If you read, then re-read this blog title, wondering whether you had read it correctly, you’re not alone. Don’t just do something, sit there is of course a twist on the familiar, parental-sounding-command: ‘don’t just sit there, do something!’ which, adults have used for years to motivate children and teenagers into action.
It’s a familiar and well-known phrase to many, however, can easily disturb the identity of the listener if overused or distorted before being internalised, resulting in some children growing up as workaholics (in extreme cases) or at least an inability to slow down, rest or be able to identify and attend to their mental, emotional, spiritual or physical needs.
Too much doing can diminish the authentic self, pushing us to adopt the belief that ‘doing something’ is always better than ‘doing no-thing’.
Of course, we all know this is completely untrue. Living a good life involves knowing when to toil and when to rest. And the word ‘knowing’ is key here. This short story, which I read earlier in the week highlights the importance of that ability to know only too well. Doing something – anything – is definitely not always necessary or even required. Indeed, on occasion, it can be counter-productive or even dangerous.
Sometimes, over-working and continually ‘doing’ can also point to emotional abuse from the past as early, traumatic experiences play out in similar patterns during adulthood. We may believe that we’re lazy if we’re not always busy doing something. Or perhaps crave constant approval for our achievements as we try to prove over and over again that we’re not the identity we were ‘given’ in our early years, despite our inner-critic saying otherwise. The need to compulsively overachieve or ‘keep going’ in order to feel okay eventually pushes us to breaking point.
Keeping busy may be a compulsive obsession to maintain the childhood identity we ‘swallowed whole’ in those formative years or a rebellion against those early experiences, which we unconsciously try to reject and deny, as we act them out in various ways as adults. Without realising it, we can still be very much attached to the words and energy directed at us in those early years, until we take a look at what we’re up to on a daily basis and simply evaluate how our feelings and behaviour measure up against what we say we really want for ourselves and our lives.
Of course, early traumatic experiences can lead to many other symptoms, including under-earning, under-achieving or avoidance of any action at all, which presents a completely different set of difficulties to overcome. Sitting there might not be the best solution in these circumstances. Sitting there too much might have been the problem in itself. Yet, just being busy but not making the most of our talents can also point back to unconscious trauma, pain in our past or unhealthy relationship patterns. All this can hide in plain sight during our everyday lives, until we dare to take a look.
However, staying with the title of this blog, if over-doing is the challenge, doing less and consciously sitting there in awareness of ourselves instead; our thoughts, feelings and body, can gently allow us to begin to peel back layers of knowing. We may start to notice how tired we feel, how we sabotage our best efforts to create our authentic life or emotions that are bubbling up. It’s is a great way to start on our road to recovery.
Giving ourselves permission to deliberately rest from our daily tasks can empower us toward change. Our higher self is grateful to us for starting to pay attention.
Enough is Enough
Have you ever met anyone who believes they are enough? Almost everyone I coach, those who enter into counselling or therapy and probably most people on the planet have at least some sense of not doing or being enough at some point in their lives, if not passively lurking in the back of their minds all of the time.
If we have been pushed to do more and more or still believe we should, ought or must do even more than we’re already doing, then, eventually, whatever we do may never feel good enough, which of course, can later translate into “I’m not good enough.”
Perhaps an occasional ‘don’t just sit there, do something!’ phrase is fine if we’re perpetually lolling about for much of our life and days, or we’re stuck in deep procrastination and just want to get ourselves moving. Yet it’s helpful too, to discern whether we ourselves, or the speaker (if it’s someone else directing these words at us) is using these words to shame us or whip us into action – any action – on the back of their own resentments.
“Look at me, all busy doing this and that and look at you, just sitting there!” kinda thing…
Perhaps they could be envious at your ability to just sit there and be with yourself? Or maybe they feel angry at their own compulsive ‘having to’ as they’re busy doing the things they don’t want to do, but cannot find a way to stop?
