Charlotte Lankard: Developing patience requires time out

What if patience is not a feeling but instead a way of behaving when what you are feeling is anxious, hurried, late, helpless, insecure, afraid, left out?
BY CHARLOTTE LANKARD, For The Oklahoman Published: July 15, 2014
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“I don’t like instant gratification. It takes too long!”

That is one of my favorite lines from the movie “Postcards From the Edge.” Most of us can remember moments in life when we’ve been stuck and felt that keen sense of frustration that comes when you have to wait on something you really, really, really, really want — NOW!

In that moment, nothing is quite as irritating as someone piping up with, “You just need to be patient.”

Patient? They’ve got to be kidding. The last thing you feel is patient.

However, what if patience is not a feeling but instead a way of behaving when what you are feeling is anxious, hurried, late, helpless, insecure, afraid, left out. Unfortunately, behaviors typically engaged in when we have those feelings tend to be reactive and self-defeating.

Out of habit, you reach for a “fix” — nicotine, chocolate, a bag of chips or alcohol. Or maybe you start yelling at people around you, blaming someone else for how you are behaving. Perhaps you throw things or become critical and irritable or stomp off and pout.

When you are stressed to the max, you feel something akin to panic. But what if instead of reacting, you learn a different response — pause, calm yourself and then behave patiently.

Many children take a timeout. So should adults. Counting to 10 still works. Stop. Breathe slow, relaxing breaths. Breathe in calm and breathe out the physical tension in your body. Take a walk. Talk with trusted friends, a mentor, a clergy person and/or a counselor to understand the cause of your stress and explore new strategies for coping with those feelings.

Sounds simple, but it must be practiced, practiced, practiced.

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at clankard@opubco.com.