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Are You a Gargoyle on Roller Skates?

Pacing...How Fast Is Fast

A colleague of mine always seems in a rush. Walking across campus he looks a lot alike a gargoyle on roller skates. The upper part of his body seems anxious that he's going to be late. The lower part seems like a pouting, lagging child being dragged along.

Speed is funny. Sometimes a desire for quick results only delays progress further. You can be moving quickly, it's true, but you may be going in the wrong direction! In the end, frustration may be paradoxically increased by going faster because we may be moving away from, rather than toward, our desired goal.

In psychotherapy, if the patient is bored, the pace of the session is probably too slow; if the patient is anxious, the pace may well be too fast. The same can be said of our lives. Some people seem to vacillate between boredom and feeling overwhelmed because they can't seem to find an optimal rate of change or openness to new information which would free them up. In such cases, people open up, then clam up. It is very frustrating.

In the spiritual life, patience and courage are recommended so we neither avoid challenges nor demand instant results. Festina lente in Latin means "make haste slowly." When walking quickly during a storm, a disciple was reminded by his master that it was raining where they were going as well as where they were. Speed itself solves nothing.

The number of changes can also be a problem. In counseling, therapy, or spiritual guidance, people are often cautioned not to change everything at once. By changing one thing we can see the impact and have the energy to do it carefully, then we can regroup to take the next step.

Progress is often based on incremental change and the results produced. We take what we know and make it work for us. In the process of doing this, new steps become known.

Progress is also encouraged when we recognize and remember those areas of our life where we are accomplished and free. Discouragement comes when we lose sight of these places of advancement and see ourselves and our efforts all through the lens of the failures we encounter. And so, pacing allows us to learn from change, not lose sight of the successes we have, and not be completely set back by whatever failures we encounter.

Bottom line: Pace the actions in your life in a way that you avoid either going so fast that you become anxious and overwhelmed, at one extreme, or bored and stagnant at the other. Trust your intuition on this. You know yourself better than anyone else.

Robert Wicks received his doctorate in psychology from Hahnemann Medical College, is on the faculty of Loyola University Maryland. His two latest books are: BOUNCE: Living the Resilient Life (Oxford) and a book on mindfulness entitled PRAYERFULNESS: Awakening to the Fullness of Life (Sorin Books).

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