Fierce Patience is an action state that I find invigorating in times that would otherwise be riddled with the discomfort of impatience. It is a skill to be able to redefine a reaction to what is going on both within you and turn a moment’s reaction into a chosen response. I find it especially useful when:
- Within a conversation where I find myself on the edge of disagreement with someone, am feeling blamed or defensive. Something is important to me, but I need to communicate it in a way that will keep the contact alive and well within the relationship
- The experience of the “not that again” grind happens in a relational or situational pattern -and think to myself, “if I could only figure out how not to perpetuate this and respond differently.” Meanwhile tremors of impatience rattle, or anger starts to fire.
- In situations where I must to wait for something to happen – and, want ease, vitality, and the strength instead of agitation, impatience, or apathy in order to handle the situation.
The Question of Patience
Patience has been a virtue, so they say. But I think it has only been a virtue from a distance. It’s something we “should be,” but how is it really attained?
I want us to get really close to what patience is, and all the different states that we traverse within the trials and tribulations of what it means.
It seems that in many ways it is an assumed posture, as if everyone knows how to be patient. When I am in a situation that signals that I need patience, it seems to be in a moment where I am merely tolerating frustration more than experiencing a state of ease that patience suggests. Isn’t this just being impatient?
If we aren’t careful to really consider how patience is formed as a bodily state, than how can we really experience it? Ideals are different than a direct experience where we can influence ourselves from one state i.e. of impatience, to another state, that of patience.
And most importantly, there is more to being patient than passively letting things happen in their own time. A passive state of patience dismisses the value of time. It “let’s go” of whatever it is that I want. It says, “I have decided that your needs are more important than mine.”
This is complacency unless you truly have negotiated yourself out of needing or wanting anything, which is another topic.
Complacency is defined as a state of satisfaction, but, “If patience is lived in a way that is passive and not really attended to with awareness, then it as also unaware or at least uncaring of the potential dangers of that choice. “Ignorance is bliss,” in this circumstance. This can be very costly. While “keeping the peace” may be what being patience is investing in, it doesn’t always mean a state of inner peace. It can mean masking frustration, becoming complacent, doormatting yourself, and allowing people to get away with actions that are not wanted out of fear of conflict. And yes, I did make up the action of doormatting. No one really wants to be a doormat, but somehow, people make themselves into doormats. I am in an act of doormatting the minute I say, “sure, you can cut in line,” or, instead of stating my needs, I just give someone else what they need. Now they have stepped on me and I didn’t even stand to let them know it. But people know, and some people get pleasure out of this kind of aggression.
Assuming that actions are choices we make allows you to choose another action. To get off the floor and stand upright for what matters to you with space enough to breathe is making yourself matter, without the doorway open to someone taking advantage of you.
An active state of patience takes being alive with what is important. And it stands in relationship to actions that may mean saying what you want with awareness and conscious intent.
Being able to pause and feel into states of impatience, or a particular way we are shaping our patience is worth paying attention to. What we do in moments of pause is vitally important to how well we live life as a whole. What we do in moments of pause is vitally important to how well we live life as a whole.
There are many, many moments in life where impatience can come flustering in. Forming responses and generating ease and fluidity in difficult times can seem almost impossible.
This is why I think we must also be fierce. Don’t just “shut up and wait.” Let’s be alive in moments where there is desire, yearning, a need, or something of value that needs our attention.
It is a choice point to invest into a relationship with what is important and not give up on what you want and need. Patience doesn’t grasp, and it doesn’t push ahead. It also isn’t a state of passive doormatting, allowing people to do what they want on their own time. If there is one way to generate impatience, it is allowing yourself to be a doormat, all the while thinking you are being “patient” by not standing up for yourself and claiming your space and time as valuable. This is not being patient- it is being apathetic. It also may indicate that you have not been in relationships that helped you live in relationship to your own value.
I propose that patience is a state of centered awareness, holding what is valuable: a desire, a need, or something important like a job application, a marriage proposal or new relationship within sight, and having a relationship with it that is a combination of holding it, and creating room within yourself so to hold it with spaciousness. But not too much spaciousness or you’d lose sight of it all together.
