Are You Stuck at the Tea Bag Holder?

In our office, we have a selection of tea available. And we have some tea bag holders (that are nowhere near as cute as the ones in the picture) for our clients to use so that they don’t get stuck holding wet tea bags or drinking crazy strong tea. I was at our drinks table one afternoon when another psychologist and her client were getting tea. The other psychologist offered a tea bag holder, and asked if the client cared about the color. The client responded, “Any of those are fine. Once the color would have mattered, but therapy fixed that.”

Now, I don’t know this client. And (because it’s an occupational hazard to interpret without context) I might be completely wrong about how I heard their innocent comment about tea bag holders. But here is what I heard in that statement:

Once it would have mattered to me what color tea bag holder I chose. Because I would want to choose the right one. Because I would want to choose the one that coordinated with my outfit, or looked a certain way. Because the part of me that wasn’t sure about my own wisdom needed validation for something as simple as the color of my tea bag holder. But now, after therapy, I don’t need to care about the color. I can let that go, trust my choice, and invest my time and caring into something that matters to me.

And even if she didn’t mean that, I love that vision of what therapy can do. I think that most of us have things in our life like that tea bag holder. Things that really don’t matter much at all. Things where any decision we make will probably be just fine–as long as we make a decision. Because really, the green tea bag holder works as well as the red or blue ones. And not choosing one means that we’re stuck with really strong tea or an awkward wet tea bag.

I think that we get paralyzed by these kinds of decisions for all kinds of reasons. Here are a few possible things that might let a “tea bag holder” paralyze you:

  • Worrying about what others think.
  • Trying to make the very best choice every single time.
  • Allowing others to dictate your choice.
  • Turning small choices into large issues.
  • Viewing our choices as unchangeable.

In therapy, we get the chance to explore those “tea bag holders”–to recognize when they have gotten larger or more consuming than they deserve. We get the chance to experiment with some ways to approach our “tea bag holder” choices. We can consider the possibility that, even if we pick the red holder today, we can pick the green one next time.

With some practice, we can get better and better at identifying what things in our lives are “tea bag holder” choices, and what things are choices that have real, long-lasting consequences. And if our energy isn’t taken up by the tea bag holders, we have the ability to move forward in more meaningful ways.

Have you gotten stuck at a “tea bag holder” moment in life? Care to share? There’s always room for self-compassion and stories in the comment section. And if you need help finding new ways to approach the tea bag holder moments, you know where to find me.

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