situation involve doing anything that I have never done before?

Simple, isn't it? However, you may not be in a mindset to immediately grasp the curative effect of these questions---like after they are repeatedly applied over a time. You see, except if you are a cop, a fireman, or a soldier in a hostile environment, all of your life situations are free of any threats. O.K. guys, maybe I could have added mother-in-law after you (again!) forgot to wash the car, mow the lawn, or fix that loose stair on the porch.

"If I don't Touch Those, Can They still Hurt Me?"
"If I don't Touch Those, Can They still Hurt Me?"

Referring to the First Question

Look around and see if there is anything posing a threat. Your furniture is not conspiring against you. Those house plants are not badmouthing you behind your back. There is no tornado outside, and no terrorists are plotting to destroy your house out of all other in the street. In other words, there is absolutely nothing around to piss you off.

Now, the trick is in matching between the state of your muscles and that peaceful ambient of yours. In your mind go back and forth from that innocent looking furniture and lazy cat to your tense shoulders, and just ask yourself how that situation deserves that tension. Don't rationalize by bringing into picture anything that is not there - like your work, your finances, your kids, or that car that is overdue for a tune up.

If you are not actively doing anything about it right in this instant, then it doesn't matter in this only moment when life is happening. And if you are doing anything in that direction, then why be tense, you are fixing it.

So, keep matching the situation with your level of stress and see how the situation is deserving it. You may get some spontaneous laughs when you see what you are doing to yourself.

Standing in a Stuck Elevator is this Same "Standing"
Standing in a Stuck Elevator is this Same "Standing"

Referring to the Second Question

The second question is helping us to assess the do-ability of whatever it takes to be effective in the current situation. We already had an example of my being stuck in the elevator, and now we should make a rule based on my response. It would read something like this: "Reduce the situation to its doable components which you have performed many times."

In my case, it was just doing some standing and waiting. I had done that million times, anywhere, and if I mentioned waiting in the lineups in grocery stores, you would guess what the whole list of examples would look like.

There is an enormous simplification of life once we make that a habit to break the situation down into its easily doable components---instead of bombarding our nerves with the whole apparent complexity with its imaginary hardships.

For me to be stuck in that elevator it was "humanly normal" to panic, to be pissed off, to press on that alarm like crazy, and swear loudly if in the next five minutes the elevator hadn't moved.

On top of it I could have cursed the management for not taking a proper care of the elevator, and rehearsed in my mind what I was going to tell the manager when I see, maybe a petition among tenants would do, or a filed complaint at Tenants' Association...-

You see what I mean? I would have lost a ton of nerves accomplishing nothing--- while still having to wait for that door to open one way or another. So I opted for the simplest solution.

I hope my "elevator adventure" was not for nothing, and more folks may draw some pragmatic wisdom from it. And, of course, you can use those two questions without waiting for the time when you may be next to be stuck in an elevator.


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    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula... If I am not being too curious, in what capacity did you take care of disturbed folks? Maybe I missed it from your bio-information. So much about you is just great, so that one detail maybe could not stand out to be noticed more.

      It takes less than a deranged person to drain your battery, and I have run across quite a few myself. Then my general individualism made them almost invisible even while I was facing them, because I trained myself to make a sharp distinction between what's going on in my personal space and that of other people. I am I, and they are they, and we don't energetically mix. It only happens when I invite their energy, like what I am doing with yours, and other individuals that I admire.

      High Priestess, or anyone else for that matter could insult me all they want, but that's something happening inside their brains, endocrine glands, and the rest of their physiology. It becomes my problem if I would choose to bother myself with their behavior - which I don't, simply because I love myself enough not to. Of course, you love yourself too, but maybe you just didn't keep training yourself in an individualistic spirit - still taking others more seriously than they deserve it. But, I am not lecturing here, don't take me wrong, just commenting about the ways to deal with people like High Priestess and alike human specimens.

