Shoot for the Bulls Eye

People who have experienced one extreme tend to go to the other extreme. This over-adjustment is a very common reaction. When I play golf and hit my first putt too hard and long I usually hit the very next effort too soft and short.

Virtually all of my psychotherapy clients have lived their emotional lives at an extreme. However, they were all originally oriented to the opposite extreme in childhood. Many people tell me, “I vowed to myself even as a child that I would be nothing like my mother or father.” Well, the only way to feel that they have accomplished that was to go to the opposite extreme! Otherwise they might risk being a little bit like their mother or father and this was too uncomfortable. At first, going to the opposite extreme feels right, safe, and better. However, over time the consequences of going to that other extreme start to take their toll. An adjustment toward the middle continues to be resented because the fear of the other extreme persists. An additional but subtle source of reluctance to shift to the middle is the active memory of how good it feels to be the opposite of their parent. 

Over adjustments feel good at first, but after sometime all extremes lead to problems. The only sensible approach involves shooting for the bullseye. The challenge is to accept that when you aim for the middle and don’t tuck yourself way out on an extreme you are invariably going to err, to some degree, in both directions. Many people have a great fear of being selfish, others a fear of being taken advantage of. When you are shooting for true fairness, everyone is going to miss the bullseye to some degree some of the time. Although, when your aim is toward the center your average will be pretty good. The rub is that now you will have to accept that you can sometimes be a little selfish and sometimes end up with less than your share. If you humbly accept that you can’t throw a bullseye every time, this discomfort will pass.

Some may confuse extremes with excellence or superior performance. The truth is that the bullseye is the goal; it’s not a compromise or mediocre score. So put a nice pattern of shots right in and around the bullseye and see how much better things go. Sure obligation and dependable expectation have their qualities, but too often they distance us from the realization that nobody really has to do anything for us. They want to do it. Moreover, we want to do things for and with others too. However, when our gifts become routine services done on certain dates of the year with specific expectations we can lose our connection with the joy of giving and sharing and helping. Take back your autonomy. Make what you do for the holidays be things that you want to do not what you have to do. Perhaps just changing things up will do it. Do less. Ship it all together, (There’s a challenge!) Most of all try to realize again that you don’t have to do these things and neither do others have to be with you…… they want to be.