“I’m working on it,” he says. “Almost there.”
He’s telling me, for the tenth time in ten weeks, that he’s almost ready to end his bad marriage.
“No,” I say. “You’re camping.”
He knows just what I mean. It was one of his sessions that inspired Resigned, which compared discouraged clients to mountain climbers who camp on the side of the mountain.
“I know,” he says sadly. “But I have to keep climbing. I’ll never be happy otherwise.”
“Have I ever told you about the Paradoxical Theory of Change?” I ask. “It’s an idea from Gestalt therapy. It says As long as you try to change yourself, you stay stuck. But accept yourself as you are, and change happens automatically.”
“I don’t get it,” he frowns.
“Sometimes trying to change feels less like growth than self-abuse. Not I deserve more, but I’m not good enough as I am.
“I think that’s happening here. The Adult part of you says I’ll never be happy here, so I better get on with ending this marriage. But the Kid part says Hell, no. Divorce scares the crap out of me. I’m not going anywhere. Sound about right?”
He nods. “And the Kid wins the argument.”
“Always. And you’re not going anywhere without that Kid. Nowhere good, anyway. So maybe you should listen to him.”
“I shouldn’t just drag him along?”
“No. He’s had a lifetime of that. Stop pushing him. Accept him as is, for now.”
“Let him camp?”
“For now. Let him build a campfire, roast a marshmallow, get a good night’s sleep. You’d be surprised how strengthening real rest can be.
“And the mountaintop will still be there tomorrow.”