hillary clinton - impatience 400

IMPATIENCE is one of seven basic character flaws or “dark” personality traits. We all have the potential for impatient tendencies, but in people with a strong fear of missing out, Impatience can become a dominant pattern.

What is impatience?

Impatience is usually defined as:

irritation with anything that causes delay;

a restless desire for change and excitement; [1]

To be impatient is to feel and show hostility towards (or at least about) things which obstruct, frustrate or delay one’s goals. Impatient people resent being held up, whether intentionally by another person or just accidentally in the normal course of events.

Impatience has some similarity to the emotion of anger. Animals and people alike become enraged in response to deliberate outside threats to their well-being, or the well-being of their loved ones. The anger is partly an expression of the fear that comes from being threatened, invaded or mistreated, and partly a sort of warning shot, a firm “No!” to deter the outside threat from going any further.

Impatience is also somewhat different from anger, however, in that the impatient person is predisposed to perceive virtually all situations as threatening—not to their survival per se but to their goals. More exactly, it is as if their survival depends upon the accomplishment of as many goals as possible as quickly as possible.

My impatience

I have impatience as my chief feature, so I can describe it from first hand experience.

My impatience was initially a complete blind spot for me. I did not know how impatient I was until it was pointed out to me. (This is true of chief features generally.) There are various giveaway signs, however: constant jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding, swearing at the slightest frustration, and a proneness to high blood pressure. I once asked around some Michael students who knew their overleaves and found that all those diagnosed with hypertension also had a chief feature of impatience.

The main characteristic of impatience as I experience it, though, is a constant nagging fear of not being able to get enough done before I die.

Components of impatience

Like all chief features, impatience involves the following components:

  1. Early negative experiences
  2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
  5. A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood

Early Negative Experiences

In the case of impatience, the key early negative experiences revolve around being left out of activities. Perhaps the child was never allowed to participate in important events or decisions with the rest of the family. Perhaps the child was never allowed out of the house to have a normal social life like the rest of the kids. Either way, the child was left with a sense of missing out on life.


From persistent experiences of missing out or being left out, the child comes to perceive himself as needing to make up for lost time:

The rest of the world is ahead of me. It’s so unfair. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Life is so short. Time is running out. I have wasted too much time already.

I have to get through every task as quickly as possible. I have no time for distractions, diversions, obstructions, failures.

Anything that slows me down is unacceptable.


Based on the above  misconceptions and early negative experiences, the child becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, the fear is of missing outbeing unable to squeeze the maximum value out of every single second of life, being stuck in the present moment’s activity when the most important thing in life lies in the future, being unable to do all that needs doing before death strikes.


The basic strategy for coping with this fear of missing out is to constantly resist spending time in the present and to virtually force one’s way into the future. Typically this involves:

  • rushing through activities as quickly as possible, and rushing from one activity to the next;
  • seeing others as either a help or a hindrance, and pushing hindering people out of the way;
  • not tolerating slowness, delay or failure, either in others, in oneself or in life itself;
  • being constantly prepared to go on the offensive, clenched and tensed up, ready to push ahead and punch a hole through any obstruction;
  • reacting aggressively to any perceived hold-up.

The impatient child decides that he has to make the most of every remaining moment. Any opportunity to achieve his goals must be fully exploited. A single wasted moment is like another nail in his coffin.


Emerging into adulthood, the individual does not want go around being overtly afraid and insecure about running out of time before meeting death. Instead, he pretends—or rationalises—that his restlessness and hostility have nothing to do with him. It’s just that he has some very important work to do and other people keep getting in the way.

Hence the chief feature of impatience puts on a mask which says to the world, “It’s not me. It’s just that what I am doing right now is extremely important and urgent. And the thing I am doing next is even more important and urgent. So either help me out right now or **** off.”

All people are capable of this kind of behaviour. When it dominates the personality, however, one is said to have a chief feature of impatience.

Positive and Negative Poles

In the case of impatience, the positive pole is termed AUDACITY and the negative pole is termed INTOLERANCE.

Impatience poles

Audacity is a willingness to take risks, to leap in where others fear to tread, ideally without causing any harm.

