Justifying Indulgence

It’s cloudy and cold, but not too cold. It looks like Spring is going to happen. Finally there is mud on the ground. Is it really okay to take time to notice? Can we stop what we are doing for a moment? Sometimes it doesn’t feel justifiable.

Time is the ultimate luxury. It is the resource that has an absolute limit, even if you don’t really know what that limit is. Our own time. The time with people we care about and who care about us. Time to think about what is important to us. Time to decide who we want to be and how we want to live our lives. Time to create quality: quality of experience, quality of work, quality of relationships, quality of recreation. How can we create quality if we do not take time to think about the direction we are headed and if we do not take time to create well?

Some part of the difficulty with understanding long term therapy has to do with the feeling that indulging ourselves is immoral. There is a pull between the part of ourselves that wants to live the best possible life and the part of ourselves that believes in the immorality of self-indulgence. Spending time and money understanding ourselves, understanding what is important to us, understanding how we are creating our own worst obstacles feels unnecessary and wasteful. If we can function, even unhappily, and we can meet our obligations, what right do we have to ask for more out of life? Isn’t life supposed to be difficult? Isn’t work supposed to be unpleasant? Aren’t relationships supposed to be fraught with conflict as well as pleasure? What right do we have to think we deserve more than that?

Still, we are agitated. We cannot quite settle for less than optimal. We have a small itch that demands a response. We try to ignore it. We try to avoid it. We try to distract ourselves with the pleasures we are told to want. It’s still there. We get annoyed, then we get angry. But we cannot get rid of it. We cannot settled down.

For the flowers, the sun and the mud are indulgences that allow them to express their optimal growth. For human beings, it is our capacity for self reflection, our innate need for relationships, and our own undeniable motive toward growth. When we use our most precious resource, our time, to pursue those unique capacities, we satisfy that built-in motive for optimal expression. And when we experience a relationship where the other person is willing to open time for us, focused on our capacities for development, setting aside their own personal agendas and needs, there is a level of nurture and construction that happens beyond the cognitive connection of two thinking, talking people. This is an activity that happens almost outside of our awareness, and that feels as real as the chair we are sitting on. Little by little, in almost imperceptible ways, life gets better, more focused, more purposeful. We become more intimate with our real selves. And because of that, life is a little more worth living.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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