A Frayed Knot!

Today I decided to address an issue I’ve had for ten years! It involved a pair of shorts. With a ten-year-old knot in the waistband pull-string. Sometime in the past I made a knot in the string after pulling the shorts snug around my waist. For the past several years, however, the shorts have been loose-fitting. Apparently, I lost weight.

I tried to dislodge the old knot over the years with no success. No tool I tried ever worked on that old, stubborn knot! After multiple rounds of washing and drying, the knot had become tight and stiff. So, the pair of shorts became an item I wore around the house instead of out in public—for fear of them falling to my ankles! But today, for some reason, I had had enough. 

I will tackle that knot! 

But how would I do it? I had tried before. I had given up. Past attempts taught me that the shorts were not fixable or usable. Pondering the possible tools that might work, I remembered something. I recently received an odd looking item in a box of hair bleach. A comb, with a pin tail—a long, stainless steel rod for hair sculpting—attached to its end. 

I’ll use it to undo the knot! 

I scrambled around in the bathroom drawers for a few minutes trying to find it. And then, there it was. A  tool of multiple uses. I imagined it as a weapon that I hoped never to use. Or perhaps a dangerous nose pick. No. Not that! And not even for hair sculpting! I had avoided it. I might poke my eye out! 

For the next several minutes I prodded the knot with little success. But, then, suddenly, in the midst of seemingly no progress, it gave. And a bit more poking, and it came completely undone.

I quickly put the shorts on, tightened the waist string, and tied a square knot. Then, into public I went—with little fear of an unwanted scenario!

A stubborn knot. Ten years in the making. And I finally conquered it.

The shorts were again useful.

How interesting! I thought. There’s got to be a life lesson here!

~ ~ ~

“What knots have I ignored for ten years, or even longer, because they became too difficult to face?”

It is so easy to give up once we have tried long enough at something with no success. Hope goes deferred, and then the issue gets buried in the commotion of life. But, for most matters, that doesn’t make them go way or become less significant. As it says in the Bible, in Proverbs 13:12, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (NIV)

Most people are familiar with Sigmund Freud’s original ego defense mechanisms—especially Denial. However, there are more defense mechanisms than that. Freud described ten of them, and others were discovered by theorists who came after Freud. We use defense mechanisms to cope. They are not bad or wrong. They just are. And, its really how we use them that is important. And keep in mind, we use them (mostly) unconsciously. They can save us from danger, or they can cause dysfunction and keep us stuck. Or maybe allow us to ignore an old, frayed knot!

Psychotherapy, coaching, and self-reflection can help resolve difficulties that underlie our defenses. As we resolve these issues, and as we become more conscious of the ways we use defenses, our thinking and reasoning become more flexible, and we become happier. Here are descriptions of 15 defense mechanisms. Which do you tend to use? 

~ ~ ~  

We use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from pain. Avoidance of pain can become problematic when we stop trying or give up hope. After enough times of facing a frayed knot, we can become afraid (or, rather, a-frayed!) to try again. And this is what I want to talk about here. But I want to emphasize something specific:

The knots we have dismissed as insignificant.

I had long considered that blue pair of athletic shorts with the white stripes on the sides to be a has-been item. Defunct. Of no use. Except for wearing at home. Mostly, however, they were relegated to the bottom of a stack of better shorts. But, let’s be clear on how judgmental we can be about “better”.

We often place value judgments on more than just a piece of clothing. We do it to ourselves, to others, and situations that may actually be opportunities. And, as a result, our world begins to shrink. Less of a variety of people fit into our world. We take less risks as opportunities seem more frequently problem-filled. At worst, we become miserable and unlikeable to ourselves and to others.

Perhaps, then, it is important to take a close look at some of the old, frayed knots in our lives—and not just the obvious ones. Those we have relegated to the insignificant category. How do we do this though?

We can do so by getting curious about—and learning to suspend judgment of—ourselves, others, and potential opportunities. Especially those we have counted as insignificant, unwanted, or unuseful. As a result, we free ourselves from the value judgments that block the freely flowing energy of goodness. We begin to operate in empathy with others, seeing people—maybe for the first time—as not so different than ourselves. Acceptable. Unique. We begin to accept others as lovable, who have vastly different beliefs and ways of living from our own. And opportunities we counted as insignificant are more-easily triaged into those that are truly not worth pursuing, and those that are definitely worth pursing!

Again, I want to emphasize the following words:

judgment and insignificant

Who or what have you judged and relegated to the bottom of the bin? Like the pair of loose-fitting blue shorts, perhaps that person, opportunity, or situation deserves another chance! You will be surprised at the results!

~ ~ ~

But, many people live their whole lives in victim thinking and in anger and judgment. Even people who consider themselves religious or spiritual can do this. The way we learn to cope, the attitude we have, and the energy we generally carry in life, is primarily shaped by our families of origin. Other aspects are influences, but family is the main influence. And that’s how we live. Until we learn a new way. And, ultimately, this kind of growth is spiritual in nature.

Victim thinking, anger and judgment are of the kind of energy that Bruce Schneider termed catabolic. We can, however, learn how to shift out of this energy and live in anabolic, constructive energy. Letting go of erroneous value judgments is a sure way to shift from small world thinking where we restrict our relationships and opportunities, to a state of love for ourselves and others, and excitement for opportunities we previously viewed as insignificant, difficult, or problematic. In fact, the bane of an anabolic lifestyle is a focus on problems—instead of a focus on strengths, solutions, and opportunities!

~ ~ ~

Perhaps you have tried to undo an old, frayed knot without success. Or, you have given up. Take a look again! Try a new tool! You’ll be surprised what you find!  For the shorts, who knows why I suddenly gained the motivation to face the knot today! Perhaps I had become tired enough of the situation to want to deal with it. That’s how it usually does happen! And I became curious about the situation and found a new tool. The comb hair pin. The only tool that ever worked!

So, I invite you to get curious about your life! Take a look at those old knots! There are opportunities there! And hope!

Think you can’t? Or that others can’t? Yes, you can! Yes, they can!

Its not possible? Yes, it is!

As Norman Vincent Peale said, “You can if you think you can!” Give it another shot!

So what do you need?

  1. Get curious and look.
  2. Suspend judgment of old frayed knots.
  3. Turn old knots into new opportunities with new, unique tools.
  4. If you need help, let me know! Your Amazing Journey, LLC helps people with disabilities get unstuck, discover their passion and purpose, and live abundantly and freely! Your Amazing Journey empowers Social Security disability beneficiaries to return to full-time work!


Your coach for YOUR journey,


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