Thursday, June 24, 2021

We are living in a world accustomed to “quick fixes.”

Papercut? Run it under cold water, Band-Aid, boom—you’re done.

Realized you ran out of laundry detergent? Order it online, next day shipping, boom—you’re done.

We are impatient and oftentimes experience the microwave timer as if it is running in slow-motion and we make angry fists at our phones when the video we’re watching is taking forever to load.

We have become impatient, not wanting—but demanding—that we get what we want, when we want it, and that is typically right now. We experience life in a rush while also complaining that time is slipping away, and “Wouldn’t it be nice if things just slowed down?”

And yet, this fast-paced mindset seems to do a disservice in the following areas, to individuals who subscribe to a quick-fix ideology:

1. Problems that cannot be “fixed”: In the mental health field you often hear a client or clinician stating that recovery, treatment or help is not like a car wash. The process takes time. The idea that one can be “fixed” lends to feelings of shame and judgment; individuals wonder what is wrong with them—why aren’t they better?—rather than recognizing that the culture of looking for a quick solution is the actual problem. When I run groups or provide a session related to coping skills I hear clients regularly say that “skills don’t work.” I delicately and firmly inform (or remind) them that skills are not meant to make the pain simply go away. Skills are there to help the individual come to a baseline where perhaps they can get “grounded” or think clearly and then not act impulsively; some skills can be a gateway for other skills that will enable a shift (even if slight) in thinking or mood.

Rather than expecting quick results for issues that require care and time, we must all slow down. Because even if you are not facing this type of issue, you may be supporting the negative internal dialogue experienced by the person already in pain when you use any language questioning when this will end. “But what can you do?” is very different from “How can I support you?” or “Do you know what helps in this moment?” By showing the individual that you can be patient, that he or she does not need to be “fixed,” that you validate his or her current pain and not skip ahead to when it ends—this will allow for healing.

2. Problems that are chronic or at least longer than “right now”: So many individuals suffer and struggle with situations that go beyond the current moment. Whether they be challenging psychiatric or medical diagnoses, or life situations such as grief and mourning, these are not simply things on which we put an adhesive and boom—move on. There is little control over any timelines or ways in which people move forward—not on, but forward. I have witnessed countless individuals who offer endless support but then begin to ask “When do you think you’ll get over this?” There may be truth in the question if perhaps the individual suffering is presenting with a barrier to taking a helpful step or is being perceived as wallowing (such as the person who does not take support being offered but then states that no one ever tries to help, for instance). But even so, the “Can’t you just move on?” mentality helps no one. It implies that there is a choice in pain and while there may be a series of choices in how to seek out support, pain should not be doubted.

This arises, too, with those suffering from a chronic or long-term condition. The individual suffering may begin to question the point of going on, or he or she may have days of losing hope as it does not feel as if anything changes over time. Even in these moments, jumping to looking for small marks of progress or a silver lining may miss the mark. Instead, the first important step involves being present with the individual in his or her pain. “Eemo Anokhi BeTzarah,” “I am with him in his pain.” Only after this happens may we begin to wonder about action steps or support steps. And even then, it is not about how to “end” the current situation but how to be in it.

While we may be accustomed to a fast-paced world, this type of speed promotes avoidance and glosses over long-lasting growth. As you continue on in your daily life take note of expectations you set toward others and yourself that revolve around haste and expectation for change, and then practice slowing yourself down. Notice how this impacts your mindset (Inner peace? Increasing annoyance? Indifference?) You may not be ready to adopt this as a mindset, nor should this be your go-to approach. Like most themes in life there is a dialectic that exists, and at times we should think ahead and move quickly. Slow down and notice not only how this impacts you, but how you invite the validation and support for those around you when you take notice of where they are in this moment and not where you want them to be.

Temimah Zucker, LCSW, is the assistant clinical director of Monte Nido Manhattan and a national speaker on the subjects of eating disorder awareness, body image and mental health.

Temimah is licensed in both New York and New Jersey and is currently seeing clients virtually. To learn more, visit www.temimah.com.

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