Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Answer; What's Yours?

I was asked a question the other day that had me pondering.

I like to ponder.

I'm going to tell you what I came up with in response to the question, and I'd like to ask you what your answer would have been.

The question:

What is at the core of patience?

I was asked this by a young staff who was unburdening herself to me, speaking of some real frustrations working with someone who uses every form of aggression as a means of keeping themselves safe from closeness with others. He seems afraid, deeply afraid, of any kind of human attachment. He'd rather have people fearful of him than let people get close to him in any way. She understood, given his history, why he might feel this way, but she genuinely likes him, genuinely cares about his well being, and genuinely fears that he will live his live alone in an anger bubble. She said, "I know I need to be patient."

I nodded sagely. This takes more skill than you might imagine.

Then she looked at me being all sage-like and said, "What do you suppose is at the core of patience?"

Suddenly I lost the sage look and, forgive the pun, tried to buy thyme.

Yesterday I asked her if I could put my answer on my blog. She agreed instantaneously.

What is at the core of patience?

Dear L.

I think I would have answered this differently when I was younger. Though I've never asked myself this question outright, I have thought about the issue, and I thought about it mostly when in situations like you find yourself in now. As a younger man I would have said that 'kindness' was at the core of patience. And I see how I might have thought that. Kindness implies a kind of compassionate caring for the well being of another. Kindness asks us to push aside all impulses except the impulse to compassion. Kindness makes us better people and makes us better at being present with others.

While all those things are true about kindness, and while I think kindness is a great part of what it is to be patient, that's not what you asked me. You asked me what's at the core of patience. As an older man I think that patience comes from an appreciation of, simply, time. In my sixties now I see time flying by at such a rapid pace, I see that everyone is caught up with the rush to keep up with time. People are so busy and feel such pressure to be busy that they must do all at once, talk on the phone while lunching with a friend while making notes for a meeting later. Thinking about supper for the kids while driving to work while figuring how to organize the day. Even when at dead stop, people that rush down sidewalks not seeing anything other than their watch and their destination, are rushing inside. You can see it as people sit over a cup of tea, their minds are rushing about, pinging ideas and worries and pressures around in their heads. BUSY.

Patience requires grabbing hold of time and slowing it down. Patience requires the skill to recognize that in any give moment you control time, you control how it flows inside of you and you control how it flows around you. Patience means putting the rush aside and simply being where you need to be, doing what you need to do and sharing the sense of calm that comes with that with another person. Patience means losing frustration, because it doesn't matter that it takes time; it means losing annoyance, because you have time breathe, really breathe; it means losing anger because when time is slowed down, when breaths are taken you can see what's really needed and what's really going on. It is when we rush that we make assessments that are based on emotion not fact; it is when we rush that we rely on assumption and therefore ask no questions; there is a reason we say that we shouldn't 'rush to judgement.'

So I think at the core of patience is the practised ability to slow down time, to take control of a moment, to let yourself simply be and breathe and become.

I look over my life and my list of regrets come from those times when I rushed, without thinking; rushed without compassion; rushed to pull the trigger of my temper ... and I feel the losses that came because of those actions.

So, for me, this is at the core of patience.

I'd love to hear what others think.


Just Heidi said...

I would have to agree... Time is at the core of patience. How many times have we heard... "You need to wait your turn". Waiting takes time, waiting takes patience...
Learning to be patient is a decision you consciously make. You decide to wait instead of becoming tense, angry and overreact to a situation. You make the decision to restrain yourself. You choose to use self-control to wait. It takes practice and time. To be patient, you need to change your mindset and the way you react when things don't go your way.

Something I have learned as a parent of a child affected by disability is that TIME and SPACE can make a huge difference in how our child's day develops. Early on, I was so focused on her catching up with her peers that I forgot the importance of living in the moment, with each milestone she met I was there with another obstacle for her to jump. I thought time was running out, not realizing that I could pause the stop watch and breathe. Learning and development is a continuous journey throughout our lifeTIME.

Joe Ash said...

This, I love. Nailed it.

Anonymous said...

you have described the essential core of mindfulness. True patience can be learned at any age.

pattib said...

Love this. Patience. A state of being.

Naomi said...

