Putting It on Pause…
By: Haim Shemer, Psy.D. | October 25, 2019
Like a CD that repeatedly plays the same recognizable tunes, our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can habitually repeat within us, especially since such activities are interconnected and influence each other.
We form our habits by gathering experience from the situations we encounter as we go through life. Our perceptions of the situations we face allow us to derive a decision for action and identify ways to emote. Patterns of reacting develop in our psyche slowly, over time allowing us to feel prepared for what’s ahead. Our learned behaviors, responses, and perceptions can present themselves as unhelpful or dysfunctional, however. Allowing ourselves some quiet space or a brief time period wherein focus shifts inward on the present moment enables us to break away from those automatic reactions or responses that prove problematic. This brief period is a moment of “pausing.” It stands as an effective tool for our intra- and interpersonal communications.
When we practice pausing at the face of a conflict (be it external or internal) we notice the intensely raw emotions that guided our behaviors and thoughts for years. We find ourselves overwhelmed and debilitated. We can reduce these undesirable effects by pausing — gradually and over time — starting by choosing a quiet spot followed by taking several deep breaths. Moments of pausing are precious, possibly life-changing moments because they allow us to break existing maladaptive conditioning. Such moments can produce new insights in the form of a new thought, behavior, or emotion.
An all-too-common example is a dispute between two partners having spent years together and reaching a point where the same old arguments are repeated as are each other’s reactions and responses. A moment of pausing by either or both partners can present the two with a novel situation, a place neither has been to before. The result of such a moment of pause allows the abandonment of those old, maladaptive conditionings. It’s as if we dig ourselves out of a trance to view things in a different way. (If you’ve seen the movie, The Matrix, it’s like Neo taking the red pill and not the blue one.)
Pausing may seem awkward and unfamiliar as a technique, yet we all have many moments of pausing throughout our lives such as when driving, taking a shower or a quiet walk, at the end of a long day as we lie down in bed. We can choose to ‘put it on pause’ rather than have these moments occur randomly. We can create periods of temporary nirvana at the top of a challenging mountain we just climbed or in the mundane moment of getting out of the car before stepping into the house. Every experience we face can include a moment of pause as we become more aware of this useful tool.
As I continue to read and write about present moment living I am more and more astounded by the simplicity and genius of this therapeutic approach. Pausing is but another avenue to present moment living and a gateway to true acceptance.
Ideas expressed here are taken from the book entitled “Radical Acceptance,” by Tara Brach.