We generally react to a problem in one of two ways. We either try to fix it or, if it is not worth our time, we simply walk away. But what do we do if the problem cannot be fixed and is not something from which we can easily walk away? We are left facing an intractable situation. Our frustration and vulnerability builds and we are likely to experience anxiety, anger, confusion, and/or fear because we are truly stuck in a place not of our own choosing.
For example, let's say a bright, funny, and energetic fourteen-year-old girl named Leah goes to school one day and finds that her best friend has suddenly picked up a whole new group of friends and literally turns her back to her when they meet in the morning. Leah is confused and hurt and seeks out the friend at lunch. However, she continues to get the cold shoulder. She gets through the the day in a daze and goes home very depressed. The situation goes on for days and then weeks. Leah tries everything she can think of to reconnect with her friend but nothing works. What does she do? She can't get her friend back but she can't walk away from her either.
Leah's saving grace comes in the form of her parents who see that she is struggling with something and is just "not herself." They find a quiet moment one evening to talk. Leah quickly breaks down, sobs, and explains what has happened with her friend. This releases all the dammed up hurt feelings. She borrowed the strength to adapt to her new reality because her parents were there to hold onto when she was drowning in misery. Although still heartbroken, she realizes that she is just going to have to get on with her life. Leah remembers that she has other friends and determines to find a new after-school project to fill the time usually spent with her (former) best friend.
What would have happened, however, if Leah's parents did not notice her change, or were not even there to see it? Or they did see it, but Leah did not want to share her secret with them? Most likely she would have remained miserable. Other parts of her life would begin to suffer and she would need to develop "coping strategies" to get through her days. Instead of thriving she would just be surviving, with her personal growth on indefinite hold.
Life demands that we adapt to unworkable situations all the time. But as this narrative illustrates, that is not always easy because it often means giving up something precious.
Children need to be able to turn to their parents. Adults should also be able to turn to their parents, as well as spouses, or other deep attachments. Ultimately, the strongest attachment – one that will never go away – is with G‑d. Connecting to G‑d is a life-long pursuit that pays off when we really need it. In the best scenario, we will have a web of strong and varied attachments that offer us the necessary support to gracefully adapt to difficult situations.