When I was young, my parents taught me to count to ten before speaking in anger. Most people know this formula. It allows a person to cool off sufficiently before having a temper tantrum and taking it out on the offender.
It also allows the one doing the counting to think about the situation briefly, so as to make a more considered response. These are good reasons for pausing before venting in anger.
The question is does counting create a sense of patience for the one curbing her/his temper?
Does a child learn patience by refusing to allow anger to surface? This is also a good question to ask. In a world where instant gratification is the norm for expectations, we seem to have lost our ability to delay gratification or to curb tempers.
I thought about this for a few moments and then recalled how it was at the age when I was taught counting as an anger management tool.
At age five/six, I was given a pink, sixteen-inch, two-wheel bike. I was so proud.
I got no instruction on how to ride a bike. Oh, I’d seen kids do it. I knew the principles of it, but I’d never sat on the driver’s seat and made one go. I had to teach myself how to ride.
Back in those days there were no helmets, no knee/elbow pads, and no training wheels for my second-hand bike. I fell down a lot. Each time I fell down, I could hear my dad laugh and heard him tell my mother, “Don’t worry. She’ll get it. She’s too stubborn to quit.”
Being laughed at while you’re trying to master a skill totally foreign to you isn’t conducive to an even temper. I boiled a little harder each time I fell off that silly bike.
I was angry with myself for taking so long to learn. Then I would yank on the handlebar, get the thing upright, place butt on seat and feet on pedals, and try again. By the end of the afternoon, I was riding around the yard like I owned it and everything in it.
I felt vindicated that I’d conquered the new vehicle in my personal stable, but I’d had no patience with myself when it took so long to master it. Six-year-olds notice those kinds of things. The laughter set those wheels in motion.
After that, I had more patience with others who couldn’t do things I could.
Most of the time, I’m surprised when I learn that someone can’t do the same things. I still have little patience with myself. Then again, I’ve lost all hope of doing more than counting over the internet when it’s acting up.
Regular deep breathing exercises do more than keep my lungs healthy. They also keep stress levels down and optimism up. I chide myself when I can’t get as much done as I think I should, but I doubt I’m along in that habit. I cringe when circumstances force me to shelve a project for an indefinite period.
Slowly, I’m developing patience with my own foibles.
Funny how long it takes some of us to reach self-patience and forgiveness for being human. I can smile now at my dreams of rivaling Wonder Woman in the achievement department.
Yet, when I think about it, didn’t Wonder Woman fly by the seat of her pants in her invisible plane? She reacted as needs warranted, with emotion but acknowledging that some things need more patience and less reaction. Hey, maybe there’s hope for me after all.
Tell me. Are you patient with yourself more than with others or the other way ‘round? Leave a comment and tell me where your patience ends and if you count to stall an eruption.
Until then, a bientot,