Sometimes we are not aware that we have a problem. Sometimes the problem sneaks into 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 into the same stone, is the idea that expresses this funny story taken from the Spanish site Vida Emocional.
I take a road in which there is a large hole. I don't see it and I fall into it. It is deep and dark. I take a long time to go out. It's not my fault.
I take the same route again. There is a big hole and I see it, but I fall back into it. It is deep and dark. I take a long time to go out. It's not my fault yet.
I take the same route again. There is a big hole, and I see it, but I fall back into it again. It has become a habit. But I'm already learning how to get out of the hole quickly. I recognize my responsibility.
I take the same route again. There is a big hole. I walk around it.
I take a different path.
This very simple story is a perfect simile of life itself, of all those moments when we fall into that huge hole, although we are perfectly aware of its existence and we know it will be difficult to get out of it. That hole can represent almost anything that hurts us but can't leave behind, from alcohol and junk food to a toxic relationship.
Compulsive repetition. Why do we repeatedly stumble on the same stone?
If we don't recognize a problem, we will continue to practice the same behaviors and ways of thinking that got us to where we are. To paraphrase Einstein, we can't expect different results if we always do things the same way. In fact, very often people end a toxic relationship only to find that the same pattern will repeat itself in the next. Because?
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 drives us to repeat the same habits and thought patterns, even if they lead us into situations that harm us.
In many cases compulsive repetition forms in childhood, they are patterns we have learned from our parents or ways of reacting that have been automated. As children we learned many things by imitation; brushing our teeth, writing or cycling. Likewise, we have acquired emotional habits, thought patterns, ways of relating and strategies for dealing with conflicts.
As we grow up, we don't question those lessons, but they can become so maladaptive that they lead us into situations that cause us pain. The problem is that very often we don't have the psychological resources to deal with the necessary change, so we protect ourselves by “hiding” the real cause of the problem. We ignore the chasm in our way.
While it may seem unlikely, our fear of leaving the comfort zone is enormous. We are likely to suffer in that area, but it is the space that we know and in which we have found a certain balance. Leaving this comfort zone 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 choices: either we stay there, slowly exhausting ourselves, or we call on all our strength to go out and change everything that needs to be changed.
How can we learn and move forward?
It is essential not to point the accusing finger at others in search of an external culprit, we must do an examination of conscience. The chasm on the road is there for everyone, but not everyone falls into it. Learning to avoid that hole is a decision we must make consciously. To achieve this, we must first discover which ways of thinking, attitudes and ways of relating fuel 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 comfort zone in small steps, so that we don't feel too anxious, expanding our living space a little more 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. Think about how you do things and deal with problems normally and try to introduce an element of novelty, do something different. These small changes will help you to get out of the bubble that you have created around you, change reality a little, so you will realize that the change does not imply anything bad.
Slow down the pace of your life, look inside yourself and make decisions. Consider that the first step never gets you where you want to go, but gets you out of where you are. Move slowly and learn to trust your instincts a little more.
It is also important that you prepare yourself to face all the excuses you make up, they are the result of fear of the unknown, it is the part of you that wants to keep you tied to the past. Be aware that I am just that: excuses for not moving on.
Last but not least, don't feel guilty about falling into the abyss. It happens to everyone. It is a life experience that you can use to learn and come out strengthened.