If You Get In A Hole, You Have To Get Yourself Out


By Tamara Wilhelm, MA, LMHC, LCAC

One of my favorite things to do is listen to my husband’s grandparents tell us stories about things they’ve experienced in their life. One of the stories that sticks with me the most is one his grandmother told about getting her car stuck in a pothole.

Grandma was out running errands in a shopping center one day and was driving in the parking lot. It had been raining hard, and a very large pothole had filled up with rain water and was not visible to drivers. As she drove over the pothole, her tire got stuck in the pothole (can I reiterate this was a very large pothole!) and her car was immobile. She was stuck.

Grandma proceeds to call grandpa to let him know she’s stuck in the hole & needs his help. His response? “You got in the hole, you get out of it!” Ouch. She was furious. She needed help. Now she was stuck and alone.

Now I doubt grandpa knew what he was doing at the time. To most of us, it looks as though he’s being a rude and unsupportive husband. However, at closer look, he’s not enabling his wife. Instead, he is forcing her to figure out things for herself.

Guess what? She figured it out. She went into a store, found out who owned the shopping center and parking lot, and had them tow her car and take care of all the repair expenses. Pretty savy, eh? I’m not sure what happened once she got home to see her husband, but the emotional results of her shopping experience are not what you’d expect.

Having to figure it all out on her own left her with a sense of pride, confidence, and accomplishment. She knew she could do it without anybody else’s help. Would she have liked to have had someone there with her? Sure. But, the next time something happened, (as the way life goes), she was better prepared to face it with more confidence having gone through this experience.

How often do these things happen in our own lives? Are you the one who needs the reminder to let others do it on their own? Or, are you the one who needs the reminder that you can do it on your own?  Whatever the case, there are many opportunities daily that come our way to learn these lessons if we allow them.

For example, when interacting with our children it’s natural to not want to see them suffer or experience negative emotions, and to sometimes “fix” things for them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow them to figure life out for themselves, and we rob them of the opportunity to learn something new or valuable.

Or for example, take personal relationships. We may get fearful that we won’t be liked or that someone will get angry with us if we don’t “take care of things”, so we go ahead and do it. We do for others what they can do for themselves. Not only do we get upset and resentful towards the relationship, but we create dependence in the relationship that is unhealthy.

There are times when people need help and they’re too depressed or scared or injured to help themselves. In these circumstances, then it’s fine to help a friend, or loved one out.

So, if you “get in a hole” it’s up to you to get yourself out. This applies to other people as well. Try to see this as an opportunity to learn something new and create confidence. There are teaching moments in almost all areas of life!

So, are you more like my husband’s grandmother, or his grandfather in this story?


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