Note: the information in this article was gathered from personal experience, reflection, and work with my own feelings. Take it as you will.
Definition of Impatience
A feeling or irritation or anger that comes when there are obstacles in the way of accomplishing something that one wants to accomplish, or in the way of getting to a situation that one wants to get to.
Probable Symptoms of Impatience:
- Trouble with listening and receiving (with respect to things like: reality’s changes, your feelings and emotions, the way life responds to your actions, what comes from other people or is part of their reality, etc.)
- A sense that you shouldn’t have to deal with certain feelings or situations – entitlement, basically.
- Can be used as an excuse to avoid the issue
- A sense that you’re “better than” experiencing or dealing with certain issues, or that you’re “past that” (Egotism)
- Isolation (feeling impatience with what’s outside the isolated space)
- Trying to ignore or minimize one’s own feelings of hesitation or thoughtfulness
- Feeling stuck striving for something constantly, with perhaps a lot of activity, without really having the sense of getting closer to that goal
- Anger or Irritation when interrupted from an activity
- Anxiety when it feels like something isn’t getting done fast enough
- A pattern of giving up in frustration in response to obstacles
- Not really wanting to do the steps in-between your current spot and whatever goals you might strive for
- Difficulty finishing started tasks
- Difficulty solving problems of all kinds, including emotional ones
- Confusion, which may stem from rushed conclusions
- The actions of others can cause you to feel rushed
- A tendency to try to rush other people
- Difficulty seeing more than one way to accomplish a goal
- Metaphorical tunnel-vision, in the sense of focusing exclusively on one thing instead of the larger picture, which can lead to getting blindsided or not seeing other opportunities.
- Feeling lost, run-down, stuck in a rut, or unfulfilled in life (if impatience led to giving up)
- Negativity towards trying to address problems in one’s life. One could describe one’s life as “a mess”, with little action being taken to clean it up.
- Feeling defeated or negative
- Often acting with the purpose of escaping or finding release or relaxation, since activity and effort can put pressure and strain on you, and being impatient to escape that strain can produce outbursts of this kind of behavior, marked by the feeling of trying to quickly use up energy in order to relax during the recovery process afterward
- Making decisions before you’ve fully addressed your own doubts about that decision. This can create situations of guilt and self-mistrust, as well, since you might begin to feel bad about or distrust your own ability to make good decisions.
- Recklessness and/or depression
- Lack of discretion
What seems to cause Impatience
The primary cause of impatience seems to be the dislike or fear of certain feelings, and the effort to escape those feelings through action.
For example – let’s say you run into traffic on the way to work, and it starts looking like you’ll be late. What kind of feelings might this stir up? Defeat or discouragement, perhaps, at having failed to succeed in getting to work on time. Or maybe anxiety, at the prospect of straining the good will of your supervisor or the camaraderie of your coworkers. You feel like you might get judged or looked down upon for it. So – what might you do? You can get impatient, honk at the cars, get angry at the traffic, ride the bumper of the person in front of you, and be determined as possible to not let those feared feelings happen, by avoiding the circumstance in which you anticipate they could. If you get there on time, there’s no reason to feel defeat or discouragement.
Yet, the feelings we fear are, all the same, just feelings. They’re not things that are necessarily fun to feel – they probably aren’t joy, happiness, excitement, wonder, or togetherness – but they still might hold their own wisdom. If you feel defeat you may start reconsidering what you’re doing with your life, and from that, you might find a new direction. With discouragement, you may find small things that are encouraging, as you find your way out of it, through the experience that feeling brings.
That’s not to say that the feeling is ultimately correct, or holds a perspective that is seeing the bigger picture. A defeated-feeling side may not see what hopes there are – what routes for action that can bring about different results. For instance, in the example of getting stuck in traffic, one might find that, though it may not be as preferable as being on time, one could imagine that by volunteering to stay a bit longer after work, it might make up for the lost time, as well as be a sign of good will, and keep workplace relationships positive.
One important reminder then, is that your feelings are not the end of the road – they aren’t static, and whatever side of you feels bad, you can help it to find its way through that bad feeling, even if it’s just to give it a place to work through its feelings itself.
In a way, too, a negative feeling represents an investment in feeling that way – a reason. As much as you may like feeling positive, there may be lingering reasons inside of you for feeling negatively. Maybe you think you already know the reason, and know why the reason is stupid or invalid or makes no sense – but, this kind of thinking is dangerous, as it avoids the issue and prolongs your state of impatience and trying to escape it. Yeah, maybe it doesn’t make enough sense to ever consciously act on that feeling, but its presence means there’s still something there. What is it, then? Why might you have cause to feel negative? If you had all the time in the world to feel negative, if there was nothing bad about feeling negative emotion, why might you? How does that part of you see the world, life, itself, or your circumstances? Asking these sorts of questions can start to reveal, consciously, the content that’s associated with this feeling. It may not be entirely accurate, and you may have some issues with the thinking that comes from this feeling, but, it may still give you pause, give you things to consider – alert you to aspects of your experience that you might not have noticed or known how to deal with.
