Boat rocking

~~~rocking the boat

Angela has a stress-ridden adolescent son who throws up every morning before school.  She worries about his anxiety and perfectionism, but is afraid to stop pressuring him about grades because “he’ll think it’s okay to not set goals or try hard.”

Betty has an alcoholic husband who stays out late and lies to her.  She hates this, but resists my suggestion she visit Al-Anon or join a support group because “he might find out and get angry.”

Carl is married to a narcissistic woman who ignores his feelings and dismisses his preferences.  Unhappy for years, he refuses to stand up to her because he hates conflict, and “a leopard doesn’t change its spots, so why bother?”

Everyone knows someone like this.

Someone who, faced with a particular problem, hangs on to the status quo as if it were a life preserver.

Welcome to the famous Don’t Rock the Boat syndrome.

DRTB is rooted in several pernicious and often unconscious assumptions, like

~ the familiar is safe,

~ the unfamiliar is scary,

~ change is usually for the worst,

~ with attention comes problems,


~ giving up control is dangerous.

It’s common among anxious people, beset by imaginary bears

It’s also common among people who’ve learned to fear and avoid interpersonal conflict.

Then there are those for whom DRTB is a conscious tactical choice.  They decided it provides enough safety, or the illusion of same, to outweigh the emotional stuckness it invariably costs them.

Hey, if DRTB works for you, fine.  No problem.  Stop reading.

But if it doesn’t — if you’re one of the unhappy stuck ones, sick of complaining about (or suffering silently with) some chronic problem that never seems to change — four suggestions:

(1) Review those unconscious assumptions listed above, and identify which ones you use to justify your choices.

(2) Ask yourself if DRTB has really helped you become a less worried or less anxious person.

(3) Consider replacing Don’t rock the boat with another mantra — something more assertive, like If nothing changes, nothing changes.

(4) Seek out people who will encourage your courage, and support your attempt to risk boat rocking.  

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