For me, patience is about acceptance.
Accepting that I have absolutely no control over this situation, and I can either deal with that graciously, or I can allow my own emotions to disturb others.
If I am standing in a queue, one which is clearly going to rob me of two hours of my life, in extremely uncomfortable circumstances (eg no seat when feeling faint, no access to a bathroom etc) and in a context where there is no option to just walk away (eg filing a form for welfare that will allow me to buy food) that is when I get to understand what patience is.
It is about having a number of very real and present needs which are unmet, about experiencing extreme frustration about being unable to change the situation for the better, and making a conscious decision that my discomfort will not cause me to act in a way that makes things worse for those around me who are equally distressed, disempowered, and anxious.
Patience is choosing to use every ability that you have available to tolerate a situation you find distressing, and to not allow your own emotions to add to the inherent difficulty.
It is about being able to instruct yourself to accept what is, for the moment, and to be your best self right now.
There are battles to be won, but they can't be right now. There are stressors to be dealt with, but they will have to wait.
Right now, in this moment, you will make the best of the situation that presents. You will remember what your core values are, and not stray from them out of frustration, and you will bear the indignity with grace.
I find that having done that, the fight that needs to occur is more measured, and more focused because you are doing what needs to be done. Not pandering to your own emotional discomfort.
I would also mention it is really really hard.

FunMumX3 said...

To me, patience is the recognition of my daughter's right to ask for and receive what she needs and wants without filtering through my thoughts, opinions OR my time schedule. She is 18 now and in some ways an adult, in some ways developmentally much younger. But she has the right to be treated like an adult and as such I have to be patient on a daily, hourly basis and let her understand, decision and go forward on her own steam.

Well...I try :)

Anonymous said...

What a great question L asked. I note as I grow older in this field and in my life, my ability to be patient has changed so much, I no longer suffer fools gladly, yet I find the hours I spend on mindless play with my grandchildren to be the most important thing I could ever do.
I always spend a lot of time with new staff explaining over and over (patiently) that the time table they assign to people is useless and should be tossed as it is disrespectful to assign your expectations to someone else who has had behaviors that have served them well for their entire life. That said, I have been working with a group of people for over 20 years and am able to share success stories that are phenomenal yet took years and years to come about. Every now and then the staff takes a full meeting focus on the long view of success. It is good for the long time staff to see how far we have all come together and confirms for the newer people that change happens.
Like everything else we do - we just need to throw out our watches as time takes on new meaning when you just accept the person you are supporting fully.

emma vanderklift said...

An interesting question, Dave. I agree with much of what's already been said, but would add a question - patience about/with what? Patience is usually seen as "a virtue", but is it always?

Maybe it's important to acknowledge that patience (like darn near everything else) is contextual. For example, patience might be seen as the ability to wait with someone and not impose our ideas about how they should be. Great. I so get that.

On the other hand, should I be patient with injustice? Well, probably no. And I don't hear anyone else suggesting that here, either.

But sometimes the idea of being patient with someone can imply that I'm just waiting for you to catch up with me. As if to say that my definition of your situation is the right one, and if I just wait long enough, you'll see my point of view and finally get it. There can be a built-in assumption that I know you better than you know yourself...and that's dangerous.

So maybe patience is best practiced with ourselves - giving ourselves time and space to question our assumptions. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

I feel the core of patience is a bit like Naomi's statement above, I feel it is giving up your control of the situation for love. It is the lack of control of something or someone, or the desire to control something or someone that makes us impatient. If at the core we are able to release the controlling attitude for the love of the other person we would find we have more patience. The love I speak of could be family love, but also general love. [By love I mean the honoring and respecting of the other person above yourself. The deeming that their need/want/desire comes before yours. Parents usually have this love for their children (note usually). Partners in the most loving relationships do this for each other.] When do I get most impatient? If I look closely and honestly it is when I am not getting my way. The person is not moving fast enough, is taking too long, doesn't do things the way I think they should be done. All control issues. In this vein I guess impatience is a selfish emotion. An adult form of a tantrum :-)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thank you all for such great and thoughtful answers. I anticipated that the question I was asked would generate some interesting ideas ... I hope that L. is enjoying seeing the discussion that she started.

Kristine said...

That sage nod does take skill, doesn't it? :)

This is beautiful. A few years ago, a friend told me that one of her core life philosophies is, "Life is long." It completely threw me. It sounded wrong. Everyone always says just the opposite--life is short! Seize the day!

And while those points are still true, I've found myself falling in love with this new truism--life is long! Embracing that simple idea helps me to relax and breathe. I can accept that things take time. I can accept that things aren't the way I want them right now. I can be disappointed in a missed/lost opportunity, but have hope that another opportunity will eventually come along, because life is long. There's time for things to get better. There's time for people to grow. It doesn't all have to happen today. There will be a tomorrow, and plenty more tomorrows after that. Maybe it creates space for me to be patient.