Intolerance, of course, is the absolute unwillingness to accept or endure any distraction, interference, obstruction or delay, no matter who or what the source. This can lead to angry outbursts and destructive behaviour.


Any source of delay or obstruction is unacceptable. Inanimate objects can be just as infuriating as as, say, incompetent road users or tardy school children. A car that won’t start first time is experienced as much an imminent threat as a burglar in the bedroom. Life itself can be regarded as a constant, unyielding obstacle.

Impatience is a key factor in what used to be known as the Type A personality. Typically these are highly competitive personalities (characteristic of young souls with a goal of dominance) as well as impatient. They are set up to be frustrated in their constant desire to achieve as much as possible now. It used to be believed that all highly driven people were prone to coronary heart disease. It is now thought that it is not the competitiveness or striving per se that foster heart disease but the level of hostility. This could be from a chief feature of impatience or a mode of aggression, or both.

Handling Impatience

As with every chief feature, the key is becoming conscious of how impatience operates in oneself. If you have impatience, you can begin by observing the persona in action:

  • Do I exaggerate the importance and urgency of my activities?
  • Do I see other people as either a help or a hindrance? Do I push and shove unhelpful others out of the way?

Try to catch yourself in the act of putting on your “I must quickly do something important” mask.

Then dig deeper:

  • Why must I get everything done now?
  • Why do I keep rushing to get to the next moment, the next activity?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What do I fear would happen if I never got everything done and out of the way?

Approaching the deepest level you may need outside help in the form of a counsellor, therapist or at least a close friend:

  • Where does this fear of missing out come from?
  • How was I hurt?
  • Can I let it go?

Insight in itself will not remove the impatience. By the time you reached adulthood, the neural pathways underlying your chief feature were pretty well established in the brain. Nevertheless, the brain is plastic, malleable, reconfigurable. Just as you can become more aware of impatience through self-observation and self-enquiry, so too you can gain more control over it through using that awareness and by exercising choice in the moment.

  • Whenever I feel like punching life out of the way, I will now be more willing to accept the limitations of time.
  • I will be more willing to let my goals slide.  I will never get it all done before I die anyway.

Another way to handle a chief feature is to “slide” to the positive pole of its opposite. In the case of impatience, if you feel yourself getting caught in the grip of intolerance, the negative pole of impatience, you can re-balance yourself using the positive pole of martyrdom, namely selflessness. In other words, you focus attention on what someone else is seeking or trying to do, and you do something to help them even though there is no personal gain to be had. Spending time acting selflessly is a way to short-circuit the fear of missing out.

[1] wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Further Reading

TYDFor an excellent book abut the chief features and how to handle them, see Transforming Your Dragons by José Stevens.

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60 Responses to “Impatience”

  1. 1 Mesh 28 Jun 2014 at 10:23 am

    This is very enlightening and very helpful. =)

  2. 2 Katy 27 Aug 2014 at 1:40 am

    I get like this, but I feel like I can be all or nothing. I have a hard time just being average I guess. It’s either I’m good or I suck. I feel like I was held back socially a bit as a kid as I was always at dance class and I didn’t do a lot of things that most kids were doing. I kind of became introverted as I grew older. I’m in another waiting point in my life and it’s driving me nuts!!! lol I’m pretty sure this, if not my main one, is one of my flaws.

    • 3 barry 27 Aug 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Hi Katy

      Here’s a thought that occurs to me (though I could be way off target, in which case feel free to ignore!)

      “Hard time being average, either I’m good or I suck” — that sounds like Arrogance (which hates being seen as merely average), and also sounds like when you can’t be seen as better than average then you swing to Self-deprecation. In other words, swinging from “I’m the best” to “I’m the worst” — for the ego, comparing itself to others, both are attractive positions. Telling yourself you’re the worst is almost as good as being the best, since it preempts others’ negative judgements. Both are generalisations. Instead of just recognising “I am good at this, but not so good at that thing,” we generalise from single outcomes to make an entire judgement about our character — “I am the best” or “I am the worst”.

      Any resonance?


