The Waiting Game

by Stephanie Schwartz, M.S. 

Daily life involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for the subway, a package to arrive, a response to an email, a paycheck, seamless delivery, a movie that’s coming out soon, etc. Considering the significant amount of time we spend waiting for things we want to happen, it’s interesting to think about the common phrase, “I can’t wait.” While sometimes the phrase is harmless and even may reflect excitement about something to come, it also can lead to dysfunctional feelings. For example, if I’m telling myself “I can’t stand waiting” while waiting for the subway and I’m feeling angry or anxious, it is a frustration intolerance irrational belief. Maybe it’s hot in the station, I’m carrying something heavy, or I’m going to be late. Whatever the exact scenario, my belief that “I can’t stand waiting” reflects intolerance for discomfort. Rather than changing the activating event of waiting, which often is not an option, I can help myself by changing my irrational belief and thus my emotional response. Have I waited many times in the past and survived? Yes. Will continuing to remind myself that I’m hot, sweaty, tired, or going to be late, be helpful? No. It will only make me feel disturbed. Instead, to change my emotional response to that of concern or healthy anger, I could tell myself, “It’s annoying that the subway is delayed and I have to wait. Unfortunately, that’s out of my control and although I wish I didn’t have to, I can tolerate waiting.”

Stephanie Schwartz2

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