(Ironically, it's often the same people who love to crow about how unique and distinctive their society is that when hearing my concerns, turn around and tell me that the problems that I see in their society are actually common to everyone and not connected at all to their lifestyle. I see. So only the flattering and complimentary qualities are unique to your society, but the unsavory ones are prevalent everywhere else? Riiiiight.)
I agree that it isn't all applicable only to the scenarios that I focus on. To some degree, much of what I write about could apply to people from all sorts of backgrounds, not just the one I came from. Part of the reason that it comes across that way is that it's my preferred style of writing. I could write in more general terms, speaking about "people" and "societies" (and at times I do), but I prefer to adopt a more personal tone, and therefore I speak specifically about my own formative experiences and influences. Although meant to draw focus, it's not intended to claim exclusivity.
That being said, there's still some important distinctions between those from non-Orthodox societies who have similar difficulties and those who come from a strict Orthodox culture. One notable difference being that no other society in western culture, even a religious one, has as many rules, regulations, and beliefs as chareidism does (to the best of my knowledge). Besides the well known mass of torah obligations, there's also a heap of rabbinic requirements. On top of that, and usually the most intrusive, are all the many rules and requirements that affect the normal everyday quality of our lives. I'm not sure if these are actual halacha, takanos, gedarim, minhag, chumra, communal practice, or just OCD gone awry, but they're the ones that can really drive you mad. For example:
- how to get dressed
- how to take a shower
- how to put on one's shoes
- how to cut one's fingernails
- how to wash our hands
- how to lay in bed when going to sleep
- how late one may sleep
- how one may decorate their home
- whether Food A can be eaten before Food B
- whether Book A can be placed on top of Book B
Another unique characteristic to chareidism is the severity with which they view every single halachic obligation, from the most trivial to the most fundamental. I've heard of non-Orthodox societies (and families) with lots of rules and regulations, but do members of those groups actually believe that infractions of the regulations condemn one to severe penalties in the afterlife? In chareidism, minor offenses are as severe as capital ones. In fact, it's a well known principle among religious minded people that one shouldn't even think of bigger or smaller rules, and every one of them should be considered as if it's the most important.
The point I'm trying to make is twofold: Firstly, while every society has laws and rules dictating aspects of life, none of them have as many as does Orthodoxy, and especially chareidism. Secondly, even for those people who do have very regimented upbringings, violations of these policies are not the mortal and unpardonable atrocities that chareidim view the breaking of halacha as.
This all-encompassing and very intense existence means that someone raised in such a home or society feels very different about their values, priorities, and norms than does a typical non-Orthodox person raised with their own set of principles.
For example, I've never heard of anyone who thought they were going to hell for not eating a proper diet, not making their bed, or sleeping until noon. On the other hand, I have met many people who believed they were going to suffer some time in hell for not making a bracha, not putting on tefillin, or coming late to davening. There's a qualitative difference in how some people stress the importance of saying please, thank you, and your welcome, while others stress saying baruch hashem, bli neder, and bli ayin hara. I think it's perfectly normal for children to be taught not to use other people's things without their permission. It's a bit different when you're taught that doing so causes you to lose the merit of all the good that you've ever done in your life. Not to gossip sounds like a great educational lesson. Adding that doing so is one of the worst sins a person can commit is just not the same thing. I see no problem with a person feeling guilty for having fantasies about someone other than their spouse. I think it's unhealthy when they view it as if they've actually committed adultery. Educating about taking responsibility for one's actions seems like good parenting. Including exhortations of fire and brimstone makes for a very different kind of lesson. I'm all for a child being brought up with certain concepts of right and wrong. It's a bit different when those concepts provide absolutely no flexibility or room for the person to adjust them somewhat. Guidelines for all sorts of areas of life are perfectly reasonable. Immutable demands that can never be violated are a different story.
It's true, we all have issues to deal with. But growing up chareidi just can't be compared with anything else that's out there.