I really love this mantra from the 1960’s, made famous by Dr. Richard Alpert (aka “Ram Daas”).
How important is this ability to live not in the past (over) or the future (not here yet) but fully in the present, right here, right now with ourselves and others?
Having engaged people in therapy for nearly two decades, I’d say it’s the very foundation of health and well-being. From depression to anxiety to trauma, work or relationship stress to child rearing to general problems of all kinds, it’s part of the solution to every issue people bring to therapy.
And this teachable, learnable capacity to be profoundly present in this moment promotes what we could call the habits of highly content people, or, the “8 C’s”:
Speaking of Being Here Now, the fact that you are tells me a few important things. One is that you’ve recognized something is amiss, doesn’t feel right, or isn’t going the way you need in your life.
And so you’re heeding the call to attend to what’s causing you distress. That’s a great start.
Despite this, you might be telling yourself this is just “research,” or that you’re just “feeling it out.” You may even be hoping to find reasons to put off getting started longer. (If this is true you’ll most likely find it!).
All of this is normal.
I’m betting on another thing. You’ve probably made a concerted effort to improve things on your own. Maybe you’ve spoken with a friend or family member, read some self-help, attended a workshop, or just tried your hardest to “think positive,” as many well-intentioned people like to advise.
All of these things, thinking positively included, are important. But there’s a certain point where even our best efforts alone can’t produce the lasting changes we desire. Unwanted feelings resurface, old behaviors and patterns repeat. We’re left feeling defeated and confused as to why.
It may not feel like it, but consider that just contemplating therapy sets an intention to change. Intention is powerful. It’s a conscious, creative force. Nothing happens without intention. So change is already in motion.
Now maybe you’ve tried therapy already. Maybe it helped some, or not so much, but you’re willing to give it a go again. Like many things in life, timing is essential.
And another thing’s for sure:
It can be a little like Goldilocks’ three bowls of porridge; too hot…too cold…just right.
So important is the choice, I’d strongly encourage visiting with a few therapists before deciding. This will give you a great advantage in terms of who and what approach would be best for you.
As you’re considering getting started and who to work with, I wouldn’t expect you to be doing cartwheels at the thought either. It’s pretty rare for anyone to feel overly enthusiastic about it. It’s an unknown, after all.
Like committing to a new health or exercise plan, feelings of excitement and investment, if they’re going to come, tend to arise later. In therapy, that’s usually after the initial anxiety subsides, after you’ve realized you won’t be judged or criticized; and once you start feeling better and seeing yourself, others, and the world a little differently.
People who choose therapy are people who’ve become aware of patterns they very much want to change. And that’s largely what therapy is about– understanding where our patterns came from, what they’re for, and learning how to alter them.
It’s been said that change is inevitable but growth is optional.
So when’s the right time to begin?
An old Chinese proverb says:
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”