If there is one human trait that is becoming extremely hard to find in modern society it’s patience. Modern technology makes it so easy, so effortless to rush from point a to point b. And it acts as a model for how people should act. So, people who do things too slowly with regard to the expectations of other people are looked at with disdain. Modern technology, because it makes process so smooth and frictionless, allows people to think that when they want something, they should be able to get it right away. Immediate gratification is running rampant today. Nobody, it seems, can wait patiently for anything. Even if, in many cases, the best things in life take time to arrive, take time to grow and mature, take time to develop.
The problem is that people no longer know how to mentally fill the time that they have to wait. How do they prevent their feelings of anticipation of something from swallowing them up in a tension-pocket of frustration? What is it that people used to have that they no longer have with regard to their swollen expectations?
The answer, very simply, is grounding. People no longer have the quality of connection, of anchors, of roots within their external living environment that they used to have in pre-modern technology days. Their external living environment is basically an experiential vacuum filled with free-floating figures that knock into one another. If enough free-floating figures knock into one another close together, a tension-pocket is created.
Our existential job today is to look for the few oases of grounding that exist, to avoid, within the vacuum, being knocked into by other free-floating figures, and to bounce back and forth between the overstimulation of tension-pockets and the understimulation of vacuums to try to create some sort of stimulus balance in our brains, so that we can attempt to approximate a little bit at least the levels of stimulation obtained in more traditional natural living environments. But the balancing act in terms of stimulation is difficult. There is a lot of stimulus discomfort in today’s world from our lack of connection to more grounded living environments. And one thing that happens is that people try to turn off their global discomfort by focusing on particular figure phenomena to either correct or eliminate. This desire to correct or eliminate certain focused phenomena is psychologically experienced as impatience. As expressed before, the impatience can be experienced as an inability to live with a slow flow of things. Of course, impatience can focus not just on the velocity of human process, but also on the quality of human substance. In other words, there can be impatience with how well something is done. Has it been done in the right way? Sometimes today, people become impatient with things beyond their control. Is a thunderstorm raining out a baseball game? Is highway construction slowing down the flow of traffic?
Much of the time, though, the impatience is with the actions of humans. The people around one are just not getting things done quickly or correctly enough. Sometimes, the impatience with others becomes so intense that one wants to hurt them. A good example of this is road rage. One driver cuts off another driver on the highway, and the second driver tries to run the first driver off the road, or, if he has a gun, he tries to shoot him. Sometimes, one becomes impatient with oneself. Self-criticism can be a very effective way of pulling out of numbness in a living environment lacking strong grounding. And this self-criticism can become so intense that it leads to feelings of worthlessness and ultimately to desires to hurt oneself or even kill oneself.
So, feelings of impatience with others or with oneself lead to feelings of intolerance of others or of oneself. And whereas impatience tends to be of shorter duration, relating to the length and velocity of a particular process or the quality of the particular product or service it creates, intolerance is a more sustained sentiment that relates to the nature of the person (other or self) that is carrying out the action or actions. And intolerance can lead to the sustained emotion of hatred which, in turn, leads to the desire to destroy the person (other or self). And the intolerance can blur into a hatred of a person for who he is rather than what he does. Prejudice and discrimination are excellent ways for a person to pull himself out of the experiential vacuum in which he is living. And much more long lasting as a defense against the dangers of the entropic disintegration that is an intrinsic part of what people are feeling in the experiential vacuum in which they are living in today’s world. Impatience, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination are all on a spectrum of defenses designed to shock a person by causing him to bounce off others and himself. They are an attempt to use negative emotions, abrasive stimuli to pull oneself out of an experiential vacuum and feel more vibrantly alive.
© 2021 Laurence Mesirow