Looking for Dracula

When I was a child, I attended camp at Bearskin Meadow (fun fact– decades later, I’m the medical director for DYF, the organization that runs camp). There was a campfire classic that we would sing called, Looking for Dracula. As the song progresses, various obstacles are encountered on the quest– a swamp, a lake, a house– and at each obstacle, the song teaches us that we cannot go around it, cannot go under it, cannot go over it. We must go through it.

Going through it is difficult, that’s why we seek an alternative. When we encounter an obstacle, it’s generally easier to go around. And yet, for the big things in life, generally there is no way but through. There are a few ironies here. One is that we often spend so much time, effort, and energy trying to go around, over, or under problems, that we end up expending more effort trying to avoid the problem than the problem itself is worth. For example, think about how much we agonize about a difficult conversation; we avoid the conversation, tell ourselves we can’t have the conversation, convince ourselves that bad things will happen when do have the conversation, get anxious just thinking about the conversation only to have the conversation end up being… not that bad. Or it is difficult, but then we feel so much better, so much relief, now that it’s done. We have gone through it, done the difficult thing, and found ourselves more free as a result.

This is true in ways small (like a conversation) and large. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck on something. Try as we might to go around it, to pretend it is not an issue, there it remains. We ignore, minimize, tell ourselves stories we know to be untrue, pretend things are otherwise, or find a work-around, all to avoid the core problem. Perhaps this is a difficult relationship, or a job that doesn’t work for us, loneliness, or living in an environment that is unhealthy. Until we face that problem, and address it, we will continue to suffer. We might be able to find friends outside our primary relationship, but it’s hard to be happy when we are in a fundamentally unhappy partnership. We might be able to fill our time with hobbies or work, but the only way to address loneliness is love and community. Maybe we can make our job less miserable, but spending our days at a place that brings us suffering is untenable. We can try and go around the core problem, but we find it continues to come up, over and over.

One of the reasons we do not try and address the problem, whatever it is, relates to our fear. We know that going through the problem is needed, but we do not always know where that path will lead. The scary feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing what comes next, prevents us from addressing the issue. The good news is that we do not need to know where the path will lead– but we do need the courage to step towards the problem, to go through the difficulty. When we know what the problem is, we know what needs to be fixed– even if we are not sure how that will ultimately work out.

Why do some of us seem to have an easier time moving through difficulty, while other people seem more inclined to try and go around it? I think going through difficulty something of a habit, or a practice. The more we train ourselves to go through difficulty, the easier it becomes. If it is our habit to address it head-on, it becomes our default response. If we have learned that addressing problems in our life removes distress and increases our happiness, we are more likely to try and go through it. However, if we have trained ourselves (or have been trained by others in our life) to constantly go around problems, that too we become our default, and do not develop the skills to go through it. If we believe that addressing problems head-on is a learnable skill, then the more we practice doing it, the easier it becomes– and the easier it becomes, the more likely we are to do it.


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