It’s Frustrating, But You Can’t Rush Your Feelings — and Trying To Can Make Everything Worse

a yellow flower bud that hasn't opened yet
Image by Carl Mueller / CC BY

I’m currently prepping for a move from Ohio to Texas. There’s a lot to be done logistically since I have had to prepare my house here for sale — and as quickly as possible.

A lot of friends were really surprised by what I did first. They presumed the very first thing I’d do is pack up the house.

But that didn’t happen right away.

And instead, I focused on a few other things before that. The first of these was gardening/landscaping. I mulched all of our garden beds. “Weeded and cleared out a space to put in flowers to add to curb appeal.” Spread seed on any bare spots in the lawn where grass wasn’t growing, watering the baby seed especially on drier mornings to give it a fighting chance.

At the same time, we obtained a new cat carrier for the drive down from Ohio to Texas. A fabric one, reminiscent of the clothes hampers Ratface (one of our two cats) likes to play in. But big enough so that they both can sit in it.

I put it out in our living room. Laced it with catnip.

Both cats have spent some time in there, and Ratface practically lives in it.

There Are Some Things You Can Rush and Others You Can’t

It seemed kind of weird to some of our friends that we were throwing energy into both of these things first. But there was a very deliberate reason for this order — and it wasn’t procrastination.

It’s because you can’t rush how fast plants grow. And you can’t rush how fast cats adjust to unfamiliar things.

You can rush the hell out of packing. Believe me. I’ve done it in the past. And if pressed, I could pack our entire house in two 16-hour work days (especially if I did literally nothing else).

But you can’t make plants grow faster. And you certainly can’t rush a cat. They do their own thing.

I’ve Been Much Worse at Judging Whether Something Can Be Rushed Or Not When Dealing with Humans

I’ve noticed I tend to have a decent sense when it comes to what you can rush and what you can’t — well, most of the time anyway. I’m good at sorting out the difference when it comes to tasks, and when it comes to living things that aren’t humans, like plants and cats.

But when it comes to other people, I have a history of being terrible at judging whether something can be rushed or not. And instead, I tended to default to a double standard, that goes a little something like this:

  • Other people can’t be rushed in any way, shape, or form.
  • I can be rushed. All of me: My behaviors, sure, but also my emotions and how quickly I adjust to things.

Interestingly, both of these assumptions can be true — but only sometimes and in specific cases. The trouble comes when you universally apply them. Because then you’re wrong a great deal of the time.

The first assumption caused a lot of problems when I was adjusting to managing a training department at a psychological consulting firm. It was a position that required a lot of project management — and let me tell you… a tendency to default to the belief that other people can’t be rushed… well, as a project manager, it didn’t do me any favors.

I was burned more than once before I learned how to appropriately push back on time frames. How to check in and make sure things weren’t lost to followup without feeling rude in the process. And even how to sometimes apply pressure to get something done faster (typically preferring logistical/practical pressure over emotional pressure, but finding both to have their place).

Rushing My Own Emotional Process Never Worked — and Usually Made Things Worse

And the second assumption didn’t do me any favors either.

I found that while I could be extremely patient with other people, knew that in the face of large changes that they’d need time for their emotional reality to adjust — and occasionally to grieve — when it came to my own emotions, I was incredibly impatient.

I expected to just bounce back from horrible things. And in my rush, sometimes I’d shove down sadness and negative feelings, only to have them erupt horribly later, like an overpacked storage bin that explodes when being loaded into a moving truck, spraying all of your belongings on the ground.

And when that happened, I’d double down on self-frustration, berating myself for my past foolishness, setting up a cycle where I was constantly being negative.

How I Put a Stop to this Double Standard

How did I get out of this? Well, learning how to have more of two things in my life really helped me:

  1. Self-compassion. Extending the same patience and kindness to myself, especially when I mess up, that I would offer a friend. I’ve written a bit more about self-compassion in this post, how to work on this (that article has a link to some exercises you can do to increase it as well as research that explains why it’s a good idea to build it up).
  2. Mindfulness. Accepting the way I’m feeling at any given moment without wishing it were different. I’ve written about mindfulness many times on this blog (in all of these articles). There’s even an entire chapter in my third book, Dealing with Difficult Metamours, devoted to mindfulness that includes multiple exercises that can help you cultivate it.

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My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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