If not now, when - stepping out from the waiting room of our lives
A meaningful life compels us to take compassionate responsibility for ourselves, as we navigate our needs for safety, satisfaction and connection.
Along this path we’ll meet our resistance, a desire for comfort, and come face-to-face with the challenge of suspending this in the service of something more significant. Discomfort awaits us.
As we adventure on, we cycle and flow through the process of understanding, accepting and exploring the experiences our lives unravel for us.
How often do we do the things we don’t want to? When we are left to our own volition. Without a parent, partner, teacher or boss to reward or punish us. From daily chores to life-time dreams and everything in-between. We find ourselves in the waiting room of our life; waiting for someone to take our hand and walk us through.
We feel stuck, helpless, in a web we’ve spun from our past experiences: unmet needs, imperfect parenting, rejections, unthinkable traumas, and eons of years of evolution chasing our complex and often conflicting needs. Our mind takes these experiences, held deep down within the cells of our body, and infuses the dazzling uncertainty of our lives with a Pandora’s Box of wonky stories and scary possibilities.
Sometimes it’s like this, fearful fretting and wild assumptions, sometimes it’s more - meh, I just don’t feel like doing it.
We are the creator of this resistance; we are the resistance. We try to break free of the constraint we’ve constrained ourselves with, only to end up turning against ourselves tangling deeper into the web.
To begin with, we become aware of this. Just notice it.
As we gather our awareness we accept this resistance is our desire to avoid discomfort. Discomfort we feel in the moment, and want to go away, or which we fear will happen in the future. We might experience this as mildly uncomfortable boredom and effort, or through regret, loss, frustration, sadness, guilt, and sometimes the deeply visceral annihilating shame.
It’s okay for those feelings to be there, just as they are.
It’s wanting them to go away that creates the web. It’s the waiting for them to change, finding any way we can not to feel them that keeps us stuck. It’s the difficulty with seeing how an uncomfortable action, now, may change how we feel in the future - for the better.
We are built to want the good feelings immediately, it’s how we’ve evolved to survive; gratify and satisfy me now. This is how it is.
Through this understanding for ourselves, our story, and acceptance of what it means to be human - all of us in this together - a little compassion begins to arise. With this compassion we build our sense of agency and take meaningful action.
We can forget how dissatisfying passivity is, instead focusing our mind on the effort and fears elicited from imagining the difficult change, or the short-term pleasure of following our impulse.
With our agency we feel the resistance, an urge to do nothing, and instead we choose to: clean the dishes, make that phone call, write our essay, talk to that stranger, or end a difficult relationship. Maybe we feel that urge to do something, but we choose not to: scroll through our social media, blame someone for our pain, check an ex’s Instagram, or have that other-other-other glass of wine.
In the potential absence of short-term gain, we can celebrate the action itself. This alone is enough. We keep a watchful eye on clinging to an expectation, whether good or bad and lying outside our control, which feeds into the resistance or sets us up for potential disappointment. If an expectation arises, we acknowledge it, carry out our intention and continue.
The energy it takes to make that first move may be greater than required for those that follow; gathering momentum triggers our motivation.
As we move away from the safety of sticking with how we feel, or imagining how we think we’ll feel, to the expectation-less unknown of potential pain or pleasure, gain or loss, we may experience the fragility of our younger self.
We witness the frightened, idle, angry, hurt little boy or girl, holding ourselves with compassionate responsibility. We continue gently flowing through - understanding, accepting, exploring - understanding, accepting, exploring - along this mystery we call life.
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About Ben Douch
I'm a mindfulness-based psychotherapist with a private practice in east London.
I'm passionate about helping people discover what makes a meaningful life, and developing their sense of self-worth through acceptance and self-compassion.