Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Search of Patience.

One of the most vital elements of a peaceful life is the cultivation of patience within oneself. I've spent a lot of time working on that, it's something I strive for and while I am not perfect, I am better than I was and I am better at stepping away from situations than I was in the past.

What I have found is that there is two kinds of patience. I call them real or genuine patience, where you are able to handle anything that comes along in a kind, compassionate and understanding way, and fake patience which means you can seemingly handle anything that comes along in a kind, compassionate and understanding way while underneath you are seething with some other emotion, generally frustration.

The first kind is what we need to cultivate regularly. The second should also be cultivated because it is a useful tool but it should only be used as a temporary measure to get you through until you have enough balance in your life to get back to real or genuine patience.

True patience is cultivated through improvement of the mind, developing your sense of empathy towards humanity, being able to put yourself in the shoes of another person. For example, it is easier to be patient with a child if we take the time to understand their development.

I've heard the two's referred to as the terrible twos and while they can be trying I've never found that I lost my patience with my kids at two. The reason for that is I did some study of how two years olds think and why they behave the way they do. It has to do with frustration and a lack of impulse control. Frustration often comes from the inability to do physically what they want and the lack of impulse control is an inability to control themselves even though they know what they want isn't approved of by mom or dad.

We can't trust a two year old to not grab a cupcake off the tray so putting it down where they can reach it and expecting them to not grab one when you aren't looking is unfair. They aren't being disobedient when they grab one, they are being two. Heck, you can't trust me not to take the cupcake either and I'm almost 43(see my other blog for proof). Once I understood that my expectations of a two year old were unrealistic it became so much easier to have patience with them. I could empathise with them and I put the cupcakes away and made theirs and my life a little easier.

If I apply this type of understanding and empathy to humanity it does make it easier to be patient with people.

The second type of patience, what I call fake patience is a very useful tool. I use it when I don't have real patience. This is cultivated by developing self-control. You are not really feeling patient but because it is unfair to the people you are impatient with to yell at them just because you are not feeling particularly well you do at times need to utilize it. I find that I get the most use out of fake patience when I am tired or hungry and less able to be filled with genuine patience.

One other thing I feel is important is to understand that genuine patience is something that you feel, fake patience is something that you do. One is emotional and one is behavioural. They may look the same to the bystander but underneath they are vastly different.

A person cannot have too much genuine patience. It is a peaceful, wonderful, loving thing to feel true acceptance and patience when another acts in a way that you find less than desirable. Fake patience however can be overdone and really should only be a stopgap measure, something to get you through until your ability to be truly calm comes back.

The danger in overusing fake patience is that you become untrue to those around you and to yourself. You are not being truthful, you are not expressing your true feelings but rather are keeping them inside. That's ok on a bad day when you are a bit out of sorts but the ongoing, regular, pretension of patience can only lead to either an explosion of sorts(this is my particular reaction to bottling feelings) or it can lead to other behaviour to help keep the explosion from happening. Everything from physical illness to overeating, right up to the abuse of substances to self-medicating yourself into the patient behaviour you want the world to see.

One key to cultivating real patiencce and limiting the use of fake patience is by educating yourself. It's easier to be patient with a mentally ill person if you can come to some sort of understanding of what they are going through so you study mental illness and get the information you need to be understanding and empathetic. It's easier to be patient with a partner whose behaviour is not ideal if you understand and get to know the stress and pain they are feeling.

It's also, and this is the most important thing, easier to cope with everybody in a genuinely patient manner if you have a deep and genuine sense of patience with yourself, your own limitations and your own temperament. Having a sense of awareness of yourself is key to understanding and accepting the limitations of others. Because, deep down, in our soul, we are all the same.

Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself and forgive yourself and continue to try to improve yourself without the expectation of perfection and this will translate into a genuine patience and empathy for the others in your life. You will feel genuinely patient more often than you act patient and that is the ultimate goal.

2 comments:

Debbie said...

Patience...patience..patience! Sometimes I have it, sometimes I fake it and sometimes..well it nowhere to be found!! Tough issue!! I am always in searh of it..:)

Hilary said...

Very wise words, Breeze. It's an ongoing learning process too.. as new things tend to try our patience from time to time. Great post. :)