Sometimes we are not aware that we have a problem. Sometimes the problem sneaks up in our lives, we believe we have everything under control until we realize it’s an illusion. When we do not recognize the existence of the problem we run the risk of repeatedly stumbling in the same stone, it is the idea that expresses this funny story taken from the Spanish site Vida Emocional.
I go down to the street and there’s a big hole. I do not see it and I fall into it. It is deep and dark. I need a lot of time to get out. It’s not my fault.
I go down to the same street. There is a big hole and I see it, but I fall again into it. It is deep and dark. I need a lot of time to get out. It is not yet my fault.
I go down in a street. There is a big hole, and I see it, but I fall back again into it. It has become a habit. But I’m already learning to get out of the hole quickly. I recognize my responsibility.
I go down in a street. There’s a big hole. I turn around it.
I go down in a different street.
This very simple story is a perfect similitude of life itself, of all those moments in which we fall into that chasm, although we are perfectly aware of its existence and know that it will be difficult to get out of it. That hole can represent almost anything that hurts us but we cannot leave behind, from alcohol and junk food to a toxic relationship.
The compulsive repetition, or why we repeatedly stumble in the same stone
If we do not recognize a problem, we will continue to put into practice the same behaviors and ways of thinking that have brought us to where we are. To paraphrase Einstein, we cannot expect different results if we always do things the same way. In fact, very often people interrupt a toxic relationship only to find that the same pattern will be repeated in the next one. Why?
The problem is not only the others, it is our expectations, habits and ways of thinking that lock us up in a vicious circle. It is known as “compulsive repetition”, an impulse that leads us to repeat the same habits and patterns of thought, even if these lead us to situations that damage us.
In many cases the compulsive repetition is formed during childhood, are models that we have learned from our parents or ways of reacting that are automated. As children we learned many things by imitation; brush our teeth, write or ride a bike. In the same way we acquired emotional habits, models of thought, ways of relating and strategies for dealing with conflicts.
When we grow up, we do not question those lessons, but these can become so maladaptive that they lead to situations that cause us pain. The problem is that on many occasions we do not have the psychological resources to face the necessary change, so we protect ourselves by “hiding” the real cause of the problem. We ignore the chasm on our way.
Although it may seem unlikely, our fear of leaving the comfort zone is enormous. It is probable that in this area we are harming ourselves, but it is the space we know and in which we have found a certain balance. Leaving this zone of comfort means jumping into the void and assuming a certain degree of uncertainty, a situation that can make us feel extremely helpless and vulnerable.
It is a very difficult phase because we fall repeatedly, we can feel that we are in a dead end. When we get to the bottom, we have only two possibilities: either we stay there, dying slowly or we call on all our strength to get out and change everything that needs to be changed.
How can we learn and move on?
It is essential not to point the accusing finger at others in search of an external culprit, we must examine our conscience. The chasm on the road is for everyone, but not everyone falls into it. Learning to avoid that hole is a decision that we must take consciously. To achieve this we must first find out what ways of thinking, attitudes and ways of relating feed this compulsive repetition.
So we have to arm ourselves with courage to get out of our comfort zone. It is true that outside this space there is uncertainty, but if we remain in the circle that we already know well, we will continue to hurt ourselves. We can get out of this zone of comfort with small steps, so as not to feel too anxious, expanding our living space every day.
It can help you start with small changes, like taking a different route to work, trying a new dish, having the courage to do something you’ve never done before. Think about how you do things and deal with problems normally and try to introduce something new, do something different. These little changes will help you get out of the bubble you’ve created around you, changing reality a little bit, so that you realize that the change does not mean anything bad.
Slow down the pace of your life, look inside yourself and make decisions. Consider that the first step never takes you where you want to go, but it gets you out of where you are. Move slowly and learn to trust a little more of your instincts.
It is also important that you prepare yourself to face all the excuses that you will invent, they are the result of the fear of the unknown, the part of you that wants to keep you tied to the past. Be aware that are only this: excuses for not going forward.
Last but not least, do not feel guilty for falling into the chasm. It happens to everyone. It is a life experience that you can use to learn and come out stronger.