That’s why it’s often very helpful to pause frequently and look inside ourselves; to ask what our true intentions are when we’re doing something; when we’re doing anything. As we start looking compassionately at ourselves and our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, these observations can uncover patterns, which, if we genuinely try to understand their purpose and motivations without judgement, reveal insights into what might be really going on for us, despite outward appearances or inward convincing that we should be happy because we have x, y or z.
Slowing down or just stopping and sitting there to notice how we feel is happening in our mind and body – even if momentarily – is a good first step towards meeting ourselves where we are.
Resist the Persist
I’m sure everyone reading this has direct experience of how resistance shows up as one clear output when we’re in the business of pushing ourselves or others to ‘do more’. And we all know and recognise that feeling of being pushed or coerced into something that doesn’t feel quite right for us or we just don’t want to do (reflect back to your own teenage years!). If you’re a small business owner and have been on the end of a pushy salesperson, you’ll also know exactly what I mean!
A reactive, defensive energy gets activated and we naturally want to pull in the other direction.
That’s often what procrastination can be about; the inner dynamic which leads to real arguments with others or internal arguments with varying parts of ourselves, as we to and fro in the yes-no game of resistance.
It’s worth remembering that we each have our own passions, unique energy, pace, set of desires goals and motivation for life. We all move, feel moved and respond to people, the planet and our lives in vastly different ways. Our values can be deeply personal; based on a whole range of factors such as upbringing, culture, environment and education, to name a few; all of which may be wildly different to those we love and share our lives with.
So, while it’s great to invite or welcome others’ views, ideas and opinions into our lives from time-to-time and perhaps especially when we we feel stuck or want to talk something through, it’s a rocky road we travel if we try to live up to or according to other people’s values, views or victory.
We may find ourselves heading down someone else’s street while carrying their baggage in the process.
Hale Dwoskin, author of The Sedona Method says that resistance is like trying to move forwards with the brakes on. Who wants to do that? Nobody I know! Yet it’s common for most of us as we’re stuck in unconscious ways of living. In fact I’d highly recommend using The Sedona Method which is a fantastic method to support, release and let go of our attachment to the energy attached to our ‘wants’ (which is really our lack), freeing up resistance in the process.
This is What I Want, What I Really, Really Want
As you start practising just sitting there, reflecting on your recent ‘doing’, a good first question to ask yourself might be ‘do I really want to continue moving in this direction?’ You’ll soon realise whether there is a genuine inner-block you want to get help to overcome, so that you can move forward differently, or whether you are in fact pushing yourself to continue doing something you think you should do.
Ask yourself whether your motivation is based on what someone said you should do, whether the world says it’s a good idea (media, ‘everybody’ else does this or does it like this) or your inner-critic says you’re a bad person if you don’t.
The truth always comes from your authentic self. Other responses can derive from our need to people-please or belong in ways that don’t fit with who we really are. Check in with yourself again. Do you feel you’re being coerced? By a belief you hold, a part of yourself or by a person or entity outside of you?
I invite you to just sit there for a few minutes with a pen and notepad and just ask yourself what you really, really would love to do with your time and your life going forwards if those shoulds, oughts and musts weren’t allowed to enter the space.
How could your current skills and qualities naturally serve others? What is your ‘work’?
What do you love to do? What brings you the most joy?
Review your notes and check how much of this is already in your life?
How and where might you do (or be!) more of this?
Could you explore ideas with a colleague, coach, therapist or friend?
This phrase ‘don’t just do something, sit there’ invites us be. To be with ourselves. It takes us from movement to stillness; from the energy of implied accusation and condemnation – in the original version of the phrase – to a calm quiet, and by implication, towards waiting to be guided.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t like waiting! I’m not good at waiting! And I don’t much want to wait for anything!
I grew up in a family where taking action, aka doing and getting stuff done was appreciated; rewarded and very much part of being a responsible human. In contrast, lolling about (I still love that phrase, hence the repetition of it in this blog) being lazy, daydreaming or not pulling your weight was an unacceptable way to show up in the world.
