The Power of Pause

“We desire to be happy and at peace, but when our emotions are aroused, somehow the methods we use to achieve this happiness only make us more miserable.” from Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears, Pema Chodron, edited by Sandy Boucher, 2010, Shambala Press

Reacting to a frustrating or provocative situation or person when the fight-flight hormones are still coursing through your brain is like driving when drunk.  Not only do you pose a danger to yourself and others, but the judgment and impulse control required to refrain from engaging the wheel or person, is also impaired.  Even if you are lucky enough to avoid disaster, at the very least, you can be assured that whatever point you wanted to get across will be lost, as your emotional overreaction becomes the center of attention.  It’s a lose-lose.

When you find yourself in in fight-flight and about to act, which for most humans (but especially Energizers and Drivers), is likely to be several times a day — the simple act of pausing can interrupt your reaction before it takes shape.  A three second pause, especially when accompanied by a deep breath is accessible to us at even the highest levels of emotional arousal, and creates enough of a gap to allow us get back to present moment where we can:

  1. Notice what’s happening from different perspectives – especially that of the object of our frustration
  2. Pay attention to the thoughts, emotions and physical feelings happening “now”
  3. Consider other ways of understanding the situation that might be less personally threatening
  4. Become aware of what you really want (besides hurting another person or proving you are right), and  whether your planned reaction is going to get you there.

Pausing can even open us to our hearts and allow our emotional intelligence, natural kindness, and compassion to influence our response.

Try pausing for a few seconds and taking a deep breath right now.  What was that like for you?

If this is something you want to incorporate, try using the pause button at least once today at even the slightest hint of frustration or stress, and see where it takes you.  As a reminder try hanging the word “Pause” on the fridge or wherever else you are likely to see it.

If you want to read more about “the pause”, I have really enjoyed Tara Brach’s writing on the subject. Here is a link to a recent blog,  “The Sacred Pause”.

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