Monday, April 02, 2012

Dead Ends

Dead End (n): An end (as with a street) without an exit; a position, situation, or course of action that leads to nothing further.

Dead ends come to us in many forms: relationships, jobs, careers, hobbies, even the literal dead ends of a wrong turn and no where else to go. Yet surprisingly, as I think about it, there is little (if anything) that I have read about how to deal with one.

Why is this? What is it about dead ends that (apparently) cause them to sink below our consciousness and ability to deal with? Otherwise competent and skilled people seem to sink into morasses of inability when faced with one. There are the typical solutions, of course - suck it up and deal with it or get out - but I wonder if those options are so common that we use them without thinking.

Or is it possible that the dead end is so common to the human experience and so painful that we would rather not give a great deal of thought to the matter?

The situations that we often find dead ends in are often painful in deep ways: the job or career that is not fulfilling but there seem to be no options; the relationship that will not advance beyond a level of intimacy yet has had so much time and energy invested into it; the hobby or activity at which we have reached a level and cannot seem to go beyond it. Each of these bears similar characteristics: something of importance to us which we have a great deal of time and energy invested in, that a sense of not being able to move forward creates feelings of depression, hopelessness, and powerlessness.

But what if there is another option?

Think of Star Wars where on the Death Star Han Solo, faced with the sudden arrival of a squad of stormtroopers, does the unthinkable: screaming wildly, he starts shooting and charges them, forcing them to flee. Or the Heike Monogatari where, when told that the cliffs around Ichi-no-tani were too steep for a horse, said "If a deer can do it, a horse can do it", charged down with 50 of his men, and took the field.

The odd contrast is that while we are so often depressed and hopeless about the situation, the greatest stories and greatest achievements are done in the face of seeming dead ends - or maybe not real dead ends, as there was a way out.

The dead ends we face in our lives may seem like they represent the end of trails with no hope, but in reality they may represent the greatest opportunity for personal achievement - if only we will look for it.

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