Short-term patience (reflex management)

An impatient person is like a barking dog.  The impatience has no master.  Photo by Robert Gramner on Unsplash

One kind of patience is the ability to remain steady in the face of what would otherwise be an unpeaceful reflex response.

For example, when an unpleasant stimulus meets an angry dog, the angry dog barks and bites.  There are three parts to this reaction of the dog.  Actually, there are many more than that, but perhaps, for analysis, they can be divided into three main elements:

  1. The trigger.  This is the stimulus from ‘outside’ a being.
  2. The mood.  This is the latent state ‘inside’ a being.
  3. Control.  This is the degree to which a being can disarm a trigger, and maintain equilibrium.
TRIGGERSYou will be aware of what triggers you.  If you imagine a torturer wanting to upset you very quickly, your triggers are the things that an expert torturer would bring into play, and display to you, in order to upset your equilibrium.

Of course, the universe is not a deliberate torturer.  The stimuli that arrive at your door will seem more random, some positive, some negative.  But it remains true: when you encounter one of your triggers, you tend to be relatively defenceless in the moment.  Triggers can vary, but some common ones are:

  • shocking or scary visual experiences
  • unexpected noises
  • uncomfortable or restrictive physical experiences
  • unpleasant odours, tastes, or other sensations
  • time-pressured or complicated situations
Individuals with severe anxiety or trauma will be extremely sensitive to such triggers from their environment.  They will often react against unpleasant sights, sounds, physical contact, and other sensations, because they instinctively know that their ‘insides’ cannot cope with such things from ‘outside’.MOODS

You will also be aware of your own inner states, or moods.  When in an angry mood, a being is hyper-ready to react to the least provocation.  Often, others are surprised at the strength of the reaction.  But that is because they are not aware of the inner state of the person, the amount of latent energy waiting to be released.

In general, a heightened state of excitement will mean that a being does not need much of a trigger to get going.  ‘What did I say?’ their calm friend will exclaim.  In contrast, when we are in a more peaceful mood, our triggers have less influence over us.

Our moods are in part a natural state of circulation or flux, and in part something we can control.  Our main method of influencing our own moods, is to influence our thought patterns.


There is a little, tiny gap between trigger and mood, between what you experience, and your inner state.  If you miss it, then you are a complete victim of whatever experiences you have, and you have no self-control.  If you can become aware of it, and learn to master it, then you have found the secret to maintaining equilibrium in the moment, and therefore short-term patience.  You can manage your reflexes.


Finally, I’d like to cover roughly how we can make the most of this control gap.  We can operate in three time zones:

  1. Before triggers
  2. During triggers
  3. After triggers
Before triggers, we have plenty of time to prepare ourselves. Meditation is a particularly strong way of preparing ourselves for self-mastery.During triggers, we are dependent on two skills: awareness, and second nature.  Awareness is our ability to see.  It is the bit of us that can observe ourselves about to get angry.  It requires acute inner vision.  Second nature is the part of us that, through practice, has become almost instinctive.  It is the part of a sports person that masters action in the moment.  All the hours of practice pay off.

After triggers, we have a chance to reflect on what went well, and what went badly.  if we have no powers of self-criticism, we will never learn.  But if we can be retrospectively aware of events, and our part in them, then we can cultivate the ability to learn from experience, and our self-mastery will grow.