Pinned to the wall in my waiting room, hangs a quote by Albert Einstein that reads, “Nothing changes until something moves.” I confront it every morning as I walk into my office. There it waits on a bland, white, 8 by 11 piece of paper. It waits for anyone walking past to notice it, to read it, and to ponder its meaning.
When I stop to consider it, Einstein was likely thinking of physics when he wrote it, but it makes perfect sense in the world of human emotions. When it comes to how we understand ourselves and others, you see, nothing does change until we decide to imagine and construct our thoughts differently.
I frequently speak to men, for example, about the relationships they have with their wives, children and partners. Too often, I hear these men talk about wanting to tenderly reach out to those they love and tell them how they feel, but that they hesitate to do so. Hesitation to fully express oneself emotionally can be the result of many influences. Sometimes these men had no role models to teach them, through their actions, how to love and cherish another. Sometimes they feel their words are inadequate. And, sometimes they fear the possibility of ridicule and rejection of others. For whatever the reason, powerful hesitation persists.
When confronting hesitation and avoidance, I often think of Einstein’s quote, along with the age-old advice, “time and tide wait for no man.” Life does move along on its own timeline, doesn’t it? The opportunities we have today to reach out to others may quickly vanish tomorrow. I wonder how we would act if we knew that we only had today? How much would we express to others? What of ourselves would we want to give to others? For as many times as I have raised these questions, I am too often met with, and perplexed by, that all too familiar and deeply entrenched avoidance and hesitation.
Hesitation to create movement in how we see ourselves or how we relate to others can be painfully obvious to the afflicted. I frequently ask the avoidant person if the avoidance they know so well is working for them. The nearly universal response is “no.” If we avoid, we do it for a reason. We do it because that’s how we were trained to deal with life’s challenges and upsets. That is all we know. Burying is another form of avoidance. As one client recently noted, “burying is a survival technique, but not a happy technique.” Burying, avoiding, denying and hesitating are all part of the human need to survive. But, if by avoiding conflict we keep ourselves from others, our “survival” comes at a tremendous cost.
And so, for all who wait, vacillate and hesitate, I am reminded of yet another quote. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” What I sometimes find myself wondering is what will it take for the “blind” to see? Whatever it will takes, please remember that time is not on our side.
Walter Sherburne, Psychotherapist