  3. 4 Raj 08 Sep 2014 at 2:29 am

    Hi Barry,

    I feel like the one in the article/blog. Until few months ago I had a lot of impatience due to this feeling and it was resulting in not so polite/impatience conversations with my family and friends. The change in my work location and nature helped me get some free time which helped me reduce some of the stress and in turn reduce some of the impatience during day to day activities. But i have recently started feeling again that I am not growing in my career, not doing enough work as much as I used to do etc. sometimes feel like going for some higher studies to catchup on what I have lost in last few years of no growth. But impatience keep pushing be between above thought vs improving self performance at current job which otherwise I don’t want to continue for a long time. Not able to give genuine focus/time to family as I always feel like first catching up in my career( in turn more money, respect etc ).

    Please share your comments.

    Thx – Raj

  4. 5 sayantan 27 Sep 2014 at 5:30 pm

    its interesting.

  5. 6 Ann Sandra Stewart 17 Oct 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Hi, I have always lived at a full pace. I can achieve a great deal in a day and I actually love it. I get sooooooooo frustrated when people are indecisive, or slow in completing given tasks. My motto is ‘blink and you miss me”. My impatience has caused me to achieve a lot more personal goals in my short life. Many around me want my lifestyle, but, no one wants my life. Oddly, commitment and following through tasks takes a great deal of inner self-motivation. When I was about two and a half years old, I became seriously ill. I nearly died. I do not know if this is innately the driving force to my life and the pace I live it at. I had a “self-less loving mother”, who embraced the world as well as us 5 children. Perhaps she has subconsciously influenced me. I am happy and am glad I am like this and see impatience more of a character asset than a flaw.

    • 7 barry 18 Oct 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Ann,

      Most of what you describe matches either

      (1) the positive pole of IMPATIENCE
      (2) the positive pole of AGGRESSION mode
      (3) the “KING” archetype, or role-in-essence

      All of the above facets of character share a similar quality of “commanding action”, and I don’t know which one (or more) is the case for you, but maybe you can figure it out for yourself from the following:

      All character flaws including impatience stem originally from fear. Impatience is rooted in a fear of missing out, or running out of time, causing an unconscious need to do everything as quickly as possible. When the fear is all-consuming, impatience manifests as INTOLERANCE, an angry frustration with others who slow up your need to act as quickly as possible. Any fear can be overcome with self-awareness and intent, however, and in the case of impatience the fear can be transformed into AUDACITY, which is literally fearless bold action or intrepid daring, doing life quickly without any anxiety behind it.

      Our “mode” is how we, as individuals, focus our innate energy into deliberate action. All modes, including aggression, are rooted in pure energy. The mode of aggression isn’t about violence by the way; its about our natural ability to act in a “strong, hard and fast” style. The most positive manifestation of aggression is DYNAMISM – think of an emergency medical team trying to resuscitate a dying patient: no time to waste, just DO it! The negative side is BELLIGERENCE, which resembles impatience – a heated frustration with others who aren’t as fast as you.

      The King archetype is one of seven essential character types (each of us embodies one, with traces of the others as secondary influences). The King type is naturally commanding, masterful and extremely competent. What a King type often lacks, however, is empathy for others’ lack of confidence or competence. A King type has to understand that others are different in that they don’t share his or her natural MASTERY. When a King type lacks such empathy, however, he or she will manifest TYRANNY — just do as I say!

      So, impatience OR aggression OR the King essence could be at work here. I noticed is your frustration with others who don’t share your speed and decisiveness. That may be a clue as to exactly what is driving your living at full pace.

      Hope that makes sense


  6. 8 Susan 04 Nov 2014 at 10:44 am

    Hi Barry
    I’m starting to understand that I too have the three traits, impatience, aggression and the King ‘thing’… I don’t know how I got here, but now it is starting to manifest as tyranny! Is it a hormonal thing too, coming more strongly with age? (I’m 42)

    • 9 barry 05 Nov 2014 at 9:16 am

      Hi Susan,

      Assuming you’ve read the above comment & response, here are a few other things to consider:

      A King is a natural leader without even trying. People just automatically turn to them, trusting them to make decisions and take responsibility (think of Fred in Scooby-Doo: “Shaggy, you investigate over there with Scooby while Velma and I look for Daphne”). Kings enjoy feeling in command of their life, though that doesn’t necessarily mean being the boss; it just means knowing how it everything works and how to pull strings as needed. Doing this mindfully and appropriately, a King demonstrates mastery; doing it mindlessly and inappropriately, it comes out as tyranny (just expecting others to do your bidding, like puppets).

