People think that being a contortionist requires a physical aptitude or quirk of nature, talent and a lot of practice.  Which is true if you’re wanting to be part of Cirque Du Soleil.  What most people don’t realize is that they are natural contortionists.  They put themselves through mental gymnastics all the time.  It can be fun to watch if you are on the sidelines.  It’s more frustrating if you’re trying to help someone achieve their stated goes.  I mean, how many times has a friend or coworker complained…again…about wanting to do this or that, become this or that, start this or that and you helpfully chime in on what would work to help them get there only to be told “Yes, I know but…”  Then you stand back and watch as they deftly contort themselves into all shapes and configurations in order to avoid the one thing or the most obvious thing that would allow them to resolve the issue, achieve their goal, or start living the life they say they want.

These are the same people who will tell you that their lives are so normal and boring, nothing ever happens to them, they wish they were creative or adventurous or daring etc while at the same time twisting themselves into a pretzel to stay “normal.”  These are the people who expend huge amounts of energy daily in order not to change at all and then complain that nothing ever changes…while having just completed an amazing feat of contortion by stuffing themselves into a box of their own construction that they call “A Normal Life.”  They talk from there, tilting their head up to look at you, daring you to say anything and if you do they say “Yes, I know but…”

The hard thing about contortionists is that until they are ready to stop twisting themselves up in knots there is nothing you can do to help them.  Well, there is one thing.  You see, they need interaction.  They need validation that they are normal, that they fit in the box, that they can’t get there from here, that their contortions have served their purpose by making it impossible for them to do anything other than they have done, but that the dream is still alive.  Someday they might achieve or become or start.  Someday.  What you can do to help is stop giving them that interaction.  Stop supporting their habit.  Recognize that when they start talking about what they want if only someday, they aren’t actually wanting input, they are looking for contortionist validation.  There are many responses you can give.  You can wait until they “Yes, I know but…” and then say “Ok, so let me know when you’re ready to let go of the but (butt) and I’ll be there to support you.”  Or you could say, “I’m glad you’re looking forward to your future.  Let me know when you’re ready to take steps in that direction because I’d love to help.” You’ll be setting a good and healthy boundary, giving them positive support and reinforcement, and giving yourself relief from the conversation because guaranteed, that will stop the performance in its tracks.  And if your response to this is “Yes, I know but….” it might be time to start looking at your own contortions.