Learning to Stop (reprint)

In life, most of us already know how to go Go GO!

What we’re not so good at is learning how to STOP.

From our earliest childhood days most of us were taught to do all of the things that needed to be done at home or that were assigned to us at school (or not.)

We then proceeded through grade school, perhaps some sort of college, vocational, or graduate school, then, finally, off into the work force.

By now many of us are also married, some with children, and we have other obligations such as bills, various professional and social commitments, etc.

Let the frenetic multitasking begin.

We know how to do this; we have been trained for it.

But ask yourself this question:

Am I comfortable with being still? In other words, do I know how to Stop?

And this includes your thoughts as well.

In this age of such ‘popular’ diagnoses as ADD, ADHD, and Adult ADD, among others, we really need to take a step back and reassess how we pace ourselves in our lives and how we “conduct” our days.

There is an actual skill that is needed here, and we need to talk about this skill.

I call it “Stopping”, as part of my REALADULTS mnemonic (it’s the “S” in REALADULTS), which is designed to give you and to help you remember the ten most important Adult Emotional Competency skills (my prior post called “REALADULTS” lists and explains all ten of them.)

When the maestro does his job with the orchestra, he or she not only guides the musicians as to when and how to play the notes, but also when to Stop. We need to become better maestros of our days.

In fact, the concept of Stopping is a universal and elegant part of nature which we can observe in both the animal and plant kingdoms, as well as with weather systems, the seasons, and in both geological and anthropological history, and even in the microbial evolution of infectious diseases.

In all, we humans are some of the most inexperienced creatures (or systems) when it comes to knowing how to pace ourselves, which includes knowing how to Stop.

We are so driven by our subconscious pain and conflicts that often our only way to feel in control is to keep on going.

This gets passed down to our children (as it probably got passed down to us), and then they too grow up not understanding or practicing the skill of Stopping.

The problem many of have with Stopping is that it makes us uncomfortable.

When we Stop, our thoughts come back to us. The momentary cessation of activity creates a vacuum which is immediately filled with our subconscious (and sometimes conscious) conflicts, anxieties, worries, fears, resentments, rage, despair, helplessness, shame, etc.

Our usual, and quickest solution to this barrage of pain is to what?

You got it– to keep going!

We need to know that there is value in Stopping long enough to feel some of this pain.

One of the valuable things about Stopping is that we learn that our pain is, ultimately, limited in nature, and that  pain alone won’t kill us or make come to fruition all of our worst nightmares.

Of course, what we do with our UNACKNOWLEDGED pain in order to avoid it (like never Stopping), can, in fact do these things to us.

But as long as we learn to Stop long enough to FEEL what we are constantly running away from, we might actually get a chance to experience real joy at the other end.

In my first book, Cobwebs And Ugly Wallpaper, I talk about “Running and Searching”.

What I mean by this is that we humans are constantly looking for the next great thing: the next cure for life, the next novelty, the next stimulation, the next thrill, the next guru or shaman, the next inspiration that is not ourselves.

It’s like that song from Huey Lewis And The News:

“I want a new drug
One that won’t make me sick
One that won’ make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

I want a new drug
One that won’t hurt my head
One that won’t make my mouth too dry
Or make my eyes too red

I want a new drug
One that won’t go away
One that won’t keep me up all night
One that won’t make me sleep all day

I want a new drug
One that does what it should
One that won’t make me feel too bad
One that won’t make me feel too good”
There is no cure for life.

Life is, in part, painful. Stopping lets us acknowledge what it is that we are feeling; what it is that we’re running from or to.

All of our running and searching, which is what we do when we’re not Stopping, uses up our limited Vital Life Energy which is our time on earth plus our limited energy.

We need to teach ourselves how to be still for a minute or two at a time. I like to use the seconds hand on my old watch to sit and Stop while it makes a full rotation (or two or three…), while I remain still.

And we also need to teach our children that it’s okay to Stop and sit with THEIR emotions too.

Our children too are under a constant barrage of external stimulation, including video games, computers, cell phones, television, and movies, among other things.

How many of us sit with our kids and just “hang out” and talk in a free-form, open-ended way on a regular or even semi-regular basis?

Most of our lives are run by those same demands and agendas which, while useful and necessary to provided a degree of structure to our lives, also help to perpetuate our dependency upon external cues to tell us how to feel and what to do next.


Let’s work on finding our way back to our Selves and let’s help our children not lose their own Selves in the first place.

Let’s learn how to Stop.

Best to you and yours,

Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.




2 thoughts on “Learning to Stop (reprint)

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