Overall, a pattern of impatience seems to continue when one does not notice that there’s something to question, when one is striving for a “good” feeling without necessarily getting to it, and trying to not feel a “bad” feeling. You can get caught in this activity, but again, the results might not be very impressive, because whatever good you feel might not go as deep as it would if that other place inside you, the one that feels negative, actually found something to feel positive about. This can be confusing, because if you feel positive, then, isn’t it solved? Haven’t you escaped? Not so fast. Escaping a circumstance is one thing, but it doesn’t address the perspective that would’ve brought out your negative feeling, had the circumstance been different.
Not only that, but your reservations about feeling positive about something can be very powerful. They can keep you from acting in situations where it otherwise would’ve cost you. For instance, it can help with questioning a crowd mentality, or in not conforming to the expectations of others in the way you choose to live your life. Doubt, hesitation, suspicion, and questioning the truth of things can be tremendous assets, that, in retrospect, might seem to far outweigh the momentary draw of feeling safe, certain, or trusting.
Impatience and Inner Conflicts
Impatience unaddressed seems like it can perpetuate an inner conflict. Your impatience can feel so intense and so urgent, that you let it lead your actions, rather than allowing it to be just a strong motivating factor in how you’re making your decision.
For instance, let’s say that someone’s upset at you, and you want to talk to them to make it right. But, at the same time, you don’t know what to say. If you are too impatient, you may rush into talking with them, and say things that aren’t considerate, which could end up making the conflict worse. On the other hand, if you take the time to stop yourself, and refuse to follow impatience, and work on what you’ll say, rather than just jumping to say anything, then you may find a sense of peace with how you’re approaching the situation, and, even if you do somehow upset the other person, it’s likely there’s a much higher chance that you’ll make things better.
In other words, following impatience can promote reckless behavior, and, in its role in perpetuating conflicts, may help to keep the symptoms and cycle of depression alive, at least according to the model outlined in this article.
Impatience as Dependency
Impatience can also indicate a dependency on something external to the current moment. In contrast, patience can be seen as an independence from everything outside the current moment. Think about the way a patient person can meander their way through something without trouble, while the impatient one beats their head against the wall. They don’t want this moment, they want a different one, a currently non-existent one.
When you’re dependent on other moments, it makes it hard to live in this one. Yet, this moment is the only moment we have, and any guarantee of control we tell ourselves we have isn’t necessarily true. When we realize there’s no guarantee that this moment will change, we can end up despondent or despairing. However, there is a guarantee that this moment exists and is changing, and we exist within it.
So why want something outside this moment? Wanting something else is the logic inherent in a goal, for one. You want something, you work to get it, and then, you’re “there” – reality has been changed in some desired way. These changes can be positive things, and it can be painful to be without them – indeed, the pain can be why we want them in the first place. Yet, no matter what we try, the pain might not abate. Pain isn’t necessarily under our control, although some pains can be self-created.
To be independent from other moments doesn’t mean to have what you want in this one, nor to not have it, or to admit that you never will. For, you might. Rather, it has to do with a willingness to meet your reality where it is, no matter what it contains. Many things happen, both enjoyable and displeasing, that can or will almost certainly pass. You can allow for what is enjoyable, without getting attached to it. And you can allow for what is painful, without clinging to an attachment to other, more enjoyable moments. Handle and pass through these moments, and you might find something new. There’s a calmness to patience that itself can be a reward. It isn’t all about the things external to you. The way you handle something can itself be rewarding, and that is up to you, and entirely within the present moment.
You can think too, of several archetypes of patience that you might find in your inner world: the Warrior, the Peaceful Self, the Grounded Self. These three, just as examples, can have a sense of being in the present moment, handling exactly what’s around them at the time, no matter what it is. They acknowledge it, and can observe it without trying to destroy or escape it. They can face what’s there. Keying into the attitudes of these sides, or creating a dialogue between them or your impatient sides, can potentially help evolve your perspective on this area and allow you to become more patient, in-the-moment, and independent on moments you may imagine or desire. This can allow you to stay in the flow, and be more aware.