      Look, this time I was a good boy, I didn't exaggerate with compliments. But this only appears so because you don't know how many I was tempted to give you. What a deceiving friend I am!!! Shame on me, indeed.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I appreciate that you shared your fascinating story with me. I enjoy learning so much about the lives, trials & tribulations of my fellow human beings. I think it is astounding you were able to reconnect after 5 decades! Incredible! What a lovely tale. Congratulations on your wonderful & successful long marriage. It does my heart good to know of rare couples who are together for life. As we can all see, this no longer happens often. It's quite sad.

      I've sworn off any & all possible path-crossing with the Priestess....she causes me painful memories of the severely mentally ill individuals I had to counsel & care for in my day. I vowed to leave my draining career behind and walk in peace, joy and comfort. Where ever I see her~~I'm headed in the opposite direction. Paula

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula...I understand your friend. People are mostly quick to criticize or call someone names; so it appears peculiar when someone expresses their admiration, because it's somehow out of whack, so it may trigger a person's defences.

      Let me tell you a story.

      A strange story, I must say. When I was 16, I wanted to practice my English a bit, so I got myself an address at a Pen Pal Directory in Copenhagen. Susana, my new pen pal from Buenos Aires and I corresponded for some years; then I went to the army, got married, emigrated, and through all that period we were quiet, never a word between us. I missed her, we had so much in common. Not families though - mine was full of drama, divorced parents, starvation...unimaginable early personal maturation - she was to study psychology, with father a prominent surgeon, mother a pianist, brother a lawyer.

      What we had in common was our love for psychology, for understanding life. I read my first book on psychology at the age of ten. But then, as it happens in life, not only that I was never to see my dearest friend, but we lost every contact.

      Then one day, 50 years later, I got this crazy idea to try my luck and send her a postcard to the only address I still kept in my head after all those years. What were the chances...she had probably married and moved who knows where. I sent her my email address in that postcard.

      A couple of days later I got her email.

      Her 93 years old mother happened to still live in the old house with her maid, and gave her my postcard. Well, I showered her with most gentle words imaginable, even wrote a little poem in honour of our friendship. She had lost much of her English, but promised to improve it.

      So much had happened. Her father had died, her brother a private advisor and friend of Argentine President died of asthma attack in his fifties on the plane en route to Bolivia, where he was to meet Bolivian President to make a draft for the new Constitution. (I got the detailed story on Google about the tragic death of that prominent international philosopher and scholar).

      Susana, now married to a factory owner, with three grownup kids and two grandkids had 25 years of private practice as a psychoanalyst. But then our story gets spooky, because two months after we started corresponding again, her mother dies, and 3 weeks after her husband dies.

      To fast forward, we continued our friendship, and there is no nice friendly word that I haven't used. Was I "emotionally starved"? I have been married for 50 years, and I have never seen a happier marriage. In short, we never raised voice on each other. Hardships were many, as at one point we sold everything and emigrated to California, only to come back and start everything anew, from the spoon on. Our son and daughter are grownup, brought up with love and discipline which later on turned into self-love and self-discipline. Lots of hugs, even baby talk and Bugs-bunny talk in our family.

      However, the central point of the story being my affectionate closeness with my Argentine friend. Did I expect anything in return after all those compliments? How could I - she is 11, 000 km away, and we have never met, and quite probably never will.

      Well, I wanted to tell you a bit about one aspect of my personality, since you called me "friend". - Be well, Paula. Sleep tight, and try not to have a dream about a certain High Priestess.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      OH! LMAO! If that were to happen, I'll make sure that all your friends run to rescue you from the Funny Farm!

      I am not a "suspicious" person by nature. I don't intentionally LOOK for ulterior motives. I accept people at face value and appreciate their uniqueness without question or doubt. When & if I am given obvious reason to think differently, I re-evaluate my opinions.

      I just read a comment today in which a woman states she is totally uncomfortable & adverse to "flattery." She added quite seriously that this is because she "suspects" people give flattery for selfish motives, because they want something from her. I felt so sad for her but only momentarily. Then my evil twin thought, "Well, no one could possibly want her ATTITUDE, that's for sure." How little she must think of herself if she truly believes people are only complimentary when they want something.

