“The Power of the Pause”

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One of things I remind myself and clients of often is that “Life is hard, and relationships are even harder.” I don’t think that this is literally true, but it sure resonates with people when shared. Life is full of stressors and things that contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, and worry. Some of these stressors include work demands, health issues, loss of a loved one, change or loss in some way, financial challenges, and various work / life challenges. Ok…take a deep belly breath with me…phew. Yes, life is hard.

“Life is hard, and relationships are even harder.”

And relationships are even harder. Why is this? Because each person has their own “stuff” (ways that life’s hardness affects them) and their collective “stuff” (ways that each of their stuff interact with the other person’s stuff). This often contributes to unnecessary conflict and collaborative damage to one or both people involved. I say “unnecessary conflict” because conflict isn’t always something to be avoided at all costs, because it can show signs of what reality actually is. Conflict can also show signs that honest (yet sometimes uncomfortable and painful) communication is still taking place.

Unnecessary conflict may at times be honest, but it’s usually not one or more of the following…kind, thoughtful, kind, gracious, vulnerable, patient, or helpful. My guess is that at least one of these words resonates with you. So, how can we do our part in minimizing unnecessary conflict and the collateral damage that often follows. This is a complicated and challenging aspect of life and relationships and is often “easier said than done”. That said, one simple, yet powerful and profound action is PAUSE.

I’m sure the word “pause” has been made into an acronym or two, but I’m not going that route here. Pausing is powerful because it helps us relate to our inner reality before relating to our outer reality. Our inner reality encompasses our feelings, thinking, and physical reactions to things around us. Pausing helps us relate to ourselves by checking-in. Asking ourselves, what am I feeling, what else am I feeling, what am I thinking, is what I’m thinking true, honest, and kind, what is my body telling me, how’s my heart-rate, tension level…etc. Pausing like this can help us better understand what’s going on inside of us, and then respond first to ourselves with honesty, kindness, and compassion.

“Pausing is powerful because it helps us relate to our inner reality before relating to our outer reality.”

Here’s an example:

Situation: “Here we go again. Wow, why do I want to tear this person’s head off? PAUSE.

How am I doing? “I’m really worn out and exhausted.”

What am I feeling? “I’m feeling overwhelmed because there is so much to do, and I don’t have the energy to do it.”

What else am I feeling? “I’m also feeling dismissed and taken for granted.”

What is my body telling me? “My heart is racing, and my neck and jaw are as tense as a rock.”

What is helpful? “Honey, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and taken for granted and need your support.”

Again, life is hard, and relationships are even harder. This takes time, especially when habitual communication patterns causing unnecessary conflict and collateral damage are present. Choosing to embrace the power of the pause can help us respond to ourselves and others with honesty, kindness, and compassion, rather than react with passive-aggression, defensiveness, or criticism. When we do, we will start to experience improved inner peace, stress levels, and relational satisfaction.

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