Square Pegs Round Holes — on Redefining Relationships with Ourselves, with Others
Square Pegs, Round Holes — on Redefining Relationships with Ourselves, with Others
Boy, that was a long title.
I worked with a 17 year old young man, who came in with his parents. Mom did the initial description of his situation, and he chimed in. I have to tell you, I liked this family.
Which is not to say they agreed with, or were absolutely polite with each other. I saw a free flow of ideas regarding the young man’s present state of being. He reported, “I know how to “play the game” at school and in my social life, but I am also feeling sad, alone.” His life, in general, lacked meaning. When I asked him to describe his state of mind, he couldn’t, other than to say “I’m sad.”
Mom mentioned she’d gone through a similar experience 2 years ago, and also said that she was prone to depression. She was quick, however, to disown a genetic link—she was simply making an observation. There was a fair amount of conversation, back and forth, about meaning, about friends, and ultimately, about not fitting in to the norms of what society “expects.”
Needless to say, I could relate.
I tossed out how maybe he was smart enough to allow his true self out— that he didn’t fit in because he chose not to play the game of hiding his true self. I mentioned that not conforming was a difficult thing, as much pressure is brought to bear on the non-conformist. And I suggested that it wasn’t so much that he was different or unusual—we’re all different and unusual—but that he was flying in the face of what most people do with their uniqueness—most people simply choose to hide it. Most people conform to the norms rather than face the struggle that being different can create.
What he was feeling, his sense of alienation, might be the result of actually being himself.
I suggested that he doesn’t fit in—the “square peg, round hole” idea—and mom and dad agreed, and my client smiled and nodded.
I asked him, “Does it sometimes seem like too much effort to play the game, when in the end, you don’t know if it’s even worth fitting in?” He again nodded and said, “I usually fit in because I know how. I’m just not sure, any more, why I’d want to.”
Another client, a 17 year old young woman put it,
“Sometimes I realize that I am far more mature and responsible for myself than my friends are. It’s hard outgrowing them, but it sure beats hanging around and feeling miserable.”
Here are a couple of examples of what we live and teach—examples of Open Palm Solutions
We teach people to have relationships in which each person acts as a witness for the other.
- This allows the participants to learn more about themselves, through dialogue. There’s no attempt to change the other person.
- There is a lot of curiosity about each person’s process and world view.
- This is certainly not the “welded together at the hip” description of relationship that society bandies about. “I love you because you make me complete,” to us, is simply hogwash.
We help others to understand that “I alone am responsible for me”:
- for my direction, my understandings, the condition of my body, the way I live my life, and especially for “what’s happening in my life.”
We believe that anyone can learn:
- to hear the critical voices in their head, listen to them without judgment, give the critic a pat on the bum and send them into the background — as opposed to having one’s life run by critical tapes or voices.
We help the people who work with us to:
- recognize that their need for nourishment, at the soul level, requires of them total honesty, (as in sharing all that I know about me today, and recognizing I will know other, maybe contradictory stuff, tomorrow),
- choose to share themselves with others, deeply, intimately, and with excitement, despite any fear or being judged or rejected.
We help others get the idea that:
- others—family, old friends, whomever, might not understand their path, but that is a price of walking this path.
- there is no question that they will hear, “Well, hey guy, just who do you think you are, acting that way?” Their response? “I’m me, being me, in relationship to me and in open relationship with you. Your opinion matters to me, because it’s yours, but not as a determinant of my choices.”
We want the people we care about:
- to be endlessly open to the possibility of significant moments (but not important ones — see this blog post)
- to actively position themselves to meet and bond with and reach out to others who are on parallel paths—risky, as others see who they really are.
- to choose to be in such relationships anyway, because of the mirror held up by friends—this is the mark of a mature sense of true relationship.
We promote avoiding excuses:
- “I can’t be intimate. I’m a loner” — an excuse to keep you from revealing what you perceive to be the “terrible truth” about yourself. Fearful of intimate contact, you pull into yourself, hiding behind a thin veneer of self- doubt. Instead, we propose taking the risk of intimacy.
- “If people knew the real me, they’d run” — is simply an excuse to avoid engagement, honesty, vulnerability. We scare ourselves with our own visions of why no one would love us, care about us, respect us. We do such a good job that we never get around to testing our theories with a real person. We propose asking for what you want, and seeing what happens.
- “I’m too busy with my friends to get to know myself” — an excuse to keep so busy that time for reflection is measured in nanoseconds — an excuse to avoid your own “void” — your fear of death — your fear of actually living life — your fear of being a “square peg in a round hole.” We propose introspection — repeated introspection, followed by sharing what you learn with your intimates.
To engage in true relationship with yourself and with others — as you are, with your full skill set and all your warts and foibles showing, is the ultimate mark of maturity. If you chose this path, if you are on this path now, you already do not fit in.
So what? Get over it. Because your life is the only show in town. You’re going to wake up dead one day, and I’d hate for you to have missed living. Out of fear. Out of distrust. Out of reluctance. Out of an unwillingness to challenge and make peace with what scares you.
Hands are reaching out to you, right now. You can refuse to talk, you can hide, you can bury yourself in work. Or you can reach out , and reach deep inside, and choose to make contact. In the depths and at the boundaries. Where life is. You won’t “fit in.” But finally, at last, you’ll fit yourself. You’ll be yourself. And that, my friends, is enough.