Ever had family or friends or a colleague who had an issue?  Well, a problem?  Yeah, in the corporate world it’s called a challenge, but I’m not feeling PC at the moment so let’s be pragmatic, shall we? Notice that everyone but them knows about the problem?  Can see what it’s doing to them?  The issues that it’s causing?  That it becomes the elephant in any room they are in?  I mean, it allows you to know ahead of time how they are going to react to something, but that also means they are boring at parties because you know how they are going to react.  And it means you choose not to tell them things or invite them to things because of how they’ll react.  And when they react differently it is usually a drama on both sides of the interaction that causes ripples for days.

And everyone thinks, even if they won’t speak up, that the person would have such a better life and it would be a relief for everyone if they just healed whatever the issue is.  I mean, there is only so much space for that elephant and everyone keeps having to clean up after it because this person won’t.  It takes so much energy just to keep up with all of this.  Why don’t they just put all that energy into healing the issue?  Good question.

All issues are unique and the reasons we don’t deal with them directly are legion.  So I don’t have one particular answer for you other than to reiterate the wisdom that has been out there for decades.  First, no one will heal an issue until they are ready to do it.  Until then they are teflon and any attempt to do it for them will fail and just become another episode in the drama.  Second, more than likely they won’t be able to heal it themselves.  If they could they would have done it already.  They will need help.  Don’t plan for it and don’t make judgements on what it should be or how it should work.  But if you care for the person or have to be around them, be prepared to help as much as you can when the call comes, if it comes.

In my life the issue is highlighted because people come to me looking for help.  They are looking for answers, for direction, for support.  It’s delightful when I’m supporting them by reiterating what they already know.  Basically I give them permission to know what they know and act on it.  Yay!  It’s challenging and rewarding to work with those who are willing to do the work and starting to figure things out and I’m able to give them options and support and help them know that they can know and they can trust themselves in the process.  It’s hardest when people walk in with an elephant or have an elephant stowed in their purse or wallet or backpack and during our work I discover it.  Sometimes they even display it proudly.  Usually I don’t know it’s an elephant until I point out that to reach their goal they need to deal with the issue, heal the hurt, work on their personal challenge.

What happens then is what I call the elaborate elephant dance.  It includes steps such as ‘No it couldn’t possibly be that’,’I don’t know what you’re talking about’, the crowd favorite ‘That’s not me!’ and the leaping ‘Anything but THAT!’   Partly I think this is fear, but also I believe it’s about identity.  Elephants, as exhausting as they are, requiring huge amounts of hard work to support them, become beloved parts of our identity that we can’t bear to lose.  If we aren’t supporting an elephant that who are we and what do we do?

And I would love to say that you HAVE to deal with them.  In my more human and exasperated moments I would love to whip out the fire and brimstone and talk about disaster falling upon the unhealed and all the negative consequences of not living a fully perfect life.  But it’s not true.  So I breath and step back.  Our lives our predicated on Free Will.  We can choose to live with elephants our entire lives and still be good people.  Will we have found the cure for cancer or resolved global warming, probably not.  But is that really on most people’s personal agenda anyway?  Nope.

Dealing with our own personal issues and failings is one of the hardest things we’ll do as human beings and one of the most humbling.  It’s great if we do it, but hopefully the world around us isn’t holding their collective breath, ’cause it could take a life time….or two before we get there..if we ever do.