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How to slow down

Is your life too busy?

When describing their daily life, I often hear people use the word “Hectic.”

Most people seem completely exhausted before they even get to the starting line. That’s more the norm than the exception, it seems. For me, as I reflect on my own life each and every year, I am forced engage with this single profound question: “Why should we be still?”

I mean, why not just go flat out until we drop?

The answers are obvious: life is about balance, it’s healthy (mentally and physically) to take time out and rest, and your blood pressure can’t cope with the constant chaotic cadence with which life moves.

And yet, on the other side of the discussion, it’s almost counter-cultural. To properly exist in and with the world around you requires that you keep up, constantly engage, and live at a pace that is pretty much, well… suicidal.

If your life is different and you disagree, please stop reading right now and comment below. (Yes, my hippie friends who live out in the sticks and smoke stuff to cope with the boredom, I presume.)

My hunch, however, is that most of the world feels this way inclined: we intuitively know that we are not designed to live as fast as we are currently living… no matter what we do or where we are.

So the question is not “when”, but “how” should do we slow down? How do we stop the train? How do we exist in a relentlessly fast-paced world that takes no prisoners and says it’s all about survival of the fittest?

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this stuff, as my wife will tell you. My diary is the stuff of nutcases from year to year. But I would like to offer one thought about how I cope.

Recently a friend of mine, a psychologist, came to talk to a team of teachers I work with on the importance of “mentalization”. In the context of dealing with young children, he explained that the ability to think about one’s own thought process really depends – largely – on primary caregivers. What’s further interesting, is that this particular way of mentalizing and reflecting on one’s own thoughts and emotions and actions extends into adulthood. In essence, we need each other.

For example, your son or daughter takes a spade and smacks the dog with it. The dog growls and gives the child a ‘warning’ nip on the arm. Besides the inconvenience of tetanus injections and doctor visits, there’s the added anxiety or fear any parent feels in response to this series of events. “Why did you do that???” you ask. “Do you not know that you can’t hurt animals like that??”

“BUT FIDO DIDN’T WANT TO LISTEN TO ME!” your frustrated, exasperated child yells back at you.

“Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice!” you assert, trying to reinforcing your dominance and control.

Mentalizing is hindered drastically by heightened emotions. So the ability to suppress one’s own anxiety, speak calmly and help your child form a pattern of reason and thinking is what is required here. Rather:

“My darling, maybe Fido didn’t understand you at first, which is perhaps why he didn’t listen. But if you do that to him, we will feel threatened and scared, and he will react. That’s why he bit you.”

Your child, on hearing this, is able to start reflecting on their own initial thought patterns and actions, when it’s communicated in a caring, calm and loving way.

The same is true of adults. Often those that are in need of love the most ask for it in the most unloving ways. And yet, any opportunity to relate one’s experience to someone else who extends grace, care and love in response, is perhaps one of the powerful things to help us cope in this crazy world.

This isn’t surprising. The concept is Biblical, according to Galations 6:2. Hence it is so important to surround ourselves with caring people to talk about the deeper parts of our thought processes is. It is those people who will help us gain perspective on whether in fact we are too busy… or whether we’re just being wimps and need to man up.

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