The curse of the ‘almost’…

Have you ever pondered about the things in your life that could have been but never were. I don’t mean those distant dreams we all have but never actually get to do anything about. Maybe we see such dreams for what they are, and perhaps somewhere we accept that they were never a real possibility anyway.

I’m talking about the many things we actually start, but give up somewhere along the way. Although the level of frustration is perhaps greater if we give up when we’re just about to get there, anything between the beginning and just before the end belongs to the realm of the ‘almost’. And some of these ‘almosts’ will come back to haunt us, to reinforce the tyranny of ‘shoulds’ and ‘if onlys’ that can make our poor soul become stuck in a rut.

We all have unfinished businesses in life. Perhaps life is in itself an unfinished business. But without giving in to the illusion of completeness, some of us find ourselves perpetuating a state of ‘almost’, thus living a full on half-hearted life. Living in the ‘almost’ will most likely impoverish us and bury us under a cycle of beginnings with no ends. Life then could become an open wound that won’t heal on its own.

On my first post on this blog I wrote about the principle of being constant, of actually getting on with what we set out to do, persevering until the end. I wanted to complement it with an amazing short essay I came across, written by a clever Brazilian author called Sarah Westphal, which I took the liberty of translating. I hope you enjoy!


The almost – Sarah Westphal

Even worse than the conviction of the ‘no’ and the uncertainty of the ‘maybe’, is the disillusion of the ‘almost’. 

It’s the almost that annoys me, that saddens me, that kills me by bringing all that could have been but wasn’t. 

Who almost won is still playing, who almost passed is still studying, who almost died is still alive, who almost loved has never loved.

Just think about the opportunities that have slipped through the fingers, the chances that were lost because of fear, the ideas that will never leave the paper because of this damn habit of living in the autumn.

I sometimes ask myself what makes us choose a lukewarm life; no, it’s not that I ask, I dispute. The answer I know by heart, it’s stamped on the distance and coldness of smiles, the looseness of embraces, the indifference of almost whispered ‘hellos’. There’s an abundance of cowardice and a lacking of courage even to be happy.

Passion burns, love maddens, desire betrays. Maybe these could be good reasons to choose between happiness and the pain, to feel nothing. But they are not. If there was virtue in mediocrity, the sea wouldn’t have waves, days would be cloudy and the rainbow would display shades of grey.

The ‘nothing’ does not enlighten, it doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t afflict nor it soothes, it just amplifies the emptiness that we all carry within ourselves.

It’s not that faith can move the mountains, nor that all the stars are within our reach, for we have to be patient with the things that can’t be changed. However, to choose the preemptive defeat over the doubt of victory is to waste the opportunity of deserving.

For the mistakes there is forgiveness; for the defeats, chance; for the impossible love, time. It does no good to protect an empty heart or to spare the soul. A romance that ends instantaneously and painlessly is not a romance.

Don’t let the nostalgia suffocate you, or the routine comfort you, or the fear stop you from trying.

Don’t trust fate and believe in yourself. Spend more time doing rather than dreaming, living rather than waiting, because even though who almost died is still alive, who almost lives is already dead.




Allan Gois – Psychotherapist in Bloomsbury (WC1)Psychotherapy for Depression in London


First lesson…

Welcome to the first post of my new blog – The Psychotherapist. This will be a space for reflection about some experiences in life we can all learn from. It will also be a place for sharing useful information and some important lessons I learn from my work as a psychotherapist in London. My hope is that you, the reader, will be able to engage with my musings and that this will be helpful for your journey.

But what to write on a first blog post? Well, when I was doing some research into what makes a blog successful, I kept stumbling upon a very useful piece of advice: post as often and as consistently as you can. In other words: be constant and consistent. And then it dawned on me that this was not just useful for blog writing, nor only for the activities one might engage on, but that it actually pointed to an important principle in life.

My father once said something that got my attention when I was a younger. It was not very poetic, but it contained an important message. His saying (or almost a short story) was: “I know a lot people who have nothing in life. Do you want to know why? I’ll tell you why: it’s because they never finish what they have started.” Perseverance, reliability, constancy and consistency are not magical secrets for success, but they surely contribute a great deal for things to work out in many aspects of life.

On the other hand, broken promises, failed resolutions, disappointing half-ends can also become a constant, and this negative constancy can fuel our sense of failure. Regret and resentment can then take place, as we ask ourselves: if only we continued with what we once started, that diet, going to the gym, a course, a relationship – if only… In fact, regret and resentment can bring our lives to a literal standstill.

Doctors say that taking only half of the course of antibiotics can actually make the bacteria stronger. I think the same can be applied to the fluctuations between our trying and failing. If we break consistency, we begin to falter. And as we begin to fail, that oppressive and incriminating part of us becomes enhanced and can become all the more cruel.

Our own resistance to pursue the things we know will be beneficial to us is also striking. Self-sabotaging is one of the most puzzling things I encounter in my practice as a psychotherapist. The capacity to undermine ourselves, to cruelly make us fail can be hard to understand. So to say that consistency is an easy principle to follow would be a lie. But it is a great principle to aim towards. In fact, part of how psychotherapy works is actually by promoting consistency and constancy, in a way that perseverance and reliability both from therapist and patient are paramount.

So my struggle to keep up with this blog is but a fraction of my innate disposition to break consistency, to seek failure no matter how noble the intentions are. As for this to work, I’ll keep on posting. And from your end, please keep turning up!


Allan Gois – Psychotherapist in London – Psicoterapia en Espanol Londres