by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on February 6, 2011

We are inclined to move, to think on our feet, to react, to keep pace with the world around us. We are invited to multi-task, a word that did not join the English dictionary and vocabulary until recently (at least not as related to human activity) to accommodate our cultural need to do. And to do many things at once. The more the better, as proof of our ability to be productive. This in the name of efficiency, but at what cost?

From a psychoanalytic viewpoint this is all wrong. While we can attend to many things at the same time, we cannot engage fully with all of them. From my chair, it is one thing at a time, with full attention to the person, and as many dynamic elements in our interaction as possible, as well as my experience of them. Being conscious, and staying attuned to our thoughts and emotions, as much and as often as possible, helps us engage fully in the world. So that we can be present. Every moment a new opportunity to do so.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist monk with a gift for making difficult issues and emotions understandable and workable, speaks about the need to take a pause in our lives. She has turned the ability to pause into the art of reflection. Chodron counsels us to take a pause often. Particularly when what we want to do is react. Specifically when we are overwhelmed by our emotions. She advocates pausing, stopping and taking a breath. Taking a moment to consider. When we stop, we have the opportunity to consider and reflect. We take notice of ourselves and our reactions, as well as the situation surrounding us. Consciousness and our ability to connect to it, is in the pause. When we pause we have access to our consciousness. When we pause we have choices. When we pause we can choose a direction, we can create a conscious path of action. We can change what we do and what we think.

The psychoanalytic situation is built around the idea of making space and taking time to attend, to listen, to get to know, and to consider our history and the circumstances of our lives. Most of us enter psychotherapy because we are in pain, and we are looking for a way to change. The journey that psychotherapy involves is about self-knowledge and understanding, and about using that knowledge to reconsider our lives and create change. To find new ways of being and experiencing ourselves and the world. Often this involves observing ourselves in interaction with others, and reflecting on our behavior. It involves attending to our emotions and our thoughts. Over time, it is the practice of reflection on our behavior that allows us to change it. A prolonged pause if you will, that gives us time to reconsider who we are and who we want to be. But one need not be in therapy to practice the art of reflection. Pausing before we act or react gives us the opportunity to change direction, to think before acting or speaking, to include what we know and use that knowledge, along with our feelings, to consider the situation anew and perhaps act differently.

When we pause we have the opportunity to attend to the details that often get lost in the big picture. And details are important to all of us. In fact, when we do not attend to the details we run the risk of making mistakes, and worse, of hurting others and ourselves. Pausing allows us to consider the details as well as the overall picture. It is a simple practice that yields big results.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele Beck February 8, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Thanks you Velleda. Your words set me off on a good foot this morning. Always good to remember the sacred pause. It changes everything. Tara Brach speaks very eloquently about this as well.


Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. February 8, 2011 at 10:57 PM

Dear M, thank you for Tara Brach and the link, she is indeed eloquent on this topic!


Gary February 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Love the notion of ‘Pause’ as it allows one to stop all the multi-tasking channels and it puts one in place to have singular focus. When one multi-tasks, often approaches from others feel like interruptions and are treated that way – because we have limited ‘free’ capacity. Pause is a great way to bring focus and enable us to give all of our attention – something that we expect in return.
Good thoughts,


Milena February 7, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Dear Velleda,

you are so right about reacting, in fact, since I started to consciously act instead of react, the results are much more satisfying and I have the feeling that I am evolving instead of repeating history.


Erika February 7, 2011 at 7:52 AM

Right on point. If we learn to pause, to take breath out, to count to ten before reacting, we might find ourselves in a better place.. Not just more aware, more in touch, more successful in life.
Excellent blog!
Keep writing. From your chair and mind you are opening our minds and hearts!!!
Thank you!


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