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Breaking the Ostrich’s Egg

April 27, 2012

“Life does not put things in front of you that you are unable to handle.”

~ Unknown

How many times have you been faced with a seemingly hopeless situation and have ended up avoiding it altogether because it seems so impossible?

Oh don’t look at me like that.  Everyone does it.  You’re life is clicking along seamlessly (well, if not seamlessly than at least without too many potholes) and suddenly you come face to face with something that seems insurmountable.  The problem is just too big.  You’re not ready for this.  You don’t have the resources to handle it.  No one’s ever taught you how to handle something like this.

So what do you do?  If you are like most of us, you’ll find a way to avoid the situation altogether.  Either you will play the victim, run away from your problem, or pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Playing the Victim

Playing the victim is usually the easiest choice.  After all, you didn’t ask for this to happen, did you? That makes it easy to feel as if you are being ‘put upon’ or being manipulated by circumstances beyond your control.

Believe it or not, this belief; that we don’t have any choice in what happens to us; is a belief that is almost as old as mankind itself; almost a kind of archetypal thinking.  It is this overwhelming sense of helplessness that has spawned many of today’s religious belief systems, especially the kind with the evil villain/good savior dualism that puts both “good” and “bad” things firmly outside of your ability to control or handle on your own.

More recently victimization has taken a more psychological bent with psychiatrists helping individuals to come to terms with their victimization by pinpointing who or what is responsible for what has happened to them.  But even though it at least helps the individual to take responsibility for the feelings that they are having now, it is still feeding that ages old concept of being a victim.

The thing is, for all that it is easier to blame someone else; for all that it makes us feel better to not have to take responsibility for what has happened to us, it is the rare individual who doesn’t understand – even if it is on a deep, subconscious level, that the whole concept of victimization is, for the most part, something that is used to help us avoid having to deal with frightening or unpleasant situations.

Run for the Hills!

Running away is probably the next most popular means of avoidance.  Honestly, what can be more to the point than coming head to head with a seemingly insurmountable problem and simply giving up and walking away?  This is the most basic of avoidance instincts – the “flight” part of the fight or flight instinct that is built into nearly every living creature on the planet.

By removing yourself from the situation you can avoid having to deal with it.  There’s just one problem.  Running away has become associated with being a coward in modern society.  Of course we don’t want to look like cowards, so we come up with any number of ways to convince ourselves that we “can’t” deal with the situation, or that we really don’t have the time to be bothered by it.

These can include everything from literally physically walking away or withdrawing from the situation, to immersing yourself in work or drink, overeating, politics, drugs, sex, fantasy fiction, the nightly news or anything else that will keep you from having to think about the problem.

Once again, there isn’t a human alive that doesn’t understand that running away from your issues, (whether it is physically walking away from the situation or in masking your fears or worries by wrapping yourself up in layers of protective habits) is not going to resolve the situation.  This is why Alcoholics Anonymous and so many other 12 step programs have become so popular in the last two decades.  People know what they are doing.  They understand that there are issues that they are avoiding and that they have developed “methods” of avoidance that can’t be classified as cowardice in order to avoid their problems.  This leaves us our good old flightless birds, the Ostriches.

Playing the Ostrich

The last avoidance option; sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there is nothing wrong; is one that is used by those who do not choose to employ any of the “flight” options listed above such as playing the victim or running away.

Perhaps they are too honest with themselves to be able to walk away from the situation.  They know that running isn’t going to solve it, and they have enough understanding to realize that they have nothing or no one to blame but themselves.  However, these individuals tend to opt for another, less obvious (and sometimes more harmful) method of avoidance.  They pretend that the problem doesn’t exist.

Now yes, I’ll be the first one to say that you do create your own reality, and that you have the power and the ability to choose your life; your state of mind.  I’ll even agree that your thoughts determine your reality and that by focusing on the negative you are bound to bring more of the same into your life. But there is a decided difference between a fully conscious human who uses their creative abilities to sculpt their life to their specifications through intentional and authentic living, and someone who simply refuses to see what is right in front of them because it is unpleasant or frightening and they don’t want to have to deal with it.

Dealing with the issue is not dwelling on the negative.  In fact, many times it is the means by which we can remove the negative from our lives once and for all and focus on maintaining the positive life that we want for ourselves.  But we can’t kid ourselves and pretend that these issues do not exist.  That is just asking for trouble.

While this last avoidance issue is by far the most insidious and the most difficult to deal with, there is one sure way to break the Ostrich’s habit, and that is to break his egg.

Breaking the Ostrich Egg

Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand to avoid confronting danger.  This myth is thought to have originated with a quote from Pliny the Elder who wrote about Ostriches thrusting their head and neck into a bush and imagining that their whole body is concealed.  Actually, Pliny was wrong – they don’t even stick their heads in a shrub – they simply lay their necks out flat along the ground and spread out their wings to keep as low of a profile as possible.  This causes their bodies to appear – from a distance – like a shrub or low mound of dirt.

This of course makes sense when you realize that from a camouflaging point of view that the body of an ostrich really does resemble the kind of shrubs that abound in the Australian outback. So when the Ostrich’s elongated neck is concealed or isn’t immediately visible, most predators will simply walk right by them and not even notice.  But the fact is that most Ostriches only hide in certain situations; such as when they are laying eggs or have been physically injured.  Most times when an ostrich is threatened they don’t hide – they run.

This also makes sense, because the Ostrich is a fast runner. It’s true; they’ve been clocked at speeds up to 45 mph, which makes running away from a predator a very good option.  They can also maintain a steady running speed of about 32mph, which makes them the world’s fastest two-legged animal.  The thing is that there are times when an Ostrich simply will not run; when they refuse to run.  The most well-known of these is when their nest is threatened.

Indeed, threaten an Ostrich’s nest or (heaven forbid) break its egg, and the game is up.  You will see a different side of the Ostrich, one that most people don’t even suspect exists, because the Ostrich is also an extremely fierce and effective fighter.  Their powerful legs can deal out kicks that can seriously injure or even kill a predator, and their very strong and sharp beaks (driven by those muscular necks) can make quick work out of anyone or anything that threatens them.

So, Why are You Running?

Like the Ostrich, you too have the ability to not only face your problems, but to work through them.  While there may be a time and a place to blend in with your surroundings, or even to run, there is nothing keeping you from using your strengths (and you do have them!) to address the issue at hand.

It doesn’t matter what you are being asked to face. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have the right skills; the right training; the right credentials to handle the situations. It doesn’t even matter whether or not anyone believes that you can do it (including yourself!).  If the universe has presented you with a challenge, it is because you are ready to take it on.

Does this mean that you will inevitably succeed at what it is that you are attempting? Of course not.  Well, actually, it depends I suppose on your definition of success.  In fact, sometimes the whole point of the challenge is to help you uncover those things inside of yourself that will allow you to handle this sort of situation.  So if it is your first time facing up to this kind of situation- to this kind of challenge – then it may take several attempts for you to get it right.

But the point is that when you are presented with a challenging situation – even a seemingly hopeless situation – it doesn’t do you any good to blame someone else, to run away, or to pretend that the situation doesn’t exist. It was put in front of you for a reason.  It’s up to you to make the most of it.

 

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