“Let go of the rope.” A colleague and I used this metaphor in our work with a client and I wanted to share a version of this with you.
Many times in life we find ourselves in “tug-o-wars”. You against your child(ren), you against a parent, you against your boss or co-workers, and the list could go on. The thing about tug-o-wars is that ever since elementary school at those wonderful Field Day events, we’ve learned how to pull and pull against whoever is on the other end of the rope. The objective has always been to pull the other team or other person towards your side and to not allow yourself to be pulled toward their side. The tension in the rope is greatest when both sides are using everything they’ve got to pull on their end of the rope. Neither side wants to let go of the rope because they would essentially lose the war.
As I reflect on the “tug-o-wars” that we encounter in our lives, I think about what creates that strong tension in the “rope”. I visualize one or more persons on either end of the rope pulling mightily to be “right” and not to be “wrong”, to be “strong” and not to be “weak”, to “win” and not to “lose”, to “control” and not be “controlled”. So, there is this dichotomy of opposing forces at play where those involved can only see one or the other, black or white, as viable options for themselves. When we are in a situation where we feel threatened or defensive in some small or great way, and we cannot see other alternatives or possibilities for lessening that feeling, I think we can become trapped in a kind of “tug-o-war”.
We can become trapped in attempting to show a child who’s the boss. We can become trapped in attempting to prove stuff to others. We can become trapped in attempting to defend who we are or who we are not. We can become trapped in attempting to show others that we will not be run over. There’s nothing wrong with these attempts alone, but I think the problem occurs when we get stuck in an oppositional position in our attempts and we become blind to what’s happening. I think this is when we lose sight of the “war” or the big picture and become entrenched in the little “battles”. So, then we have nowhere to go. We see no other ways of “winning” nor do we acknowledge any other meanings of “winning”. So, we pull and pull against whoever is on the other end of the rope. The more we feel they are trying to “do something” to us, the more we fight or pull against it.
Sometimes in order to win the war, you have to forego some battles. Rather than seeing foregoing battles as you giving up control, or being weak, a more useful perspective might be that foregoing battles is more about you relinquishing the hold and pull that someone has on you and your life. It is about you deciding that by meeting opposition with more opposition gets you nowhere, and that there is actually a great sense of freedom in forgoing the battles. It is about you deciding for yourself that by participating in the back and forth tugging, you cannot move forward in a positive and purposeful direction. It is about deciding that your greatest control comes by giving it up. Let go of the rope and be free.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.