As a student of psychotherapy, I’ve spent hours, weeks & years studying different modalities of self-introspection and bettering relationships. From Freud’s treaty on the Superego, to Byron Katie’s “The Work”, I’ve either practiced, dabbled or at least been exposed to a bunch of really good ideas in understanding the human psyche.
Announcing my own new therapy: Breakfast Therapy
A few years back, I was frustrated with some aspects of my family life. My relationship with my wife & children felt a bit distant, frustrating, and disconnected. Being a therapist myself, I went through the usual processes that I studied so diligently and have helped me in the past. First, I made lots of excuses — I’m so busy that I don’t have enough time to put into these relationships. When I finally stopped deceiving myself, I moved on to strategy number two – blame. I mean, the kids are at “that age” where they just don’t listen, and my wife must be going through something — who-knows-what already. Eventually, I moved on to method three — despair. Essentially, there was nothing I could do. Just ride it out and hope for the best.
That Aha Moment
For some reason, I cannot explain why, this little thought popped into my head. After temple services in the morning and before I needed to head off to work, I had a good 20 minutes to spare. Why not make my wife & kids a nice breakfast? Again, crazy idea, but I at the time, I thought it was a good one. I took down the waffle maker, whipped up some healthy spelt-flour batter, and in about 10 minutes had two warm & delicious waffles waiting for my kids. For my wife, I decided on fried eggs, and baked crackers, made exactly the way she likes. 15 minutes from start to finish. I started doing this everyday.
It feels really good to give, especially to those you love. But growth doesn’t usually happen when things feel good. I’ve kept up my routine for about four years now, practically everyday except Sabbath (yes, my poor wife and children have been eating the same breakfast for about 1200 days!). During the last four years, there were probably a thousand times I felt like stopping or at least skipping. There were times when I wore an angry scowl on my face whilst pouring the waffle batter. And I don’t dare mention some thoughts I had while mixing up my wife’s eggs — if the chicks weren’t already dead, I’d be killing them again. But going beyond yourself, pushing through your limitations, giving when you don’t want to has it’s benefits. It is precisely at these moments that you get in touch with your true values, have an opportunity to practice gratitude, and are given the blessing of seeing how, most of the time, it is you yourself who gets in your own way.
- Dedication, loyalty and action trump feelings. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when we express our appreciation, affection and commitment, it were always deeply heartfelt? However, the true test of character is when we put our values over our feelings. Showing lovingkindness is always more important than feeling lovingkindness. As a matter of fact, the first usually begets the second. 🙂
- Connect to our essential oneness. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that we love others because at our core, we are all really one soul. Serving breakfast to your family, everyday no matter what, proclaims loud and clear that your connection goes beyond any externalities, and is an expression of our essential unity. I give to you like I give to myself, without judgement, excuses, and conditions.
- Immense Gratitude. On days I wanted to quit, I reminded myself how unbelievably fortunate I am to actually have a wife and children to be making breakfast for. This is a blessing for which I will always be grateful.
I call it “Breakfast Therapy”, and I highly recommend it. It’s cheap*, fun, and if it doesn’t work, at least you had something yummy to eat 🙂
* I charge for recipes.