Working through Impatience
In the past, I’ve talked about impatience as standing in the way of accomplishing a goal. But, when working through impatience, even the goal itself may come into question. But this can be important in order to be able to see all your options, and really allow yourself to feel your way through the issues in front of you, and find out what you want to do, all feelings and priorities considered.
Let’s consider, first, the model for what seems to cause impatience: A dislike or fear of a feeling, as well as action taken to get to a different feeling.
The first thing to address could be that urgency, it could be that you want to stop striving entirely for what you are. However, what you want may still be a legitimate option. It’s a matter, now, then, of taking your goal, and making it, for now, an option – perhaps the strongest, most desired option.
At that point, you can open up to what your feelings have to say about this goal. If your goal is to get to accomplish something, then what in you doesn’t want to accomplish it. And, also, what does? You might be more familiar with the arguments for what you want, but it can be important to give this side of you a voice, too, even as you listen to what in you is objecting.
Maybe you want to be social and friendly, and another side of you just wants to be alone and shut the world out – is angry, frustrated, or grumpy about it. Maybe they don’t see the big draw in being sociable, maybe they are argue about how bonds so easily break anyway, and friends move on, relationships end, etc. You may have other things in you that want to jump in and object, and, while you can let that be part of it, you can also let this be a back-and-forth conversation – where each side gets its time to unload its perspective, or respond to each other’s perspectives. If you let such arguments go unanswered, after all, you might be ignoring the side of you that does want to still make friends, have relationships, and be social. Yet, where can they agree? Where is their common ground? This is what you’re looking for, not for any side to “win”.
Ultimately, hearing and understanding the sides to the conflict as best you can, you can get to a place where you feel you can decide what you want to do. Do you still want to keep doing what you did before? Is the side that objected still okay with that? If you want to go in a new direction, is the side that previously wanted the first direction, okay with the new one? Do you feel at peace with your decision?
It may be very tempting to get impatient with this process, to think you’ve heard enough, and know what to do. But, it’s important to try and discern that which wants to act from impatience, from that which wants to act from understanding. Do you really understand the different sides of you, that try to pull you in different directions, why they want what they do? Why they feel like they do? Or do you just want to understand, so that you can act?
It can be helpful, too, if you don’t want to get blocked in by indecisiveness, is to be honest about the risks you know you’re taking. That, if you act, you know it might result in something bad, and that you might not be fully informed. This at least presents openness and understanding to your consciousness – sending the message that you know what you’re doing, and getting into, even if you know it might not be the right solution, ultimately. You can always go into the world, act, make mistakes, and reevaluate from there.
However, there is a useful tool, also, that you can use in your decision-making process here, and that’s to just distinguish yourself from any force inside of you that you’re unsure about agreeing with. For instance, let’s say you’re impatient to make a decision – you can give voice to that side of you without acting from it.
Or, if you want to voice your impatience as if it’s from yourself, you can, inwardly, without actually taking action on it. Things like “ugh, can we just decide already? haven’t we discussed this enough?” Then, you can listen to the response from whatever in you still wants to discuss the decision.
In essence, though, this is a process that involves both putting aside action temporarily, and listening to and working with the different felt perspectives inside of you, as you figure out what you want to do. It’s a decision-making process, one that does not have to take place against a backdrop of urgency, but instead, can involve patient listening, and allowing what doesn’t want to act, as you might, to speak.
It may help to remember too, that the perception that what you are doing is good, is just a perception. Feelings help you bypass this perception with additional perspectives. While on the surface they look like they can derail you in your activity, really, they may enrich it, by increasing your sense of nuance, consideration, and balance.
As a last note – there can be a temptation, when you engage in a process of opening your choices up for debate, for parts of you to try and keep you in that debate. So, if many sides start clamoring for attention, and the arguments seem to not end, you can remember your own authority. As considerate as you might want to be, it can still be yours to choose and to take the consequences, all things considered. You can always be considerate later, or make listening to your feelings part of your life – but sometimes, you may decide that you’re to going to choose to do things you know and have done (habit, tradition, intuition), even if you know these things may be questionable, and debatable, and that you want to at some point in the future.
Below is a several-step process that may help when you feel impatient, that sums up what I talked about above:
Note: as with any exercise involving feelings, you may feel things unrelated to the exercise. By recognizing and including these, even abandoning the exercise altogether to work through what they have to say, you may find things that are more deeply impacting you than what you’re trying to focus on. Thus, it may help more to let yourself get side-tracked by other feelings when the moment calls for it.
- Take what you’re striving for, in an impatient sort of way, and put it up for debate. Make it something that you’ll allow yourself to question. (ex: What are you trying to do? Where are you trying to go? What do you want, from life, from yourself? What sort of situation do you feel cut off from?)
