Sitting down with my good friend F in a cafe during lunch break, she had nothing but complains, ruining our thought-to-be friendly chit-chat over lunch. She had just gotten a new job, which invariably means we had less time to spend together like we previously did. But being the ever listening friend, I sympathised with her. F couldn’t stop talk about the things going on in her life and complaints about the life/work imbalance that she was suddenly plunged into. “Watching the minutes tick by always makes me feel anxious,” she said. “I feel like I’m wasting time. I never walk, I run. I never eat, I wolf food down.” At this point, I traced my eyes to her burger and looked at mine, we both laugh. I had not noticed the side of her before; the ferocious grubber. I let her continue, feeling like an expensive shrink. “I know that by hurrying everyone along – especially my children – I stress them out,” she continues. “I don’t make the most of being with them because I’m always aware of what we need to get done and how little time there is in which to do it.”
The constant demands on us to do nothing to help. People always want something from us, and the things we want, we want straightaway. You can find your ideal partner in seven minutes, or fly to London in less than six hours. The stimuli of the modern world, always promising more and better, are difficult to resist. We don’t really prize slowness. We live in a world that values action. Those who live at a gentler pace are often seen as lazy. The more we do, the better a person we think we are. People in a permanent rush are trying to repair low self-esteem. By letting our tasks multiply, we are looking for some recognition from others that we would never give ourselves. We fill our time to build our self-esteem.
People are often in a rush because they choose to take on too much. At the root of this is a fear of inner emptiness. They don’t know how to develop their inner self so, subconsciously, they fill any extra time with activities. Being bored makes them feel empty, which leads to a sense of worthlessness. It’s because they cram so much into their day that they are often rushing and late.
“Obtaining the object of desire is the prime motivation,” explains psychoanalyst Pascal Neveu. And the “object” according to Freud, is anything other than oneself. It might be a material object, a person, a place, or the ideal image of oneself. If they don’t hurry, the object of desire could escape. Their goal is to reassure themselves by fulfilling their desires. They might get instant gratification, but that contentment is illusory and fleeting, since soon there will be a new desire to fulfil.
“Speeding through life results in emotional insecurities,” says therapist Pierre-Yves Goriaux. “Children who are confident in their abilities will be in touch with their desires and know they can be fulfilled calmly.” They take pride in their tastes, are self-assured and aren’t afraid that they are wasting time. “But insecure children, whose parents haven’t been instilled with enough self-confidence and who haven’t learned confidence from their peers, want to fulfil their desires immediately,” he says. “Those children will have difficulty with self-control.”
Let’s take hunger for example. If we are sure of being fed and that the food will be good for us, we will be in no hurry. If, on the other hand, we doubt that we will be fed, we gobble down any morsel of food we get, like my friend F. Don’t let the ends become more important than the means.
Peace of mind over everything.
Joseph E. Parker is a project manager for an NGO in Nigeria. He lives in Benin-City.
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