Perhaps you are in relationship with someone who is (or is not) growing a capacity that they don’t already have. You are being patient if you hold that capacity in mind, staying in relationship with your needs (to be heard, to have empathy for one another), and doing whatever is necessary to generate a state of ease as you wade through times where you are not feeling heard, or you are not getting the empathy you want. This ease is not a dismissal of what you want. It is generating spaciousness so that you might notice an indication of actually being heard, instead of clinging to the story (and thereby bodying yourself in a defensive place) that you are not heard. You are holding what you want and need in mind, and are able to stand for it, but you aren’t pushing or pulling. You are being in relationship with what you want and need, patiently. This makes room for others, but also holds you in a state of self-worth. This isn’t arrogance – it is not a rigid, narrow perspective. It is holding what is important in a particular kind of way.
I must admit here that I was raised in the land where smiles are expected, and people don’t readily stand up for what they think publically. When they do, its pretty aggressive and that can be off-putting. Better to be quiet and keep to yourself. I am still learning to value what I want and need and allow that space and time. I was taught to address people nicely, even when I didn’t really like them. I wasn’t taught the difference between nice and kind until I taught myself that through meditation and therapy. I have been undoing and relearning this kind of override of my instincts for a long time now. Spending time on the east coast in training has been relieving of the last remnants of my own automatic passivity. I am realizing now how pervasiveness passivity is and how unchosen it is – it is taught and inherited, and it needs to be addressed. A passive state of being is a huge problem in our economic, political, and ecological times.
We can choose moment-by-moment to become actively alive instead of “just there.” This can be done still in silence or within conversation with our world. There is more movement possible than just going along in automatic. We are not zoned out robots, though we sure are acting like ones the less care we put forth as a human species to care about what matters in a humane way.
If your impatience is a state you are committed to, I encourage you to wonder how it functions for you in your life and relationships. What does it do for you?
My ideas are informed by Formative Psychology and training in Accelerated, Experiential, Dynamic, Psychotherapy. If you are interested in the credits and verbal illustrations that I give to these bodies of work, click the links above.
The Body of Patience
I see having patience as kind of inhibitory action state. This is a somewhat complex physiological process connected to our capacity to be intentional as a bodied consciousness, and is connected to the wirings we have as animals to not only survive, but to be conscious, i.e. aware of what we are doing.
The choice to pause, to delay enough to be aware of a state of frustration, desire, or impatience, and the ability to influence is a concept I have learned through the practice of Formative Psychology. It is one that allows a pause to feel into what is happening, and its a conscious, chosen pause, not an automatic one.
It is in the present, and therefore is available to what is happening in the present, even if that includes a reaction that has been created because of the past. In this pause, we are coming alive into the moment. But it is not just a kind of presence that is merely watchful, observing what is happening, distancing from a state of impatience so to hang out in a more diffuse state. That kind of presence may offer ease, but it doesn’t fully address what it is that you are impatient about.
This is an engaged state of potential action: a potential statement for example. You have the ability to move, or say, in a way that forms an interaction with a situation precisely. And when the stakes are high, like our lives, or our love, this is when we need this ability the most.
Being fierce with patience allows us to listen to what we really need and want, and to let that arise, so to move within (like a state shift) or in between where we are in relationship to what is happening. It is not a jaw clamping clutch on what you want. It is fierce in aliveness and protection of what matters, but it is in relationship with ease and spaciousness as well.
We can form a new responses this way, and also have relationships that are imbued with ease and connection in times where in the past, there would not have been. These new possibilities are exciting. It is excitement that keeps me in relationship with what is important so that I can bring it into my world in a positive way. I have even started to wonder if anxiety is an indication to direct care towards what a person wants or needs, and give more room for the excitment that is both a movement and a contraction of movement within a body. In any case, if I can be excited, and also have a way of engaging myself with the excitement, then I can direct it. That is the power of patience.
Practicing fierce patience with myself, and within my relationships has allowed for more fluidity and ease in my life. I hope that the pause and aliveness that it suggests will add a new way of relating to times when impatience rears its frustrating head. Inhibition of an action does not mean to not act or to stop asking for what you want in your life, but will give you pause enough to care for how you respond to a situation, a conversation, or an impulse that arises within you.
Tune in for Part 2, “Patience Transformed.”
Please feel free to comment – I would love to open a discussion around this. Just be aware that your anonymity is not guarenteed if you made a public comment, and you are by nature of this blogging medium saying that you are willing to be seen and heard.
I look forward to hear how these ideas are landing for you, whether here through this medium, or in therapy. Thanks for reading!