July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Digging Your Way Out With a Plastic Spoon

There are definitely times when we welcome change. Boredom, fatigue, discomfort and frustration may all be factors that lead to a readiness for a new stage. How many of us are ready for the pandemic to become endemic? Raise your hand if you’d like to see the weather get warmer. And yet, when we face this change, so many of us tend to shut down in some way, shape or form.

Yes, we want to experience a difference but no, we don’t want to go through the “muckiness” or in-between time between the chapters. That moment when the page is turning feels like eons of suspension and then when it finally lands we are left looking at thousands of characters, likely having difficulty putting them together as words and instead focusing on the newness of the experience.

Change feels so hard because in some way we become used to the current situation, even when this includes suffering. In other ways, we would give anything for this suffering to end, but letting go of a struggle can feel threatening to the part of ourselves that thinks in a dichotomous manner, enjoying predictability even when it includes discomfort.

For someone on a journey toward behavioral or emotional change, this experience can be amplified. This becomes more complicated when we factor in the ways that the individual’s struggle may be serving a purpose—consciously or not—and the dynamics that need to shift when the change occurs as it will likely not only impact the person, but also wider relationships. I’ve written before about secondary gains and what feels hard about letting go—but I revisit this subject with a new lens, based on how much I’ve seen and heard people discuss change in a single-minded manner.

Impatience. Frustration. Disbelief that hope is possible.

It seems that people think once they wrap their minds and willingness, in some way, around change, that then it should be seamless and easy. The individual may feel a pressure to be “all in” and wholly committed to change, when in reality, all of the above factors may lead to an ebb and flow surrounding the desire to change, and even the practical actions the person takes—at times challenging oneself or completing tasks and other times not feeling ready or wanting to do so. This is typically rooted in fear and in myths surrounding expectations around change. People think that if it is “right” it should be easy—they base their thoughts on their feelings, and so if change feels hard, they take this to mean that it isn’t the right time; they’re doing it wrong; or that there is simply no hope for them.

What if we accepted that change is slow and that it is difficult? It is not a crash or demolition site. Change, at times, including the frustration, grit and patience of digging one’s way out using only a plastic spoon. (If you know the movie reference, you know. If you don’t, I’m not giving away spoilers).

In my sessions, I often discuss this idea with folks who, rightly so, have lots of big feelings because of how hard the current situation may be, how much they want to be “on the other side” and also how hard it is to get there. I tend to use metaphors, noting that they’re in the mucky part of the water or in the dark part of the cave right now, and it’s so tempting to go backward into what feels like safety but is actually just keeping the individual stuck and at times is even hurting the person and perhaps those around this individual.

It can feel daunting to dig one’s way out with only a plastic utensil—leading to questioning the process or oneself, feeling futile. In reality, there will be a time when the person will emerge and look back on their escape. But it will be a process. And this process takes patience and often requires support, connection and validation for frustration. It is less about providing support as a cheerleader when someone is moving toward change, and more about validating the difficulty, asking how to help, and recognizing that change will not come based on “wanting it hard enough.” Life is messier than that. Change will come, in some cases, with many baby steps and some moments—or weeks—of falling down and needing to cry a bit while or before getting back up.

So pick up the plastic spoon. Dig. Cry. Ask for help. Questioning is normal, but resist the urge to judge. Change is happening all around us, and while it can be beautiful and scary and daunting, it can also be a means of growth. Let us all support one another in recognition of this process, check our assumptions at the door (not everyone feels ready for change even when you might think they “should”) and be open to holding onto hope.


Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 18 and older in New York and New Jersey who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness and a Metro-New York supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, please visit www.temimah.com .

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles