The Devil You Know
Posted October 8, 2012on:
One of the papers on this year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference resonated strongly with me. ISAD 2012 presentations can be found on The Stuttering Homepage.
The paper is titled Relapse Following Successful Stuttering Therapy: The Problem of Choice, by Ryan Pollard. In it, he discusses how difficult it is to change our identity, even after successful therapy for whatever the issue is-stuttering, overeating, or leaving an abusive relationship.
I commented on Pollard’s paper with a post that I titled “The Devil You Know.” People often stay in bad situations because we believe what we know may be better than the unknown. Change is scary, as is uncertainty and second guessing whether we can survive whatever change it is that may (or may not) need to be made.
I went through all of that, 3 and 4 times over. I am an adult child of an alcoholic, and as with many ACOAs, it was hard to let go of invalid beliefs, self-criticism and the constant need to please others.
I also began my journey to accept myself as a person who stutters several years ago, after spending a lifetime trying to pretend I didn’t stutter and denying how much it bothered me that I wasn’t being true to myself. As I grew to like myself more, I grew more confident and began to shed the need to defer to others and pretend to be someone I was not.
And I stayed in an abusive relationship for many years, as I thought I couldn’t ever leave and be happy, or that I just couldn’t make it on my own. I preferred the devil I was living with to the devil I didn’t know yet.
All of this leads to this: just knowing the alternatives we have in our life is often not enough for a person to make a change. I knew there was help available to leave a bad relationship, but I stayed. I knew my parents’ alcoholism was not my fault, yet I believed that for many years. I knew I could learn tools in speech therapy which would greatly minimize my stuttering, yet I chose to allow myself to stutter openly.
I remember several years ago writing a piece about “my arrival.” How would I know when I had arrived at the place in life where I would truly be happy. I also wrote about changing, and asked myself 2 questions: “what if I didn’t like the person I might become if I changed? what if I didn’t even recognize her?”
Sometimes if easy to see why we might stay with the devil we know.
What do you think?