WHY GOOD FRIENDS BRING A SHOVEL.
PSYCHOLOGY + THE HOLE.
I'm going to tell you a story.
The first time I heard this story was on an episode of the WEST WING. For those of you who followed the show, it is the Noel episode or Season 2 Episode 10. It is an exchange between the characters Josh and Leo and the story goes like this:
A guy is walking down the street and falls into a hole. He watches from below as people pass by on the street. Some looking in the hole, most not seeing him, only trying to avoid falling in themselves. As he looks up at the people passing by, he sees his priest. He calls out to the priest and says, "Father, I have fallen into this hole. Can you help me get out?" The priest responds, "of course my son," and leans toward the edge of the hole to say a prayer. "May god be with you my child," and then the priest walks away. The guy sees his doctor walk by overhead and he yells, "hey doc, I've fallen in this hole, can you help me get out?" "Of course. Use this." And the doctor writes a prescription and sends the piece of paper down the hole. Frustrated, and afraid, the guy notices a friend walking by. He yells, "hey buddy! I fell down in this hole. Can you help me get out?" His friend says, "sure, you got it." And quickly jumps in the hole to join him. The guy looks at his friend and says, "now we are both in this hole! Both of us are stuck." The friend says, yeah, we are both in the hole, but I've been here before and I know the way out."
I love this story and have thought about it over the years since the West Wing episode first aired, which to be a fact nerd was on December 13, 2000. So 20 years. Whoa. Twenty years I've been spinning this story around my head. I've shared it with friends, patients, my daughter and everyone in between. I learned along the way as I shared it with friends in recovery, that it is a common story told at 12 step meetings, as it provides a well reasoned explanation for the importance of sponsorship to maintaining sobriety. Yes. Totally. Many solutions offered, but in the end, you need someone who has been down in the hole to understand. Makes sense.
I bring it up now, because next week, the Sunday before election day I am releasing a JOY IS NOW EPISODE about hope and in the discussion the story came up.
This is a strange time for hope. I think many of us, myself included, have felt like we have spent the last 4 years in the hole, screaming into the wind. Maybe its not so much that there has been a way out, but maybe at some point we looked around and acknowledged that there were enough friendly faces in the hole, it wasn't so much about getting out, as it was about learning about the hole and how to be down here. That certainly feels true for the past 7 months or so. We have been forced in the hole, all of us together. Some have struggled all 7 months for a way out and some have decided it feels better to learn about the hole. This is the choice of mindset we always have. Struggle or lean into.
What I like most about this story is that it acts as a reminder that we all know a hole. We all are that friend. The one that knows the way out. Maybe not every hole, but we know the feeling of the hole. The fear, desperation, grief. Struggle. What it feels like to ask for help and it's not the kind of help we need. Screaming into the wind is how it feels to me. And there has been a lot of that going on over here the past 7 months. If we are making this metaphor real, I'm hoarse from screaming into the wind from the depths of a very dark hole.
But if we all know a hole, and we all have an emotional tool box, we all have a shovel. I don't know what will happen on election day. I think we have all learned that despite predictions and exit polls, none of us do. It ain't over til it's over. But what we can do, is in the throes of all this upcoming uncertainty, we can remember we have a shovel. We have been in a hole of some sort or another and we know the way out.
What I'm asking of myself and of you, is to be the friend with a shovel. Be the friend, parent, neighbor, teacher, citizen, who jumps down into the hole. Have confidence in your shovel. Feel it in your bones that you know things. That you know the way out. And don't just throw the shovel down the hole, but be willing to jump down there and dig. Dig for those who are frightened. Struggling. Grief stricken. Dig for those who don't know the way out. Or maybe just forgot. Dig for those who just simply need a warm body to help them dig in a chosen direction.
Because psychology is always the hole and we all own a shovel. We just need to be willing to do the work and dig.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode of JOY IS NOW here.