How Can You Overcome Painful Beginnings

There is an ancient principle that all beginnings are hard. Why is that?

Not too long ago, I began a new phase in my career. I have been a therapist for years, working for others in inpatient and outpatient settings. I had become disillusioned with the industry at large and unhappy with my career, which saw me seeing my clients for increasingly shorter periods of time and consequently being less and less effective. My clients would repeatedly plead with me to continue to see them after they completed treatment, but I did not have a private practice and was not set up to support them. For that, and many other reasons, I decided to finally open my own private practice. I was revved and thrilled to embark on this next great journey. Setting up shop, networking, doing everything I could think of to hit the road running. Then, as in all business ventures, I hit a snag. Then another. And then another. Years ago, this would have paralyzed me and I would not have been able to see my dream come true. Thank God that today, I am just as motivated as ever. Today, I am realizing my dream and witnessing the fruits of my labors.  I am achieving success.

Starting something new can be very exciting. Whether it’s a new business, a new relationship, a new idea, or even a new recovery. At some point, inspiration strikes and our minds and our bodies just seem to take off. Thrilling? Yes. Adrenaline rush? Sure. Heart’s aflutter? Hopefully. Great things happen with great beginnings and we’re off to a great start. Then reality sets in and the pink cloud bursts. 

As the sages of the Talmud taught: “all beginnings are difficult.” We have all experienced the reality that beginnings are difficult and often times painful. While any number of factors contribute to this phenomenon, it seems to be built into the system. For starters, it is axiomatically true that something new is something not previously experienced. In other words, we embark on a journey to the unknown. This always creates a level of anxiety and fear. Sometimes the anxiety and fear become so great that we are not able to sustain the adventure we so excitedly began. Sometimes we can even become paralyzed and we do not see the venture to its success.

So where do you go from here? 

To begin with, we can anticipate the “birth pangs”. Knowing ahead of time that there will be obstacles and failures along the way will help soften the experience when it happens. It takes us out of the fantasy that the inertia and momentum will grow without incident and it helps us cope with the inevitable friction that accompanies all movement. Additionally, it is imperative to allow yourself to accept that painful beginnings are part of the fabric of reality. They happen to all of the most successful people in the world. Take some comfort in knowing that everyone who has had great success has also had difficult beginnings. 

One practical way to accept that reality is to read the biographies of the famously successful. You will always find hardships, and more often than not, extreme hardships at the very beginning of their successes. More importantly however, you can draw from their experiences and become inspired to overcome the pain and achieve success just as they did.  For those with a philosophical bend, coping with the pains of new beginnings entails coming to terms with that existential reality and accepting it as part of the process. For those of a more spiritual or religious bend, coping with the pains that accompany new beginnings entails turning to a higher power and choosing to have faith that you are indeed doing what your higher wills for you to do. You can also learn to change your perspective on the experience and use it to further your progress and propel your new undertaking. Perhaps one of the most important ways to address the pain of beginnings is to remember to focus equally, if not more, on the successes and victories along the way. Obstacles, often unforeseeable, will happen. So will successes. You can succeed when you have the tools to deal with reality of obstacles.

Where does therapy fit in? 

Individual therapy is a very useful tool in coping with the difficulties of new challenges and ventures. Therapy can help you become aware of some of the psychological blocks to success and help to clear them. It can also provide you with the necessary tools you may need to overcome the pain of beginnings and attain the success that you envisioned at the outset.