As I was driving the other day I watched a rabbit pull one of those stunts where it runs 3/4 of the way across the road, only to get scared by a car and turn back, re-tracing its original route instead of running the short distance to the other side. I don’t know if it is true but I remember be told that animals do that because they choose to return to a place they know is safe instead of plunging into the unknown where a predator or other threat might be lying in wait.
I realized what a perfect metaphor that is for the change process. When we are on the outside looking in, whether we are therapists, partners, friends or family, it can be frustrating to see someone begin the process of change only to turn around and race back to where there were when they started.
When we are the one making the change, it makes perfect sense. We are trying something new. Then we begin to feel unsafe or get startled by something unexpected. So what do we do? We run like a rabbit back to that safe place.
It makes perfect sense. It doesn’t feel safe to continue forward into the unknown, even if we think that’s where we want to be. In a moment of uncertainty we aren’t willing to take the risk that we are wrong.
What we also know, however, is that the rabbit doesn’t spend the rest of its life living on one side of the road. It tries again. And if necessary, again. And it finally makes it successfully across.
That’s important to remember. Both for anyone trying to make changes and for those wanting to support change. It may take time. And it may take multiple tries. That 3/4 run across the road isn’t a failure…it is part of the process. The response to those attempts shouldn’t be criticism, it should be compassion. Compassion for ourselves and for others.
So go ahead and make changes like a rabbit. The speed may not be as fast as you think but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get there in the end.