The Four Types of Psychological Pressure

There are several types of psychological pressure and each of them has its own characteristics. However, which are good and which are bad? You can find out in this article.
The Four Types of Psychological Pressure

Last update: 04 September, 2021

Psychological pressure is a psychic sensation. In fact, it’s the product of two mental forces that are pulling in opposite directions. These forces might have very different natures. For example, they could be desires or they could be obligations. Nevertheless, we’re talking about a situation that generally causes discomfort. Thus, in principle, we might think of it as something negative. However, this isn’t always the case

We’ve all undergone situations of psychological pressure. For example, we’ve experienced the pressure of having to take a necessary step that we didn’t want to take. However, at other times, we don’t feel any pressure at all. The fact is, that there are several types of psychological pressure.

Like stress, a degree of pressure increases efficiency, but then the relationship reverses, and at higher pressure, a decrease in efficiency begins.”

-Alicia Montero-

1. Positive psychological pressure

Positive psychological pressure is the kind that gives you initiative. The most typical form of this is when you need to tell yourself “you can do it.” It takes place when doubts or fear act as a brake and you need an extra dose of energy to act.

The main characteristic of positive pressure is that it favors execution or performance. These are situations that you must overcome in order to improve yourself. The function of positive pressure is to motivate you to do so.

Man climbing a red ladder

2. Negative psychological pressure

Negative psychological pressure occurs when someone tries to persuade or force another to act in a way that can be self-destructive. The usual thing is that the one who applies the pressure is excessively insistent which overloads the person on the receiving end.

Negative pressure can also be exerted by a circumstance. For example, if you’re forced to sell your home to pay off outstanding debts. Or, when unemployment is extremely high and you have to settle for lower wages. In these cases, it’s best to actively resist or find a path through the situation so you can reduce the pressure.

3. Internal

Inner psychological pressure is one that comes from within you. Usually, it concerns a sense of duty. However, it can also be dictated by distress, fear, anger, and other emotions or moods. Its defining characteristic is that it always arises in your own mind.

Internal pressure can be positive or negative. It’s positive when it’s born out of personal awareness. In this case, you see reality with a certain kind of objectivity and you know that it’s convenient to push yourself to achieve something you want, or to maintain something that you value. With this kind of pressure, there’s no incompatibility between psychological pressure and desire.

However, this type of pressure can turn negative when it’s borne out of a neurotic desire or an exacerbated mood. For example, if you feel pressured to be perfect. Or, to achieve goals that you don’t really want, but that satisfy others. Exerting this kind of pressure on yourself causes internal conflict.

Stressed man in the office

4. Exterior

As with the interior kind, exterior psychological pressure can also be positive or negative. It all depends on the context in which it occurs and the direction in which it’s aimed. One of the basic features of this type of pressure is that the person receiving it also has the power to give it meaning.

A common situation that illustrates this kind of pressure might occur if you’re required to turn up for a job on a certain day or at a certain time. However, the clock and calendar have nothing to do, in reality, with how you live or act. In fact, they’re neutral stimuli and it’s you who’ll turn them into either a constructive or destructive element.

There are those who turn external pressure into an absolute limitation. However, others assimilate and incorporate it, in such a way that it doesn’t generate any negative effects. As you can see, it all depends on how it’s managed and not on the pressure itself.

Psychological pressure is present in the day-to-day of many of us. For this reason, it’s useful to learn to identify what type it is and how it may be approached. In this way, you can make it work in your favor.

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  • Aguilera, D. T. (2008). La presión: Conceptualización táctico-psicológica y su entrenamiento. MC Sports.