A New Approach to Change

“The best way out is always through.”

– Robert Frost

Why is it that Western culture seems to teach us that we can bring about a change we desire in ourselves or our situation through avoiding the things that make us want to experience the change to start with?

No really, if anyone knows why, please share. I really do want to know, because it’s making me crazy.

Something somewhere at some point in time convinced us (and by “us” I mean Western culture in general) that avoidance is a great way to bring about change.

What?!

The Wisdom of Robert Frost

I love the little quote at the start of this post. It’s the most concise way of expressing this very big idea.

Why is it a big idea to go through a situation to get out of it? Because we are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) told that we can get around our problems through avoidance or some other tactic.

The trouble is, when we do that – when we avoid, run away, or otherwise do our level best to pretend our difficulty isn’t there, we don’t actually ever come out on the other side of it. More often than not, we end up sticking our fingers in our ears yelling LALALALALALALALALA, thinking that this will make the difficulty not be there any longer.

But doing this makes it hard to get on with life. And getting on with life is the point behind dealing with any problem facing us.

Yes, I know it’s hard.

But that’s not a reason to not do it. Plus there’s that whole thing of it coming around behind you to bite you on the bum when you’re looking the other way. That’s the best way I know to really screw up your life. Trust me, I speak from experience.

It’s really hard to look our problems straight in the eye … often because we are ourselves the creator of the problem … and stare it down. It’s harder still to walk into the maelstrom of the problem with intention and purpose, much less the hope of coming out alive on the other side.

The honest to goodness truth, however, is that you WILL come out on the other side, and you’ll realize that the maelstrom was more of a tempest in a teapot when you’re on the other side of it.

I’m not minimizing the size of some of the challenges faced by each and every one of us. I’ve just learned over the years that nearly all of the time (unless you’re Jack Bauer or something) you will come out on the other side, and you will see that your imagination made a much bigger deal of it all than it ever actually was.

Taking a Different Tack.

Don’t believe me? Well, I dare you to give it a try and see for yourself. Really.

Heck, I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU! (Just ask Emma about how serious my dares are.)

Pick one of your problems (and if you’re one of those who is facing only one challenge in life, please don’t tell me … it might cause my head to explode).

Imagine that problem to be caught up in a bubble. Allow the bubble to be as big as you feel it needs to be to fully encompass the whole of the challenge.

Now this isn’t just any old bubble. It is a strong but very flexible bubble.

Take the bubble (or what little part of it you can grasp if it’s THAT big) in your arms. Trust me, you don’t look as dorky as you think … besides we’re doing this within the private confines of our own imagination, right? (NOTE: if an actual bubble has appeared on your tangible plane of existence … um … well … not sure what to tell you. I’ve heard they make pills for such conditions.)

Start to squeeze the bubble. It will take some effort depending upon how big and tough and strong the problem is, but keep at it. Squeeze and squeeze and don’t give up.

The bubble will give without bursting. I promise.

Just keep squeezing until you get it down to a size that is manageable. A size you can turn around and view from all angles. Something you can hold in your hands.

Now look at it. Really look at it.

Squeezed a bit down to size it’s not nearly so overwhelming, is it? I’m not saying it’s magically become simple and easy, but at least it’s not so huge you don’t even know where to start.

Once you’ve gotten your mind wrapped around it just a bit (and if you need a friend to help you in this, that’s fine. If they are your friend, they won’t think you’ve gone round the bend, promise), put your hands on either side of the bubble and pull it out again.

Just a bit.

Just enough so that it’s big enough for you to step into it.

Put the bubble on the ground and walk through the bubble’s membrane, directly into the problem. Remember what you saw and learned about it when it was no bigger than a volleyball. Don’t forget that.

Now just plow through it. It might be hard going, but just keep moving forward until you see the membrane of the bubble on the far side. Do what you need to do to get to that membrane, and push through it, out into the open on the other side of the bubble.

You’re through.

You made it.

And you’re alive.

Remember, all of this was in your imagination. Now take what you learned and find a way to apply it in the real world. You can do it. Now that you’ve done it once, you can do it again.

And once you have, and you’re really and truly on the other side, you can move on with life knowing it won’t bite you on the bum unexpectedly at some future date.

The Point

We’ve all got our “stuff” and sometimes that stuff makes it really hard to get anything done that we actually care about. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of my stuff preventing me from fulfilling my dreams/purpose/desire/pick-your-term. Sick and tired.

Since the world isn’t going to change to make all of my problems magically disappear, I will need to do it the old fashioned way.

Besides, by going through the problems, I learn stuff. Valuable stuff. And I can use that good stuff to make me more than the sum of my inadequacies.

5 Responses to A New Approach to Change
  1. Lou
    February 11, 2010 | 15:12

    This is a great post. I’m glad I found it today. That Frost quote is on my Facebook page in my ‘about me’ section. I also have this one:

    “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Hemingway

    All too often we choose distraction and pain avoidance over learning and growing from experience. I know people who are masters at this avoidance. Some days, I wish I was one of them. But I’m afraid once you learn to ‘go through’ it is hard to go back to the other way.

    Coincidently, I just posted this interview which is also about acceptance and willingness to confront and deal as opposed to run and hide:

    http://www.ucpress.edu/blog/?p=3389

    Thanks again,

    Lou

  2. christy
    February 11, 2010 | 15:24

    Hi Lou, and welcome! Thanks for your kind words. Nice interview!

  3. Emma Newman
    February 11, 2010 | 16:01

    Yeah, everyone, watch out for these triple dog dares – they do crazy things!

    This is an interesting way to approach stuff, I’ll give it a go. I agree that through is the only way. I’m starting to think that this truth also makes advice kind of irrelevant when it comes to a really big battle someone is going through. They have to find their own way. Love, support and of course tea are much more helpful than trying to take them round the problem, or pull them through it.

    I’m watching my husband struggle so much at the moment and it’s hard, but I know he literally has to go through this stage he’s in. It sucks, for him and sometimes for me, but he will emerge. And he will be more than he was before.

  4. christy
    February 11, 2010 | 16:35

    Re: advice irrelevance. I agree. I also believe wholeheartedly that tea is the leading ingredient in the best possible recipe for support and love.

    We each must be willing to allow those we love (and sometimes those we don’t, but upon whom we are forced to rely) to flounder as they sort out for themselves that avoidance will not solve the problem.

    Hugs, Em, for you and your dearly beloved. :)

  5. Gina
    February 11, 2010 | 16:58

    I am so with you there. On the ‘sick of this stuff’. Oh and the tired. Yes. Amazing what I’ve been willing to put up with. Why? Because I thought that was all I was capable of.
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..Pre-Natal Massage =-.

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