How to Get Out of Your Own Way

Being ambivalent most often means not having a preference.

 I eat out a lot. If you ask me where I want to go to lunch, there’s a good chance I’ll be ambivalent.  I’ll go where you want to go. Healthy ambivalence leads me to accommodating those I care about.

At other times, especially when stress and fears run high, ambivalence leaves us getting in our own way because we’re afraid to express and act on our preferences. This results in being on the fence – indecisive, apprehensive, or even frozen in place.

Sometimes we avoid. We convince ourselves that not taking a stand is an acceptable course of (in)action. We’re overly passive. We tell ourselves that we’re “going with the flow”, but on the inside we’re seething. We want a different outcome but we’re going to wait for someone else to take note of the injustice that’s befallen us and correct it.

At other times, we withdraw and over think things. We operate under the illusion that anticipating every possible outcome before making a decision is a reasonable course of action. We justify this by telling ourselves that we “don’t want to rush into anything” or “be too hasty.”  

Meanwhile, our ass stays firmly planted on the fence because we want something better but we don’t want to go through the scary stuff to get it. It’s lonely being on the fence. It’s like a good Dave Matthews’ song – melancholy and bittersweet but too much of it and you need a six hour nap.

We crave comfort and familiarity. We favor predictability and the false sense of security it provides. We play it safe and afford no risks. This inevitably leads to being stuck, which leads to depression, which leads to the same old shit.

We tell everyone we’re, “just tired.” In truth, we’re drained and progressively ambivalent about our lives. Instead of getting support and drawing from different (healthier) perspectives, we stand firmly in our own way.

Struggling with this crap alone is akin to thrashing about in quicksand. We’re unlikely to call out for a lifeline until we’re up to our necks in the shit.

Shift Happens

For most of us there comes a point at which we’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired. This is where we either go all in or get out. We’re tired of hiding from it, tired of over thinking it, and ready to do whatever the f@ck it takes to get past it. This is when we go to our closest friends and admit that we’ve been driving ourselves nuts for extended periods of time.

There’s a weird sense of déjà vu that immediately follows those conversations. We know we’ve put ourselves through this before. If we’re honest we vaguely recall making past promises to ourselves that we’d not get trapped in our heads like that again.

We’re slow learners – slow to acceptance of an undeniable truth:

We need each other.

Life lessons keep coming. We learn the same ones until they bring us to our knees. It sucks that the thing most likely to bring us to the point of acceptance is suffering. As my friends in Recovery say, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Two heads aren’t just better than one – they’re exponentially better than one. If you don’t have someone in your life who will tell you the unbridled truth then hire someone who will.

Being afraid alone is something we wouldn’t wish on those we love yet it’s something we do to ourselves without hesitation. Fear causes regression and when we regress, we become our own worst enemies.

The more I surround myself with good people, the less opportunity there is for me to turn on myself. I’m free to enjoy times of solitude, but being alone for more than a few hours is never going to be healthy for me. The possibilities in my life are progressively greater with every connection I make.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.