      The world is filled with such diverse personalities. I just want to meet them ALL!

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula... You said: "When I find I'm feeling lonely, I find a friend."

      Well, I can't hardly wait for you to feel lonely; so if I (still) qualify for a friend, we can be lonely together, exchanging a few nice words, discovering each other, like friends (sometimes) do.

      Or we can surprise each other by not feeling lonely at all. Oh, by the way, there is no special reason why I keep answering your comments in such a hurry, or each time giving you a bouquet from my private selection of compliments. You deserve much better than that, and it comes naturally to me. I don't use the same compliments on my female friend Besarien, or my male friends Allen, Eric, or Michael. There is something specific and unique about each of you that I appreciate a lot. You see, I am complimenting Hub folks so much that one day I may get carried away and express my unhappy and unanswered love to High Priestess. - Be well, Paula.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I know nothing of "Dracula" (except that he was portrayed many years ago by Lon Chaney)...nor werewolves or other spooky things. Real life monsters are enough for my psyche to deal with. I do not enjoy fright movies or Sci-fi and I read very few Novels. My choice of books is Non-fiction. I'm really quite boring and academic (I believe we're called "nerds?) I am a loner, but rarely lonely. When I find I'm feeling lonely, I find a friend. Problems are simple to solve when we have choices~~ & we always have choices.

      Take care and hold tight to your Positive Attitude! Paula

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula... My name is from the Slavic group of ethnicities, but it's not Russian or from ex-Soviet Republic. Also, I am not a reincarnation of Vlad Dracula, so Transilvania is not my homeland either. When you said that you "liked my name", my ego twisted it around, imagining that you wanted to say more than that, but changed your mind. It's amazing how deceiving our ego can be! As for the wizard" part, well, I have been into things that would curl your hair, but none of them was directly wizardry, meaning that I can't use "Abracadabra" to create anything.

      I just happen to have this peculiar intuitive ability, something that I have cultivated, to compute the missing data from those presented. For instance, I am sensing that your phantoms of the past are not completely gone, but you have found a way to override them. I also sense that you have moments of loneliness that no one's company can completely remove, but that's a sign of a pronounced spirituality. You are very emotional with a noble heart, and also quite vulnerable to others' negativisms. But what amazes me the most is your spirit, Paula, that stands out like a majestic flower grown out from a dark soil of the past, and watered with some uncried tears. You are one phenomenal woman, Paula, and I salute your strength, and your exceptional talent to switch from one frame of mind to another that's more life-promoting!

      And, by the way, I didn't read any of what you mentioned. I will.


      I had a good laugh about the way you described those hateful ignoramuses. You are right, they are like a weed, multiplying and suffocating beautiful plants around them. Well, intelligence was not distributed evenly, and stupidity has evolved side by side with smartness. Just when we think that we conquered one, another pops up out of nowhere like a fruit fly when you open a vinegar bottle.

      What else can we do but rank them as unworthy of our attention. As I had to say it many times to the people of my life - "You can't expect a cat to start barking". That's my version of something from a psychology book that the author called "Identity trap". He said, " it's a trap to expect others to live by our standards, or ourselves to live by someone else's."

      Bringing back to the spotlight our High Priestess (I just like what you called her), she is living in her own twisted world, and to be quite honest about it, I found her very entertaining. I pictured her as a toothless witch pulling her hair every time someone dares to oppose her opinion. Well, that's my modest contribution to dark humor.

      I'll do my best to enjoy my weekend (I am retired, so every day is my weekend). I already started it the best I could, by enjoying in your company. Thank you for sharing this time with me. Be well, Paula.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Vlad....Hmmm, it sounds almost as if you have read my 4-part series on "My Journey to the Woman I am Today"..? Otherwise I don't know how you could know about "adversities," I have faced. I don't bring any of it up in conversation nor ever dwell on it. Oh well, maybe you're a "Wizard??" LOL Hey, that would be great. I could stand to have a wizard as a mentor!

