Advancing in a Different Direction

Sometimes life seems like a battle– and sometimes it seems like a losing battle, at that. We all have times when we get discouraged.

A historical example of a time which may have seemed like a losing battle to a lot of people– U.S. Marines, in this case, was the battle of Chosin reservoir in the Korean War. To make a very long story very short, the Marines were surrounded by Chinese forces which greatly outnumbered them, and they ultimately fought their way back to the main body of U.N. troops (which were predominantly U.S. forces, but not exclusively).  At one point, General O. P. Smith was questioned about the retreat and reportedly replied “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” (Time Magazine, 1950, as cited in the Wikipedia article on General O. P. Smith).

One of the reasons military analogies are so seductive is because they can be so simple– win or lose, kill or be killed. Most of life is not like that, fortunately. But in this case, the quote is wonderfully applicable to many parts of life. Maybe my dream of being a professional athlete didn’t work out. Maybe I didn’t get the job I interviewed for. Maybe a relationship broke up. But life still allows me to advance in a different direction! I can still be an athlete and push myself to my own personal limits. I can still get a job– a job I like. I can find another, satisfying relationship.

No One wants to feel negative emotions, but they can serve a purpose– maybe we’ve done something that didn’t work, and maybe we need to re-examine what we’re doing and try something different. Maybe we need to get outside, professional advice. Maybe we can recruit help from friends or family. There are lots of ways to succeed.

Fortunately, most of life’s tests are not graded A to F, or even pass fail. They’re more like taking a driver’s license test– if you don’t pass, you can try again until you do pass. And in the mean time, you can take a cab, ride the bus, persuade a friend to give you a ride in exchange for gas money– there are many ways to get what you need and want in life.


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, change, choices, cognitive therapy, dealing with change, Emotions, Feelings, mental health, Recovery, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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