I remember vividly the day my son Ben almost drowned in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. Everything started out fine, until Ben decided he needed to carry his newly purloined favorite balls around in the pit. Its hard enough to walk in there with both hands for balance, it’s impossible with a hand full of balls.
Ben took a step and fell. He tried to wrestle up without letting go of the balls, but he couldn’t. He started to cry but still wouldn’t let go of the balls.
Have you ever tried to reason with a crying, sweating four year old drowning in plastic balls? I began but pointing out to him how much better it would be to actualize the balance ratios by dropping the balls and negating the negative balance issues. I reasoned with him. I counseled him to make decisions that were based on common-sense and not emotion. I told him the story about the rat who wouldn’t let go of the cheese and got trapped in the trap. I’m sure on some deep level he was cognizant of these masterful illustrations, but mostly he just balled his brains out and kept sinking.
Being the mature man I was I began to yell, “Drop the balls!”
They have this stupid rule at Chuck E. Cheese which states that adults are not allowed to go in the pit, so I sent his older brother Nate in there.
” Nate go save your brother!”
So he’s yanking and Ben is drowning and Nate is having problems and I’m yelling and people are watching and my wife is pretending she’s not with us….
And I’m thinking to myself, “eventually he’ll lose consciousness and we can drag his lifeless carcass out of there!”
Why would a kid clutch so tightly to something that cannot but fail? Why is it so tempting to grasp things that don’t really matter? Why can’t we see when we are drowning in our own stubbornness?
When people come to counseling it often becomes apparent that they are looking for permission, not input. They have decided on a course of action and do not want to let go, even if that journey is going to hurt them, ruin their marriage, damage their kids, or interfere with their future. Often it’s a “want my cake and eat it too” scenario. They want to have an affair, or they want to do something that will result in destruction, or they want to keep lying to themselves about their addiction or their psychological malady. It’s far easier, they think, to continue on the road they are travelling then it is to do the hard work of personal growth. I know a bit of how they are thinking because I have been there myself. I have wanted something so badly that I was willing to blindly rush forward, convinced that somehow, against all reason, things would magically work out.
I didn’t want to let go of that ball.
Or maybe the issue is that you are holding on to something so tightly, an attitude or a painful memory, a slight or an abuse, that you cannot imagine letting go of the ball. The ball is all you know, it’s what feels right even if it doesn’t feel good. It is unimaginably hard to let go of what you believe. It is painful to change, difficult to imagine that life can be different. Maybe you’ve been hurt before and dammit, you are not going to get hurt again.
Letting go of the ball is rarely easy, but if you don’t try you are going to drown. Someone like me can scream and plead and beg you to do it, but at the end of the day no one else can make that decision.
No one cares about your problems as much as you do. No one will do it for us.
Isn’t it time to let go of the balls? It is going to be monumentally difficult and take much more time than you thought it would but it is worth it.
Life is waiting for you.
- Why Is It So Hard To Get Anyone To Change? (psychologytoday.com)
- Beating Anxiety and Depression Is Possible But It Might Be More Work Than You Are Prepared To Do (scott-williams.ca)