      Yes, my friend, she is positively textbook pathological. It seems quite sad, but since she herself is totally unaware of her egregious illness, she's obviously just fine with who & what she is.

      What unnerves me even more is that she is by no means, alone. These ignorant, hateful individuals live and breathe among us all. Scariest of all is that they reproduce!!......Have an extra special week-end, Vlad. (I like your is of Russian heritage, yes? I'm 50% pure Ukranian (my marvelous late father).....:) Paula

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula...Our High Priestess is a sick woman. I literally mean it. Her toxic comments are helping her to project an unconscious hostility towards herself onto others, in order to lessen the pressure of that inner conflict. Possibly schizoid, with one fragment of her personality heavily accusing the other, so she is exteriorizing the conflict by targeting "outside-herself". She is a tormented soul, Paula, and religion is just a weapon she uses against herself, while probably ascribing to herself just about every sin in the book.

      Long time ago I had a schizoid friend, who would call me in his letters a "chameleon", an "undefined mass", and alike - exactly those names that he was unconsciously calling himself, while painfully sensing his fragmentation, lacking a clear and solid identity. I felt sorry for the dude. Just like I told our High Priestess, I told him that he was sick and should have taken care of it. Of course, the advice didn't stick, but at least he knew where he stood with me. He stopped writing.

      Likewise I am not getting the Priestess' comments anymore, even though I am constantly commenting and asking some questions having to do with religion. I guess I pierced her defensive mechanism a little, and my "accusations" added up to her own inner accusations, so she is avoiding to hear more of it. If she continues - I will continue, until she stops. In the meantime, she is bound to pick fights with some others.


      Otherwise, I admire your efforts to have raised your boys in circumstances which don't seem to have been particularly favorable. You are my hero, Paula, so many other women would have fallen apart, and look at you today, triumphing over all those adversities. I can imagine you at one point having to pull yourself up by bootstraps in a heroic moment of a resolution to mobilize that best in yourself and start a new book, not just a new chapter of your life.

      That's why you are so good at lifting other people's spirits, because you have done it yourself. It's an enormous pleasure for me to hear about such life stories. People like you never stop growing, because your past gave you an impetus that you are still enjoying. That energy boost responsible for the new dynamism that's giving a brand new sense to every aspect of your life. You are one beautiful human being, Paula, and I have to restrain myself from continuing - well, remember, I promised to give it to you in installments. - Be well, my friend, till I hear from you again.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Vlad.....At one time in my life, while raising 4 sons, working full time & trying to simply "keep up" with daily living, I had some stress. Well, OK, I had a LOT of stress. LOL

      My goal/dream back then was to reach the glorious point in my life when I could defeat stress and banish it from my entire being. I worked on that goal and of course the passage of time helped greatly.

      My sons all productive, successful adults, loving husbands and protective fathers....I have been able to relax, appreciate the fruits of my labor and delve into the pleasures & comforts I choose. It's beyond wonderful.

      Oh, but speaking of "Stress"~~~ LOL....I have just come from Eric's recent Question thread......Oh Vlad, what in the HELL is wrong with that stark-raving mad, hateful woman? Seriously, someone needs to put an electro-shock leash on her. Your comments to her made me laugh....thank you for the humor. I read until I could simply no longer tolerate her lunacy. She gives me such a headache....I may as well just bang my head on a brick wall.

      The problem is, the "normal" people cannot even engage in discussion anywhere......She's all over the place!! She cannot and will not be stopped. There's a small part of me that feels so sorry for the pathetic moron. Her I.Q cannot be beyond 70. I make it a point not to trash the less fortunate or less intelligent...but I have easily been able to make an exception in her case!!! LOL That's because according to our High Priestess, I am of SATAN! Accursed, Hypocrite and I shall burn in the lake of fire. Somebody help us.


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