- Get a sense for why you want to strive for what you do in step 1. What’s your reason? It will probably have a feeling of impatience, strain, or desperation to it.
- Now, why might you not want what you identified in step 1? Let the other side give its argument. What objections exist in you to your reasoning from step 2? What’s the other side to this issue? It should feel different. Let yourself speak from the place that’s going in an opposing direction from the one you might consciously want to go in.
- Allow this to be a conversation between multiple sides. Why does each side want what it does? Continue learning their perspectives, and letting them disagree. What can they agree on, though? Try to get to that place of agreement, through the conversation.
- When you feel you know enough to act, and can be at peace with your decision, action can be the next step. Or, maybe you want to wait on what you’ve found, and allow it to sink in a little. Whatever you want to decide, give it some consideration, and act. Know your own outside perspective on this issue, and what’s important to you in terms of the choices you want to make.
- If you feel you’re getting caught in indecision, why? Why might a side of you be afraid of you acting, or still hesitant? Can you act without stepping on this side of yourself? That is, can you reach a place where they agree with an approach to the issue? Openness with yourself about your intentions, and the uncertainties therein, may help this side to relax about what you’re doing, even if it carries risks.
- If things go too far, you can always remember your own authority, and choose things that may indeed be debatable in their value. Ultimately, deciding to listen to your feelings and understand their priorities is still a decision and activity, one you might not be up for in the current moment, even if you do see its value.
These steps can help you to refine your decisions and reach a place of unity, or at least greater unity, in terms of what actions you’re willing to take. And this process respects all sides, not allowing one to squash another, meaning your choice can be something that appeals to you on multiple levels, and something you can feel at peace with. This is about reducing a push-and-pull dynamic within you, where uninformed decisions can wreak havoc on areas of your life, and the choices you make can seem unsatisfactory, at least on some level. We can always justify our decisions, but we don’t necessarily always take actions that don’t disagree with us on all levels. Taking charge of impatience is about that you’d like to make good choices, rather than rushed and potentially deeply flawed ones.
Probable Benefits of working through Impatience
- Greater capacity to listen and receive
- A willingness to hear your feelings, to feel, to reflect, and consider
- A greater sense of ease when facing obstacles and making decisions – in other words a lack of disturbance, irritation, upset, or inner chaos
- More action from a place of rest rather than desperation and the desire to escape
- Greater flexibility when the unexpected occurs
- A greater ability to persist in the face of obstacles
- Less negativity
- More enthusiasm for life
- An easier time attaining clarity
- Greater capacity for balance
- Greater ability to stay in the flow and not get anxious
- Less giving up! And so, more goals reached, and more problems solved.
- More of a willingness to learn as a way of adapting to obstacles
- Feeling more unified inside in terms of what to do
- More of being able to stay with what truly interests you, even given the presence of risks
- Keeping a sense of perspective as you make your choices, thus able to make more balanced decisions
It is worthy to note that because impatience seems to take away from our capacity to solve problems, that by seeking to solve impatience first (at least in most cases I can imagine), we may free up our capacity to deal with everything else in our lives.
Ironically, we can get impatient with impatience too, but by allowing ourselves to feel impatient, along with other feelings involved, we can better create space to hear out all sides to a particular issue.
Articles related to Impatience
Fear – What it seems to be and ways to work through it. Listed here because fear of not getting what one wants seems to be at the root of impatience.
Anxiety – Listed here because impatience can lead to anxiety, such as when obstacles get in the way of your flow and feel like there’s no way around them other than to give up, perhaps due to the tunnel-vision effect from impatience.
Negativity – Listed here because when one feels defeated and negative, it may just be one’s own impatience that’s leading to an inability to see other alternatives for action, and instead by fixating on the way or ways that have become blocked, one can become negative.
Find Your Curiosity And Move Past Failure – Article about how the force of curiosity can help you find your way again when you’re faced with obstacles in life – but searching with curiosity does take patience.
How Finding What You Love can Overcome Fear – Article about another way to help yourself overcome barriers more easily – choose goals that you love, and the obstacle of fear becomes easier to overcome, because you’re more willing to take risks and stay persistent when it’s for what you care about.
The Deep Darkness of Desire – Article about the force of fear-driven desire, listed here because impatience is basically the product of that kind of desire.
Calming the Desire for Immortality – This desire can be a particularly insistent source of impatience, trying to rush you along with promises of a glorious life where you will be made immortal. If you are dealing with this desire, this article may help.
Wikipedia Article on Patience – goes into different perspectives on the nature of patience and impatience.
Psychology Today Article on Metaphorical Tunnel Vision, which can be a result and symptom of Impatience