I've really struggled with this in the past, and have to admit that whilst I'm getting closer to a much more patient and tolerant me - I still have a way to go.
I became aware of this 'weakness' in my character after being asked one of those 'what are your strengths and weaknesses' type questions at an interview (for a humanistic counselling course back in the late 80s - so I was a bit thrown off balance as I hadn't expected a question like that!).
I hadn't given it much thought at the time but realised that it would sound arrogant to say I didn't have any 'weaknesses' (I'd assumed they hadn't meant my lack of willpower when chocolate was nearby!) so I found myself mumbling something about me being a bit impatient and intolerant.
Being more surprised than anyone else at where that little gem had emerged from, I gave it more thought and realised that it was true! My subconscious mind had answered the interview question before I could come up with an answer.
So, why was I, and perhaps you too, impatient and intolerant?
Why did I want what I wanted 'now', and why did I feel so frustrated, annoyed and angry with people who were (in my eyes, at the time) somehow 'less' than me? (That phrase reminded me of my father's superior attitude and bigoted judgements – and I didn't sit comfortably with me at all).
Therein lay the link.... my parents and my childhood. No real surprises there then!
Where had it come from?
I think impatience comes from the inner child inside us who doesn't want to 'delay gratification' – they want the treat now, and to avoid the discomfort of waiting and hoping for it to come later.
It's about wanting the certain rather than the uncertain... the real rather than the imagined and longed for... the definite instead of the possible.
As for the intolerance – that feels like it also comes from my inner child too, but the part that has been tainted and shaped by my parents' daily influence upon me.
What we see modelled to us by the 'big people' in our lives when we are highly impressionable children forms our own automatic reactions, perceptions and un-examined beliefs.
On deeper self-exploration I realised that I had some ingrained bigoted thoughts in the murky depths of my sub-conscious mind.
These had been passed down to me by both my parents and neighbours, who feared the consequences of the mass immigration - of people they considered to be 'inferior' to them - which they were witnessing in the 1970s. They saw this as a big threat to their livelihood, families and society.
When we can unearth the poisonous seed
that was planted we can chose to keep feeding it and allowing it to
grow – or we can dig it up and cast it on the bonfire!
That leaves us with a decision and choice as to how to fill that space once occupied with impatience or intolerance.
Acceptance fills that place beautifully.
- Acceptance of the natural laws and the time it takes for things to materialise in our lives.
- Acceptance of what is - without having the need to change it to make it what we need or want it to be instead.
- Acceptance of someone else's preference and perspective - without the need to persuade them differently.
- Acceptance of the mosaic of different characters and personality traits around us - without wanting to take over the shaping of the bigger picture to suit ourselves.
Time always passes, and how we feel during that time is of our own making. We can choose to become patient and tolerant, or otherwise.
Impatience and intolerance spoil the moment, and we deprive ourselves of learning from that place of waiting to see what emerges without having to judge, categorise, direct and shape it ourselves.
Yes, there is also a place for our own active creation, goal achievement and the attainment of rewards – but with patience and tolerance these will be all the more enriching.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
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