Learning Personal Growth by Stepping on a Tack

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the “Problem House” vs. the “Solution House.” If you've taken LifeResults Basic you may remember that concept as it relates to personal growth. I've come to realize recently that I've spent huge amounts of my life walking around in agitated circles inside the Problem House. I've practically worn tracks in the floorboards, I've spent so much time in there. Sound familiar to anyone? 

Lately, I've been watching my loved ones struggle with their own issues too. I've watched them stalk and storm around that Problem House like it was a jail cell. I've watched them glance at a likely solution, flirt with it for a moment, then turn right around and storm back into their Problem House. 

I was centering on this issue, and wondering why it is that I seem so endlessly fascinated by my challenges, often at the expense of actually fixing them. I decided that maybe I think and talk so relentlessly about the things that have hurt me, because I’m trying to convince myself (or whomever I’m talking to), that my hurt feelings are both appropriate and righteous. In other words, I want so badly to feel “right” about feeling bad, that I miss opportunities to feel good instead!  

As I was giving myself over to these realizations, I began to envision a role-playing scenario in my mind. The more I thought through this imaginary conversation, the more I felt that it represented SO MANY of my failed interactions with others in my life. It made me think about all those times when I was totally committed to making sure that everyone within earshot knew that I was hurt or angry, and why, and that I was going to stay good and hurt/angry about it for as long as I wanted to, because I had a good reason!!! If that sounds familiar at all to you, read on. I’m going to use my lovely wife Kristin as my pretend partner in this little scenario.

[Robert walks into kitchen, and suddenly winces in sharp pain]
Kristin: What’s wrong?
Robert: What’s wrong?! What’s wrong?! I’ll tell you what’s wrong!! Somebody left a sharp tack on the floor, and I just stepped on it!!
Kristin: Oh, honey, are you okay?
Robert: NO I’M NOT OKAY! Do I look okay?! I have a tack under my foot!!!
Kristin: ……. Um……. You’re still standing on it?
Robert: Yes! As a matter of fact I am!
Kristin: Why don’t you lift your foot?
Robert: Well that’s not really the point now, is it? Hmmm?
Kristin: ……………
Robert: This just really pisses me off, you know that? I mean it. This just puts me over the edge!
Kristin: Well I’m sure it was an accident.
Kristin: (stifling a giggle at the pun) Come on now, you don’t think…
Robert: Well what else am I supposed to think? You tell me! You know, I worked my ass off today at the office, and things were very demanding all day, and then I come home from work and I’m rushing around trying to get things done, and this is the thanks I get!!
Kristin: Are you, uh, still standing on that tack?
Robert: Yes, and it hurts like hell!!
Kristin: Well here, let me help you get that out…
Robert: That’s easy for you to say! You aren't the one with a tack in your foot! Oh, no, nobody ever leaves tacks laying around for YOU to step on. No….. it’s just me! I try and try to be kind and helpful around here, but it doesn't matter. Nobody stops to think that I might get hurt, do they?!?
Kristin: Well it’s not like someone did this to you on purpose, you know!
Robert: THAT’S NOT THE POINT!! The point is I’m standing here with a giant tack buried IN MY FOOT!! Wow, is this thing like a mile long?
Kristin: Well, you know, you could just…
Robert: And besides!! Who left a tack on the floor anyway? I have asked over and over for things like that to be picked up, but NOOOOOO, can anybody listen to me? Ever? For just once? Damn this hurts!!
Kristin: Will it help if I promise you that we’ll all try harder not to leave things like that lying around where someone can get themselves hurt…
Robert: IT’S A LITTLE TOO LATE FOR THAT NOW, ISN'T IT? You know why? Because I've got a tack in my foot, that’s why!! You know, I really didn't deserve this.
Kristin: You’re right, you didn't. I’m sorry it happened to you. Now let me just help you get that out…
Robert: Why would there be a tack on the floor anyway?!?! Who does that?!!? This really hurts!
Kristin: Well why don’t we take it out, and I’ll get you a Band-Aid…
Kristin: (Giggling) Well obviously you didn't miss the point!
Robert: (Hurt stare) …………..   Oh, so now my pain is funny to you. Is that it? I’m just a big joke around here, aren't I? Let’s all laugh at Robert, with the giant spike through his foot. Is that how it is?
Kristin: Honey, now, you know I didn't mean…
Robert: I don’t know what you meant! All I know, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is that I HAVE A TACK IN MY FOOT!!!

And on an on it goes...

So… what’s the moral of this little story? I have begun to learn to look at the patterns of behavior in my life that have led to interactions that were not productive, positive, and joyful. As I do so, I’m beginning to recognize that the habit of dwelling on WHY my hurt feelings are fair and reasonable is a trap, and this habit keeps me from moving on toward solutions. Life has no pause button. Every minute I spend dwelling on WHY I’m feeling bad is a minute I’ll never, ever get back. Therefore my wish for myself, and for all of you, is that when life puts a tack under our feet, we’ll just shrug it off, get over it, and get on with living our lives.

Peace and joy to you all.

- Robert Conway