Bill O'Brien, LCSW

Therapy for Adolescents and Adults

A First Step on the Path Toward Loving-Kindness


Welcome to my first-ever blog post on my first-ever website. Perhaps you’re my first reader. There’s something very exciting about that for me, to imagine you here. Whatever has brought you, welcome! It’s a privilege to have you.

Of course now I have to think of something to say, now that you’re here. How to begin? I’ve been trying for a few weeks to settle on a topic. It’s become harder and harder with each passing day. I think this is because the blog post in my head, and not yet on the page—the “imagined blog post,” if you will—is very, very impressive. In fact, it’s downright profound. The actual post…well, there is no actual post, not yet.

This gap between an imagined reality and the actual situation on the ground, or on the page, has resulted in a paralysis of sorts. How I can live up to the lofty standard in my head? It’s been tempting to just give up on the idea of having a blog entirely. Do I really need one?

Of course I do, partly because it would be deeply unsatisfying, almost existentially so, to abandon this goal I set for myself. Perhaps you have felt the guilt associated with putting off what seems difficult in favor of what seems easy—with “easy” being, in this case, doing nothing, or maintaining the status quo, or, we might say, maintaining the ego. But of course it’s not “easy” at all in the long run. It hurts.

Ultimately, we have to face facts and “just do it,” the longtime Nike slogan—just dive in, just change careers, just get sober, just pay attention to our health, just pay our taxes, just write our blog posts, just do it.

But not just yet. I’m not going to tell you to “just do it,” at least not today. I’m first going to ask you to take a look at the conflict without trying to resolve it. Just have a look. Is it possible to see this duel between fantasy and reality, safety and risk, ground and groundlessness, as an opportunity to do something different?

Let’s look at the conflict more closely. It seems to develop because the task at hand brings up uncomfortable feelings. For example, this blog post seems to have induced a fear of failure in me. What if it’s not good enough? And maybe it even goes beyond that. What if I’m not good enough?

It’s not a life or death situation, but the feelings are charged enough to make me want to procrastinate. In fact, it goes beyond procrastination to the point of making up stories in my head in which everything turns out ok. The blog is wonderful and so am I! Note that this is not exactly positive thinking, which would be to think the blog will turn out ok. This is magical thinking, aka, fantasy.

The other response I had—before making up comforting stories—was a bit more aggressive. I basically beat the uncomfortable feelings down with a stick, berating myself for not being able to accomplish this simple task. It’s just a blog post, after all. What’s the big deal?

Maybe this kind of aggression sounds familiar to you. If you are a sensitive person, you’ve probably heard What’s the big deal?, or some version of it, quite a bit in your life—so much so that now you say it to yourself. What’s the big deal? Why are you so sensitive? Get over it!

So here’s what we’re working toward: loving-kindness toward the self and then loving-kindness toward others. That’s the adventure were on.

It’s quite a project to develop new responses to uncomfortable feelings. It doesn’t happen in one day or one therapy session or one blog post. For today, then, you might take a seemingly modest but often quite challenging first step along the path toward loving-kindness: Allow the feelings to arise, whatever they may be. That’s it. Give them space. Don’t turn your back on them. Don’t yell at them. They’re going to be there, one way or another, so you might as well say hello.

And with that I will leave you for now. Again, welcome and thanks again for visiting. Till next time.

Bill


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