Seeking balance to find patience
Do you get impatient with your children? Perhaps your spouse does things more slowly than you like? Are you prone to “road rage?” Impatience often comes when we disconnect from the needs, desires or even abilities of others, and yet we feel powerless in the moment.
Impatience is a selfish response. For example, we run into a traffic jam or detour and find ourselves getting upset with the bumper to bumper cars around us. We don’t worry about why there is a traffic jam, we just complain and focus on our desire to get to a particular destination. Our loss of ability to accomplish our task in a timely manner frustrates us.
Another example might be when we expect dinner at 5 p.m., but it is now 6 p.m. with no dinner in sight and a growling stomach. Your impatience is growing. Then you notice the children never picked up the toys like they were instructed, and you lose your temper. It is a way of retaking your power to do something, influence others, even if it is not the healthiest for your connection to these people you love deeply.
Here are a few tips for managing your impatience with others.
Breathe deeply. Our “autonomic nervous system” (ANS) regulates many processes within our body, such as heart rate and breathing. This system works automatically without conscious thought. When our brain perceives a threat, our ANS activates the “fight or flight” response, which among other things, affects our breathing. One way to manage this “fight or flight” reaction is to consciously take control of our breathing. This helps activate the judgment center of your brain (prefrontal cortex) which enables you to think more rationally and evaluate the situation you are in more objectively. Count to four or five as you breathe deeply in, hold it for two seconds, and breathe out slowly to a count of eight or nine. You can develop increased self-control in this way.
Think rationally. Emotional reactions often take us to irrational places. Yelling at your teenagers or spouse will only alienate them, decreasing your influence over their behavior.
Road rage gets people hurt or even killed. Consider what you really want to accomplish, and surrender what you cannot control.
Maintain your power of choice. Weigh your options, and select the most rational one to act upon which will move you toward your valued goals. Parenting requires thought, as does maintaining a healthy marriage or even career.
Learn delayed gratification. It is an early lesson we are challenged with in our lives, even as infants and children who want their toy or they will have a temper tantrum. Firm boundaries with clear consequences help them learn. Later in life, we learn to delay gratifying ourselves with many pleasurable things, including various foods or acting on sexual attractions.
Mindfulness of potential negative future consequences as well as other valued goals helps us continue to learn and grow.
Enhance your love. Love is patient, so growing in your love toward others and even love of life itself will enhance your patience. Love for your children or spouse will by definition result in increasing your patience with them. It may require creative problem-solving to try new approaches with children who test the limits of your rules, but that is also part of love.
Persevere in connection with others. While some toxic relationships require we end the relationship, most people who hurt us are well-meaning and can help us learn about ourselves. Even when tempted to disconnect from others who annoy us, our ability to persevere in maintaining that connection can be enhanced by empathy, seeing things from their point of view. How will your relationship benefit them? Perseverance requires effort.
Practice spiritual disciplines. Through them you can obtain help from God, the highest power, when our strength fails. Prayer, study and meditation on the Bible, intimate fellowship (sharing with a trusted person or group), and so on, all have their place in refueling your spiritual tank.
This will increase your strength and the fruit of patience in your life.
Remain humble. Pride leads to an entitlement attitude, which in turn sets us up to be impatient when things do not go our way. Humility helps us expect less, and be grateful for more. It also helps us be more patient with others by realizing their needs are important, too.
Forgive the offense. Many situations cause us to lose our patience. Sometimes this is because our wants or expectations are not met, and we become the offender. Many times, however, we interpret there to be an injury or offense against us. This challenges us to forgive. A simple process is to objectively gain some understanding of the situation (why it happened), accept that it is happening (or already happened), and choose to let it go in your heart (give the gift of forgiveness). Understand, accept and let go. Forgive and keep on forgiving.
Balance with boundaries. Boundaries balance forgiveness. Children need boundaries to give direction for their learning and growth, even regarding moral behavior. Parents and teachers who have a gracious attitude toward the children are still challenged to clarify limits with progressive consequences so that children may learn where they crossed the line. Divorce is often a consequence of one spouse failing to learn those boundaries which help define a loving relationship. Love is living within those healthy boundaries, showing grace and forgiving offenses, even if you need to walk away from a particular relationship. You can be patient, even as you weigh your options and select an unexpected detour.
Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in New Jersey exclusively doing Telehealth at present. He can be reached at (609) 567-9022. His website is: www.drronnewman.com.