Changing Patterns of Behavior
I love a good metaphor. Symbols and metaphors explain so much, so quickly, that words cannot fully describe. Here is a lighthearted example when Shrek tries to explain to Donkey that “Ogres are like onions.” As the movie progresses, we see the truthfulness of Shrek’s analogy, even though Donkey doesn’t quite understand.
I also love using metaphors with my counseling clients.
Metaphors are a powerful way of learning, and some of my favorite moments from counseling sessions were the times clients really attached themselves to metaphors. They found strength, insight, growth, and courage through metaphors and symbols. Be it as simple as a butterfly, as surprising as a snow globe, or as random as an orange blob, those ideas nudged my client towards their goals. Those metaphors nurtured their self-esteem and confidence.
Earlier this week, Simon could not find his red sneakers. To say those are his favorite shoes is an understatement – they are the only shoes (besides church shoes) he will wear. His red sneakers are worn out, missing traction, and probably uncomfortably small, yet he will not wear anything else. He has a new pair of grey sneakers in his closet. They would be much more comfortable and look more stylish. Basically brand new, we might have forced him to wear them twice, out of desperation when we could not find his red sneakers.
Despite all the positive qualities of the grey sneakers, Simon will not wear them.
Now, back to the story. . . earlier this week Simon couldn’t find his red shoes before we went for a family walk. After searching the house, Dad decided he would just have to wear his grey sneakers. Tears ensued, but we eventually left the house and enjoyed our walk. The next morning, Simon found his red shoes (one was under a table and the other was behind his bed.) As we prepared to play outside, I asked if he wanted to wear his grey shoes.
He firmly replied he wanted to wear the red sneakers – of course.
As I watched him struggle to fit his growing feet into those red sneakers, I realized that adults often follow the same tragic pattern. Many of my counseling clients cling to unhelpful and destructive patterns of behavior, yet they resist change towards something more positive. A couple who fights over finances every single day cannot bring themselves to alter the way they pay bills. A teenager who wants to overcome a tragic past event cannot even tell her supportive family members what happened. The woman who pleads for honesty from her husband yet punishes him when he tells the truth (even when its harmless!)
Patterns form the basis for our lives. Behaviors, thoughts, and actions that breed sorrow start small, but given enough time, those careless deeds build walls of resentment that can destroy happiness. Choices that nurture joy will always nurture joy.
Ask yourself, what patterns do you engage in that will potentially lead you down a path of sorrow?
Do you ignore your children to focus on today’s Facebook news feed?
Do you criticize your spouse’s meals in order to boost your own pride?
Do you gossip about friends to make yourself look better?
Do you run away from growth opportunities because of fear?
Do you express appreciation to your family each day, even for tiny things?
Do you seek to understand how to show your family members you love them?
Are you honest in your dealings with other people?
Do you make time to serve others and show you care for the relationships you have?
Everyone has room to improve their behavior. Think about any outdated patterns you might cling to – do you continue to revert to that bad habit instead of trying to improve? Are you shoving your feet into worn out shoes that offer little support or protection?
Are you willing to try to improve, even a little each day? Are you willing to start a healthier pattern of interaction with your friends and family? Can you apologize and forgive others?
Don’t get stuck in a pair of ugly shoes.
Be willing to change towards something better and healthier.