It can seem that patience has become somewhat of a foreign concept these days. Certainly, we have become accustomed to nearly everything being immediate (on-demand), faster paced and easy. This might be at least partially due to technology, marketing and the way our society has become increasingly designed to expect instant gratification. However, no matter how much technology advances, our lives will always evoke times where patience is necessary.
While the ability to order through an app and skip the line at Starbucks is a welcome advancement, life’s bigger milestones generally do not come as easy and require fostering patience. Whether you are growing tired of going on date after date to find that special someone, attempting to get pregnant for months, or applying for jobs or graduate school for years on end, waiting can be painful.
While those longer journeys can be taxing, some of the smaller and more innocuous moments in our lives can get the best of us. Personally, traffic can really test my nerves and cause frustration. Other times I may find myself frustrated while talking to relatives who insist on bringing up the questions that I have previously asked them not to ask me. For you, those tougher moments could be your child misbehaving “again” and lead to you losing your cool.
We can all point to how factors with which we have little or no control can cause us to become impatient and frustrated. A more powerful impatience, however, can come from lack of patience for ourselves.
We all have moments where we think we should be thinner, stronger or more successful by now. This inner impatience can fail to recognize our efforts, the gains we have made in other areas, the reality that our lives do not fall into simple linear paths, or the obstacles that may be in our way.
As therapists, we regularly see an often overwhelming lack of patience during treatment. It is not unusual for a client to ask how many sessions it will take to feel better or “fix” the problem they have identified. This is certainly not our client’s fault, but rather an extension of a medical or curative model to treatment that extends from a simple remedy approach to treatment that we all ascribe to acute illnesses. Patience in therapy is further stifled by expectations from insurance companies and legitimate financial constraints that encourages a model that “cures problem A” and fails to fully consider that treatment is more often about intrapersonal growth obtained through the therapeutic process, rather than the resolution of a particular concern. In reality, therapy is a component of a life-long journey of self growth. Trying to rush insight and get to the “happy” phase often misses the lessons learned during that journey. Effective therapy is very much about the emotional investment and vulnerability that you employ in a session. This process opens us to a direction towards growth that can continue to flourish once treatment has been discontinued.
We also should ask ourselves “how can expect others to be patient, if we are not able to exhibit that patience ourselves?” Any journey brings unexpected moments, stressors, and frustrations. In that sense, life is, in itself, an exploration of patience and the process of how we move from one step of our lives to the next. When those stressors emerge, we have a choice to demonstrate patience or impatience. Can we just learn to accept the moment for what it is?
For me, the theme of patience ties back to an earlier post on Wellness Wednesday about mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness we learn to tolerate discomfort and that fosters patience. So maybe the next time you are caught in a line or in traffic, take a mental step back and ask yourself if you can take control of “waiting” and allow this moment to pass without strong feelings of frustration. If you are unable to foster patience, can you respond in a way that does not amplify the suffering that you or others experience? We must accept that we do not always have control over a situation or how others around us respond. We do, however, have some control over our own attitudes and reactions. Sometimes the best option is to take a deep breath, let go, and see if we can be patient with the current situation. You will be quite surprised how often that little step leads to far more gratifying outcomes and a journey to that outcome that is paved with less suffering.
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Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.