Your other foot

A man loses his foot in an accident.  Forced to hobble and use a crutch, he finds himself the object of unexpected attention and sympathy.  Then his doctor fits him with a prosthetic foot. The hobbling ends.  The crutch becomes unnecessary.  The attention and sympathy dwindle away.  So he takes an axe and cuts off his other foot.

Crazy?

I see it all the time.

In the husband who complains daily about his unhappy marriage but puts off getting a divorce.

Or the wife who rages about how her husband avoids or ignores her but won’t examine how her behavior pushes him to do so.

Or the teacher who bemoans the bullies who abuse her at work but refuses either to learn how to assert herself or to change jobs.

Or the son so scared his alcoholic parents will reject him if he stops drinking that he clings to his addiction in self-defense.

Welcome to the world of secondary gain.

Secondary gain refers to an emotional or psychological benefit that comes from having a problem or illness.

The gain may be attention, acceptance, sympathy, safety, familiarity, resistance to change, distraction from responsibility, avoidance of intimacy, or denial of other problems.

Seeking such gains is not faking or manipulation.

It’s often unconscious.

It can be seen as an attempt to meet legitimate needs in an unhealthy way

It’s also a monkeytrap: a situation that encourages you to hold on when it would be healthier to let go.

Suspect you might be monkeytrapped in this way?

Try asking yourself one question about your persistent symptom or problem:

If I were to fix this, what would I lose?

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