How to Face Your Inner Demons to Get Unstuck
Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.
It seems childish, but we do it all the time. Humans (to say nothing of foxes) try to make their current actions and beliefs consistent with their past actions and beliefs.
- If we admit that a relationship isn't serving us, staying in it would create cognitive dissonance. But since the cost of leaving it would be so high, we can maintain consistency by refusing to admit the truth in the first place.
- If we tried hard to get a job, it implies that we wanted it very badly, but to quit would imply that we didn't really value it. On the other hand, if we try hard to get a job, but don't, we may work to convince ourselves it was a bad fit anyway. This creates consistency between our actions and beliefs.
Trouble Letting Go
A related explanation is the sunk cost fallacy, which comes from economics and explains an investor's tendency to favor losing investments simply because he or she has already spent money on them. We've all heard this one from our dad: "I’ve paid for this day at the amusement park, so we’re damn well going to enjoy it" (never mind the fact that it’s raining and everyone's miserable). The goal was to have an enjoyable family vacation, not to make use of the park. At this point, you’d be better served by going back to the hotel to watch a movie.
The Unadorned Life is the Only One We're Living
Now that we've seen where the hard-question-imps get their power, it shouldn't be too hard to reveal them for the delusions they really are.
The antidote is simply to assess life as it presents itself to you, right now. Drop your expectations, delusions, and pride and look at the world as it really is. The sword of truth cuts through the fog of deception, as they say in warrior circles.
- Remind yourself of your original goal.
- Look past the hard answer and the changes it implies to the end result. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Step outside of yourself. What 'no-BS' advice would you give your best friend?
- Let go of your pride, admit you're human, and that you make mistakes to learn and grow.
Of course, the process of actually changing is still going to be rough, but hopefully adopting these mindsets can help you feel hopeful that the change will benefit you.
Only through this kind of unbiased, unadorned assessment can we get past sticking points in our life.
Some hard questions I’ve faced in my life, the answer I told myself out loud, and the real answers:
- “Why did I go to this expensive, prestigious, difficult college?” -- Because it was the perfect match for a brilliant student like myself. Because I didn’t know what else to do after high school and it was expected of me.
- “Why don’t I just quit this job if I can’t stand being here?” -- Because it has great potential and I just need to find my stride. Because I’m afraid my parents will be disappointed, because I’m afraid my girlfriend will think I’m a bum, and I’m afraid to confront my boss.
- “Is this relationship actually making me happy?” -- We’re just in a rough spot. I’m still around so of course it’s making me happy. I fight with my girlfriend almost every day, and I enjoy myself more when she’s not around. (Just to be clear, this is definitely a reference to a past relationship, not my current one.)
- "Why am I broke at the end of every month?" -- I didn't have a choice on that flight home for vacation and those meals out. It was just an unusual month. Next month, these things won't crop up. I actually don't plan ahead, have trouble saying 'no', and willfully avoid looking at my accounts on a regular basis because I don't want to deal with the reality of my dwindling balance.
- “Do I really think wealth is unimportant?” -- I enjoy simple pleasures, so I don’t need much money. Since I can’t control my wealth, there’s not point in fretting about it. No, and I only say this because I’m not sure I can become wealthy. It’s easier to accept poverty than to do the hard work, both material and psychological, to generate wealth.
Ouch! I winced reading those to myself.
Just like pulling a bad tooth, though, once I addressed the issues I was avoiding, I felt much better and was able to progress on my path to awesome!
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Photo credit: NeilsPhotography on Flickr