Isn’t it nice to have things ‘on-demand’? You can Grab a cab, have your food Deliveroo’d or Face-Time someone anywhere in the world. It almost feels like being… quite powerful. Aren’t we all supposed to be empowering ourselves; taking control of situations, technology or language? What could possibly be wrong with that? Am I asking too many questions?
Having a little time to answer may be quite important. Watch a media interview with a high profile figure in any aspect of life and just take note of the pace and nature of the questions. The goal has almost become to deny someone space to answer, or to cajole them into saying what the interviewer wants. It’s very demanding. Maybe the idea of having a life ‘on-demand’ may not be so wonderful after all.
There used to be a period of time between wanting and getting which was called waiting. It is the realm of excitement, expectation and hope but also the land of frustration, boredom and disappointment. Fewer and fewer of us stray into this place or remain long. We are demanding our way out of it. But is also a place of creativity and idle thought. It breeds reflection, and subsequently development. If we skip or side-step it, we are letting ourselves down. If we don’t bring our children into it occasionally they will fall into accidentally one day, and it will be a shocking place. Waiting – with its benefits and drawbacks – should be experienced, or at least tolerated, since you can learn a lot by doing nothing. More than anything else, it builds patience.
Most therapeutic approaches available today involve a process of applying the brakes. An outside figure, rather like a police officer, will step in front of your speeding life and raise a big, flat palm to halt you. They may give you concrete directions or question why you are going so fast; they may even get you to change your vehicle, or start walking. What they are doing in some way is introducing an element of patience into your life. To link this idea with my previous blog (’The Power of Attention’), they will direct your attention; ‘…all psychotherapy techniques direct what the clients pay ‘attention-to’.’ (Whittemore 2018, p.28) This process of directing attention is not instantaneous; it will take time.
The idea of things taking time is almost criminal in today’s world. Time must be mastered, or at least managed. In Singapore, you can’t even stand still without soon finding yourself moving along mysteriously on some sort of unnecessary travelator. But time provides space, a space to think, rather like a counselling room. And thinking may not be your enemy. It is in itself is therapeutic and in that way, therapy is in some form the application of patience where it is denied.
It would be crass to suggest that being patient was all that people needed to do to feel better. But it’s a very good start.
Whittmore, P. ‘The Central Role of Attention in Psychotherapy’, International Journal of Psychotherapy, 22 (1), pp.26-36
Psychotherapist & Counsellor