While taking my puppy Izzy on a ride through the park this morning, I found myself intently listening to the lyrics of a song, ” Merry Go Round ” , by singer Kacey Musgraves…
” Mary Mary quite contrary,We get bored so we get married. And just like dust we settle in this town. On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go, Where it stops nobody knows…And it ain’t slowin’ down, this merry go ’round…
We think the first time’s good enough,So we hold on to high school love,Say we won’t end up like our parents.
Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.”
I had been thinking all week about a few clients who, despite some significant efforts on their parts to escape their past sabotaging thoughts and self-limiting perceptions of themselves, seemed to be stuck on that Merry Go Round, where any real change in their lives was thwarted by their negative self-talk, reinforced by fear.
One man in particular had made some very real efforts to change, to escape his boring life and take some risks. He actually quit his go nowhere job, and went back to school to seek at least an associates degree in alternative energies, something he felt some passion about. He actually did quite well, not only excelling in his classes, but being recognized by fellow students who requested tutoring from him, and then being recognized by a professor as being an exceptional student. Of course seemed proud at the time of what he accomplished and the accolades.
The anxiety symptoms and especially his rather severe obsessive-compulsiuve behaviors that had previously been ruling much of his life began to weaken some. He was surprised and I was extremelypleased at his progress. I knew much of his OCD was the result of his frustrations and conflicts with himself, so I did expect some decrease in his symptoms.
After two semesters, he had to return to work to pay bills, hoping to return to school in the near future. Sadly, within two months of being back at work and away from school, all his anxiety symptoms returned and his OCD was wreaking havoc. He was again stuck on the Merry Go Round of his previous life, going nowhere and being ruled by his self-defeating negative thoughts.
As we talked about his loss of momentum, he struggled a bit to explain his thoughts and feelings, but then he uttered an illuminating comment. ” I Never Embraced the Changes I was Making !”
Over those two semesters, he did experience what felt very new and different. He did “witness” that he was actually knowledgable, and was in fact able to help other students. But the whole time, it was like he was another person in some make believe world. He never really accepted, adopted, or presumed to be that person. Those two semesters were no match for his previous lifetime of ” that’s good enough”, “don’t make waves “, ” just be content with what you have and who you are “. ” I realize now that I dumbed-down my good experiences so as not to rock the boat.” So even though his boat was going nowhere, the risk and fear of failure, rejection and embarrassment over-ruled his good experiences, all but erasing them from memory.
The bright side of this story is that there is a good chance that this young man can still get off the Merry Go Round. Since together we are not allowing him to forget what he actually did achieve, and armed with the realization that it takes continued, persistent,repeated experiences to break free of the ” gravitational pull ” of his past, he can plan his next steps to more effectively project himself into the world of his potential.
He can change, by taking steps, one at a time, but not allowing dust to settle on his efforts.You cannot take breaks from your efforts at personal growth. You must become ” obsessed ” with that growth to truly get off that Merry Go Round of the past, and never give into the urge to avoid. You must be ready to talk out loud about steps you are taking to grow. You must share your experiences with all who will listen, and not be detoured by non-believers. You must actively build a support system of like people. I believe this man will make it if he has the needed support and knowledge of how real change is accomplished.
“Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearing’.”
How about you ?
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/ Retired