Until recently I had never heard the expression; but I have certainly seen the syndrome it describes. Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper lists the symptoms to watch for that indicate you may be suffering from “hurry sickness”:
• I typically drive 10 or more miles/hour over the speed limit.
• I interrupt others and/or finish their sentences.
• I get impatient in meetings when someone goes on a tangent.
• I find it difficult to respect people who are chronically late.
• I rush to be first in line, even when it doesn’t matter (for example, getting off an airplane first in order to stand at Baggage Claim longer).
• If I have to wait over a few minutes for service in a store or restaurant, I get impatient and leave or demand service.
• I generally view as less capable those who may be slower to speak act or decide. I admire people who move at my speedy pace! I pride myself on my speed, efficiency, and punctuality.
• I view “hanging out” as a waste of time.
• I pride myself on getting things done on time, and will sacrifice the chance to improve a product if it means being late.
• I often rush or hurry my children and/or spouse.
The roots of hurry sickness lie in the illusion that I am what I accomplish. The more I am able to do, the better I am as a person. For people suffering from hurry sickness, human value relates to the ability to produce. More is always better; bigger is usually preferred to smaller. The person who can do two things in the time it takes others to do one, is a better person, certainly a more desirable employee or volunteer to keep the wheels of the organization turning efficiently.
You will most easily recognize when you have fallen prey to hurry sickness, by the effect it has in your body. Tightness in your neck, an agitated churning in your stomach, a restless foot that simply will not stay still, clenched fists, are all likely indicators that you are suffering from a bout of hurry sickness. When you can’t sit still, can’t read a book for more than a few minutes, or when you rush to fill any momentary space in your life with radio, television, or surfing the internet, you may be a victim of hurry sickness.
You can try to deal with hurry sickness by forcing yourself to slow down. You can build little reminders into your day, to take it easy, relax, let go. But, in the end, if you are going to deal with hurry sickness, you must go to the root of the problem. The root of hurry sickness lies in where you locate your sense of identity.
If I am what I do, then it only makes sense for me to cram as much doing into my day as I can possibly manage. If I locate my sense of identity in my ability to accomplish a multitude of tasks more quickly and efficiently than the average person, then the faster I move, the more secure I will feel about my sense of identity – until I am no longer able to move as fast as I once did.
A sense of identity founded on getting the job done is a fragile platform on which to build a life. The day is coming when my energy will diminish, my memory will slip; I will not be able to juggle as many balls as in my younger years. The inevitable decrease in abilities that comes to us all with time will be a terrible threat to the person whose identity is located in the ability to rush efficiently from one busy activity to the next.
If I can shift my sense of identity from what I accomplish to who I truly am, the knots of hurry sickness may begin to untangle. I need to realize that no amount of getting the job done makes me a better person or bestows upon me a fuller more meaningful life. These are just tasks I do. Some people have the capacity to do more, others less. The quantity of work says nothing about the value of the person.
As my old sense of identity begins to loosen its grip, I need to listen carefully to a deeper sense of identity that comes to me, not from anything I ever accomplish, but from the knowledge that I am created in the image of God and am valuable simply because I am. If I stay alert and patient, opening to the inner depths of my being, I will discover that there lies at the centre of my life, an inviolable sense of value and worth. I am a child of God. Nothing can undo the beauty of being that is my true identity in God. I don’t need to hurry. I need only to open and respond to the inner stirring of God’s presence and live from that true identity that resides in God.