Somewhere near the core of patience, next to kindness, I'd say is love. (The "love for our fellow mankind" variety of love.) I can fake kindness. I can do kind things for somebody, while inwardly resenting it and thinking unkind thoughts. But love is more internal and authentic. As a middle school teacher, my patience gets tested A LOT. Sometimes I have to take a step back when I'm losing it, and remember all the things I love about the kid(s) who's making me crazy. Thinking about the person, and not just their maddening behavior, puts me in a love-space where I can better access patience. :)

Karry said...

Thanks, Dave, and all of the commenters. I really needed to hear this today.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Before I read on to your answer I paused and thought what my answer would be. And it was pretty much what you said. I answered that at the core of patience is the willingness to just be in the now with a person. When I think of the times I have been told I am patient they have been times when I have willingly just let everything else drop away and have just been with someone. Maybe doing something with or for them. Maybe waiting for them to trust or to want to connect. But focus and presence are just being in the now are part of it for me.

I agree with your answer. I would love to hear what L thinks after reading the post and comments.


Belinda Burston said...

I loved reading the comments about patience and echo so many elements of them.

I think that we can be too invested in other people's progress or lack of it. We care for the wellbeing of people and professionally we use the skills we have to help, but should patience be an issue at all?

People have their own time schedule for growth. Any change is hard to make and many setbacks along the way should be expected and accepted. We can share the journey, be there to support; offer tools; information; reinforcement and skilled teaching; but the success or failure belongs to the person themselves not us.If we are disappointed or frustrated I think that it could mean that our caring has become too personal and then the person we are supporting can sense that.

Stepping back and remembering that this is not about us, may be helpful.

I'm thinking that I may have completely misunderstood the gist of the question so if I have, please forgive me going off on a bunny trail!

Anonymous said...

Years ago, while teaching a swim class, I was asked to explain "respect" to a group of 3 and 4-year-olds. I came up with, "Everyone else is just as important as I am," and that is what came to mind as I read this. Thanks for thought-provoking posts.

Dave Hingsburger said...

These comments should be put in a 'support persons' guidebook somewhere!

Anonymous said...

I think "patience" involves becoming focused on a goal . . . so focused, that nothing will distract you from it. It involves letting that goal take every priority over any others - and not selling out to a lesser goal. In the case of client centred care, it has to do with staying completely focused on doing whatever you can do to help the person reach his/her goal. It's just a matter of focus (which takes a tremendous amount of practice). (I love what other people are saying as well!)

Sharon said...

What a wonderfully thought provoking question, and great answers.
We may just be dealing with semantics, however I would add that at the core of patience is awareness.
Awareness that you aren't the center of the universe.
Awareness of another person's needs.
Awareness of another person's abilities.
Awareness of another person's desires.
Awareness of another person's situation.
Awareness that someone else could be dealing with something in their life that you are not aware of.
Hence the saying "be kinder than necessary to everyone, for everyone is fighting some kind or battle".

Which brings us back to.........drum the core of patience is kindness.

Anonymous said...

For me personally the core of any patience I achieve is, letting go.
My desire for change, for movement, for transformation means I want to make results happen NOW.
That's my agenda, not the agenda of the others I interact with.
I think of my actions like dropping a stick off a bridge into a river. I might get to see what happens downstream, but I might not. The action is enough without the outcome. I do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it 'works' ('works' because that's working according to MY agenda, so who knows if it works for anyone else...)

Anonymous said...

Dave I have many of your books but not a support persons guidebook from you.
That would be amazing- I'm imagining a project where you, as editors, ask the questions of service users and service providers, and collate the answers.

Mary said...

Late to the discussion, but I think patience, particularly in the context of supporting others, is often down to an ability to cope with "what is" rather than "what you think/hope/wish the situation might/could/should be."

Also, I don't know if it's relevant in this particular case, but it can be worth examining what exactly one is attempting to be patient about. Being patient about the time it takes your employer to gradually reach his own self-specified therapeutic goal... is one thing. Being patient about your own goal to convert your employer to your own preferred diet/socialisation/lifestyle preferences... is quite another.

rikke said...

So wise and so true.

Ron Arnold said...

I would say - patience is simply desire without a time limit.

theknapper said...

Thank you for this.....