There was always something that could be done; that needed doing or had to be done, so ‘doing’ was definitely the way to ‘be’. Ironically!
Recovery is Available
This wonderful new take on the old phrase is also a welcome invitation for many who find 12 step programmes of recovery, where perhaps whole lives have been lived being busy up until that point, negating real needs in exchange for addictive patterns and self harm, rather than consciously choosing and responding to people, strengths, passions or self care.
That frenetic energy which accompanies addictive patterns; agitation and constant movement, can prevent new ideas, inspiration and solutions from dropping into our psyches. A mind and body meandering or at rest is precisely what the Divine seeks as it draws closer to us, ready to download inspiration and realisations into our hearts and minds. I believe that God, our Higher Power or the Universe (however you identify with a power greater than you) genuinely wants to help us take the next best step on our journeys forward.
So, is it really easier to spend our time and our energy being forever busy, focusing on doing something; anything to escape being with ourselves? After all, we are called human beings!
Perhaps busy leaves us temporarily happy, like metaphorical dogs having fun chasing our tails not noticing our selves or our surroundings. Yet to continue on in this way and out of self-awareness can drive us into a frenzied, going-nowhere-tizz.
Somewhere deep inside each of us, perhaps we avoid the anticipatory pain we believe we might need to face in order to change. Yet, in reality, change and loss in life is all there is! Everything is always changing, whether we engage with it or not. So, consciously embracing it and allowing it in facilitates our truth to come forth. And that’s when wonderful new doors that we never knew existed start to open.
If you’re someone who rarely just sits there, but after reading this blog, you’re curious, I invite you to reflect on these questions as you pause throughout your days ahead.
What are you putting up with in your life that no longer serves you? It could be:
- something in your spiritual life, for example a feeling of inner disconnection or a wider disconnection to a Higher Power, God or the Universe;
- aspects of your home, environment of location; for example lack of space or holding onto too much clutter;
- difficulties in a relationship which you continue to ignore; for example, lack of love, affection, a genuine connection or trust;
- dissatisfaction in your job; for example poor pay or conditions, a toxic culture or your work and career itself being unfulfilling;
- not facing up to unhealthy behaviours in yourself or others such as anger or resentment, poor communication or general avoidance of making positive changes in your life.
Do your daily actions serve others and you well? Or are you compulsively ‘doing’ many things as you try to meet some other unmet need in yourself?
When you choose to do ‘this’ and not ‘that’, are you really choosing ‘this’ or are you avoiding ‘that?’ And if so, do you know why? For what purpose? What fears could be driving the avoidance? (Fear is often a big factor).
Do you frequently feel coerced into action, either by your own inner parts or by someone else’s ‘agenda’ for your life?
How might life change (for you and others) if you could choose to do more of what you really want to do?
What habits actively harm your wellbeing?
Would you be willing to let these things go – even if you’re not yet sure how that might happen?
However you’ve responded to any of the questions above, I do hope you remember look after yourself as you make these inner inquiries.
When you discover something that feels challenging or unpleasant about how you’re showing up for yourself or others in life, it’s really helpful to just observe, talk things through with someone you trust and overall, take good care of yourself. Berating ourselves on top of a discovery only adds another layer of shame or blame that can do further harm.
Above all, remember to be kind. As the lovely, late Louise Hay said:
In the infinity of life where I am,
all is perfect, whole and complete.
I now choose calmly and objectively to see my old patterns,
and I am willing to make changes.
I am teachable. I can learn. I am willing to change.
I choose to have fun doing this.
I choose to react as though I have found a treasure
when I discover something else to release.
I see and feel myself changing moment by moment.
Thoughts no longer have any power over me.
I am the power in the world. I choose to be free.
All is well in my world.
Online coaching (plus some face-to-face sessions now available). Looking forward to serving you.
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