Helpful hints and discussion about mental health and mental health issues as it relates to
news, popular culture and day-to-day life.


Monday 28 July 2014

Letting go of the Life-ring: Trust and Change

Trust and Change: Learning how to let go of the life-ring


So, dear friends an individual wrote in requesting some follow-up on the blog posting about clinging to the emotional life-ring (see the entry on “Just GetOver it! (Already) – NOT!).

Specifically the question was how to change patterns of the past. As you can see from the image in the posting “Just Get Over it!”, people who are abandoned, alone, out in the emotional ocean of life will desperately cling to that life-ring and when a rescuer comes along... well, they will switch from the life-ring to that person.



I won’t get into the phrases: “clingy” and “needy”, because EVERYONE is clingy and needy. Let me repeat that again, because it bears repeating:


EVERYONE is clingy and needy.


And as I mentioned in my post on “Just Get Over it!”, when well-meaning people criticize you (or worse) you criticize yourself with your internal critic by saying this.  Do you think it helps you or hinders? What do you think? – This is a test question, friends.


What do you think? When someone tells you, or you tell yourself – “You are clingy and needy!” Do you think it empowers you to go right out there and tackle the world? Does it make you feel like this:

Statue of Liberty

Monument to the Motherland, Kyiv

Or this:

Liberty Leading the People -- Eugène Delacroix



Or rather, do you feel rather more like this:


 even more small and less able to tackle the world? And then perhaps you feel that it is maybe even your own fault that you are... CLINGY and NEEDY?


What do you think is the correct answer?


For all those who chose the second answer: Full Marks.

For all those who wanted to choose the first answer, please refer to second answer.


Anyway, enough silliness.


The point is, when you are feeling abandoned by past relationships and/or desperate and wanting to regain what you have lost, it makes no sense whatsoever to BLAME yourself for what you no longer have or what you have lost. You have lost something and you feel a need (not neediness) until it is replaced. It is that simple. Blaming yourself by calling yourself down (or having others call you down) by saying you are needy or clingy helps not a bit.


So, embrace your clinginess and your neediness. It is there for a reason.


Hunh? Embrace your neediness?


Emotions, you see, are our sensors. When you are feeling neediness or clinginess, it is an internal message from yourself to yourself that you wish to be more emotionally connected. Listen to that message and listen to that voice. It is there for a reason.


So, well and good, Steve, I hear you say.

So I acknowledge my neediness and my loneliness and my clinginess. So what? What am I supposed to do about this now?


Okay, so part of the problem with getting into relationships is, it involves two elements:


1.      Process

2.      And Trust.


Now, psychotherapists and counsellors are forever going on about “process” and no, we are not talking about this:

 processed cheese, although the word “process” is such a cliché with counsellors, you could say it is “cheesy”.


But, seriously, “process” is an expression we use to understand that CHANGE and the change process and the evolution of a person’s life and personality, does not happen instantaneously overnight. On the contrary it is..... a process.


And similarly changing ANYTHING in our lives is a process.  I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But at least you now know realistically HOW to change whatever you would like to in your life (within reason).




Want to lose weight? – It’s a process.

Want to get out of that bad relationship? – It’s a process.

Want to have a fabulous, buff body or look like Arnold? – It’s a process.

Want to be wealthy? – It’s a process.

Want to get into that super relationship with the person of (most) of your dreams? – It’s a process.

Want to quit drinking/smoking/drugging (fill-in-the-blank) bad habit? – It’s a process.


Want to speak a foreign language? – It’s a process.

Want to get out of that job or change your career or go back to school? – It’s a process.

Want a sparkling clean, decluttered house and tidy garden? – It’s a process.


Just how many infomercials have there been where people can strike it rich with some super-duper fabulous get-rich-quick investment scheme or lose weight or put on muscles in no time at all? Unfortunately, they don’t tell you the other side of it: that it takes a lot of persistence and encouragement to get to that goal.


These infomercials are designed to appeal to all of us at a very basic level because they focus on basic human drives and basic human needs and goals. A man named Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow

talked about this and I may come back to this in the future on another post.