      The key difference between negatively-expressed aggression and impatience is that with impatience there is a look of terror or panic in the eyes. Impatience stems from irrational fear; belligerence stems from mindless use of force.

      You haven’t mentioned the goal of dominance, which is another possibility as it’s the Cardinal Action goal. A person with a goal of dominance SEEKS to be in charge as often as possible. It’s their desire in life to run something, or to have a position of power. (Note: in many societies it is common – especially in late childhood or adolescence — to imagine that dominance is the only goal worth having, as the means to succeed in life. So a lot of young people set out seeking power, or at least set out to look like they are in charge, but those who don’t have dominance as their goal will soon run into inner conflict.)

      So, all of these traits are in the same ball-park but there are key differences in where they are coming from and how they can manifest. I hope this helps you see what’s what for you a bit more clearly!


      • 10 barry 05 Nov 2014 at 9:37 am

        Hi again

        Sorry, I just spotted that you referred to your age and asked about that.

        It is very likely that you are wading through the mid-life transition.

        There are seven key transitions in life :
        1. Physical birth
        2. Age 2-ish: ego formation, the start of childhood
        3. Age 15-20-ish: leaving the nest, embarking into independent adulthood, though still led by ego
        4. Age 35-45-ish: mid-life, self-questioning, overcoming ego and childhood concerns. If successful, happily entering maturity with a sense of true purpose.
        5. Age 60-70-ish: self-review (“am I done yet?”). If successful, leading to completion, fulfilment and retirement.
        6. Awareness of undergoing death. If successful, peaceful acceptance of it.
        7. Physical death.

        Believe it or not, the 4th is usually the hardest, psychologically. We may start to question everything we have come to believe and value; we may have to let go of false notions, old habits, superficial behaviour patterns, while at the same time not quite knowing what are true notions, good habits and meaningful behaviours. It’s a time of searching inwardly for a sense of our unique meaning and purpose.

        It doesn’t usually come in a single “aha” moment, but gradually comes into view like a distant oasis in the desert. I struggled for a few years in a state of “crisis” that seemed to have no basis in life: outwardly everything was fine, but inwardly I just felt like I wasn’t being fully me. Realising that it was this transition affecting me, I actually locked myself in a room one day and decided to focus on my innermost and truest sense of purpose in life, to see if I could dredge it up from my unconscious and make it a clear “mission statement”. It worked — took about 45 minutes. Take a notepad with you if you want to do the same. I started by writing “What am I here to do?” At first I wrote down the ideas that I was already conscious of, but then allowed myself to go beyond them into the feelings and visions that I wasn’t so conscious of. For example, what if I knew I were going to die in a year’s time? What would I have to do in my remaining time in order to get to my death bed feeling satisfied that I had found, experienced, expressed and offered the best of me?

        It took a while to find the right words that felt perfect, but here they are:

        “To find something I deem really worth saying, and then to say it beautifully.”

        Your unique purpose or sense of fulfilment, whatever it is, will involve using your innate skills in a way that (a) benefits others, and (b) pleases you.

        Once we get a sense of it and start moving towards it, we also drop any baggage that we no longer need. This can be very difficult in some circumstances – an example would be the person who has to leave her domineering husband in order to find herself as an artist, even though it will affect her children.

  7. 11 marlee 08 Nov 2014 at 4:55 pm

    who is the author of this ? Who made this theory? I am trying to reference this site but all I see is Barry.

  8. 12 Destiny 14 Nov 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Okay so how exactly is this supposed to well make you patient?

    • 13 Susan 14 Nov 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Destiny, it’s like a force inside that impacts on my behaviour. It usually manifests for me in poor communication, and rushing things. My daughter manages me well, and sometimes says ‘don’t rush me mummy’ :).

  9. 14 Amanda Hamilton 16 Dec 2014 at 12:36 am

    Patience with your children, partner, friends and family is a must. Communicating is key. I find when I am impatient with my kids there are outside things that are influencing my reaction. Take a breath, step back and evaluate what is really making you react so negatively. It may not be the person at all yet feelings of frustration you have within yourself at that moment.

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