Did you ever take one of those little wind-up toys, turn the crank and set it down? Then you stand and watch it as it marches itself to the nearest wall or corner and continues to push itself against that barrier, unable to change course, and unable to stop?
It marches nowhere with a determined gait, until it’s energy is all spent, and someone comes and picks it up, turns the key, and sets it off to march again.
The thing is, some people are like that little wind-up toy, too. We’ve all seen them, the person who marches themselves into the wall, day after day, unable to stop themselves, and unable to change their course. You try to warn them; you try to point out different paths (like going around, over, or under the wall), but it’s as if they’re wearing blinders and ear muffs. They can’t see anything except what’s straight ahead of them, and they can’t hear anyone’s advice.
It breaks my heart to watch these people make the same choices day after day, over and over. It especially bothers me when they act surprised by the results. So many times I want to ask them, “What were you thinking?” How could they possibly expect something different would occur, when they keep making the same choices in the same situation.
It reminds me of a scene from the movie Straight Talk, when Dolly Parton is telling the other person how he keeps going into the grocery store to buy raisin bran, but every time he heads to the cereal shelves and grabs the box of cornflakes. Then when he opens the box, he’s always surprised because it’s not raisin bran.
In other words, if you’re always ending up with a significant other who is a lazy, no-account, or verbally or physically abusive, then you need to rethink your choices. To go into a relationship expecting the other person to change is naïve (at best) and unrealistic (at worst). A person is what a person is, and rarely will they change their intrinsic behavior without some major impetus (some life-altering event) occurring. So, to meet someone and say to yourself, “They’re close enough…” and then be surprised when they don’t meet your expectations is foolish.
The problem is, most people who keep repeating these behaviors don’t see themselves doing it. They can’t see that they’re constantly picking the same cereal or marching into the same wall. It’s almost as if they’re shopping or walking in their sleep. That’s why they’re always so surprised when they finally open the cereal or recognize that they’ve banging against the wall for weeks, months, or years.
For most of these people, it takes years to finally awaken enough to see the repetitiveness of their behavior. However, by the time they awaken that much, the behavior is such a part of them, that they don’t know how to change it. But recognizing the behavior is the first step to changing it. If they don’t know they’re doing it, how can they stop?
But once they know they keep marching into walls, or buying cornflakes instead of raisin bran, then they can stop themselves; because if they see themselves heading for that wall or that shelf of cereal they can change course. They can redirect themselves by picking another path, a path that will miss that wall; they can pick another direction, one that will bypass that shelf of cornflakes.
The only way they will ever pick what they really want from that grocery store of life, is to shop when they’re awake. As long as they keep shopping or marching in their sleep, though, they’ll always buy the cornflakes that they hate, or get stuck marching into that wall and going nowhere.