However, what you need to keep in mind, for whatever change you would like to bring about is that it is a process. Ten steps forward, 3 steps back. But a net gain of seven steps.


Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian journalist,

Malcolm Gladwell

in his book entitled “Outliers”

talks about the “10,000 hour effect”, referring to a study by K. Anders Ericsson,

 a Swedish psychologist. According to Ericsson’s  research, which was written about in Gladwell’s book,  the bulk of most successful people in the world have put in about 10,000 hours into their field in order to be at the top of their field.
K. Anders Ericcson


There are no overnight success stories.


So, once again.   It is a process.


Secondly, and this is a little bit more difficult, apart from changing habits and routines, relationships, if one is talking about changing relationships, also involves trust. And trust again, is..... A process.


So the question might be: Okay, Steve. I hear that changing my life (or my relationship) might be a process – 10, 000 hours or 10 steps forward, 3 steps back until I reach my destination.


However, how do I trust if I have been burned?


Simple.    You don’t trust, if you have been burned.




You don’t trust if you have been burned. You are feeling fearful and frightened. You don’t trust.... until you feel safe.

Think again of the image of the drowning person with the life ring.  The person is fearful and frightened of drowning.  How useful would it be to the drowning person to snatch away their life ring and say:

                        “Now there you go! SWIM”

So the exact same thing applies to you. You feel bruised perhaps from a past relationship. You are distrustful. So you don’t trust. You have to go with what you feel.


However, you also know, logically that if you never let go of that life ring you will never swim.


So, you have to trust that you will swim and not drown.


I realize that this may be a little too abstract and metaphoric, so I will illustrate with a concrete example, where the names and information has been changed.



Once upon a time, I knew a middle-man who had had 3 kids and who had lost his wife due to cancer.  Very nice man, but unfortunately when he lost his wife, he started drinking like crazy and almost lost his job. Fortunately his elder sister came to the rescue and he went into rehab and got cleaned up.


Now, remember what I said about change? Well, change for this man was a process. Everyday he had to struggle to deal with his wife’s death and then his abstinence and like in Alcoholics Anonymous or AA, every day was one step at a time. So it was a daily process for him.


Now after about 3 years, the man who was still young enough, wanted to have a relationship. However, he felt a strong obligation whenever he met a new woman in his life to “be honest and tell her upfront that he was “an alcoholic”.


Well and good, I thought, except here’s the problem and I told him so.

When you get into a relationship it is ...... A PROCESS.

It is a process of getting to know someone and you don’t and shouldn’t spill your entire life story in the first five minutes you meet someone, especially not that which you might think would be   upsetting for the other person to know.


You do not need to tell them for example that:

1.      You used to be an addict.

2.      You were sexually abused as a child

3.      You have been bankrupt.

4.      You had a criminal record, which has now been removed.

5.      Anything else that someone else might be scared of.


Why? But shouldn’t I be honest and upfront with the person?

Absolutely. But do they need to know absolutely everything and every little transgression or fault about you within the first five minutes? No.


Everyone has faults. And trust and the process of trust will slowly start to bring out these admissions AS YOU GET TO KNOW THE PERSON. Look at it this way, the person you are getting to know, will likely have just as many faults and heartaches in their past as you, all you need to do is wait for the story.

And if you were to hear in the first five minutes about someone else’s failed relationships, what would you think?

Probably, you wouldn’t want to get involved with this person.

Which is exactly what this middle-aged man was struggling with.

He felt a compunction to be upfront and honest in the first meeting with anyone new and subsequently turned all potential partners off.


SO, relationships and trust are a process. It requires courage and time.

And be good to yourself. If you are feeling needy or clingy, it is because you are feeling a basic human need that we all need from birth: to be held, touched, loved, wanted and desired.

People who do not have this, dear friends can become very, very seriously dysfunctional.


So, keep at it and trust the process. Because as you do begin to trust the process, you will find yourself less and less like the clingy little child and more and more like the ideal of liberty.

Take care,


I welcome comments, questions for clarification and dialogue respectful to this post and any others.

If you are interested in this or other posts, why not click on the Google + button or submit your email, either way, and follow this blog?

No comments:

Post a Comment