Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bouncy Balls and the Three Pillars Theory

Have you bounced a bouncy ball recently? Not a big one, necessarily. Even just one of those little red rubber balls that come with a set of jacks and that you can buy for 39 cents at a convenience store or get out of a gumball machine for a quarter. If you have kids, you probably know how annoying bouncy balls are and how much damage they can cause.

They are so small, and yet they are incredibly compact and powerful.

I have to hide them from my kids because of the havoc that they wreak indoors. Yet my kids find them anyway, and they appear to be irresistible. BAM! There goes a glass picture frame. BAM! There goes a bottle of liquor. SLAM! There goes someone’s eye.

Once launched, the bouncy ball is very unpredictable in terms of where it ricochets and the damage it can do.

I’ve noticed that sometimes, people will throw metaphorical bouncy balls into my life. They don’t do it to break my shit on purpose, but they also don't reeeeeeeeeeeeally care if something gets broken. 

They do it to play with the bouncy ball, because the bouncy ball is fun. 

I don’t know if you’re familiar with this phenomenon, but it ties into something I call the three pillars theory. I don’t think I made this up, or maybe I did. I don’t know. But that’s what I call it and here’s what it is:

There are three pillars to every relationship: physical/interpersonal chemistry (physical if it’s a romantic relationship, interpersonal if it’s platonic); intellectual compatibility; and emotional security. The three sort of orbit around each other and can make or break friendships and relationships, but in my experience, by far the most difficult pillar to find and maintain is emotional security.

Emotional security is a sort of dependability. It’s the idea that the people in your life are, on some level, fundamentally reliable and consistent. And not just reliable as in they don’t flake on drinks or fail to meet you at the airport. Sure there’s that, but true emotional security with another human being is more than that.

It’s knowing that you can expect the same level of emotional investment over time on a consistent basis, be it a lot or a little. That a person will not run hot and cold and make you insane with intermittent reinforcement of human connection. That they will not withdraw and retreat and reemerge at will with an expectation of responsiveness and an abdication of boundaries. 


That they will not pick up a bouncy ball and fucking BAM the shit out of it just to see where it lands.

I am turning 40 this fall. I feel like I am done letting people throw bouncy balls around in my psychological living room just to see where they land, and I am ready to start cleaning up all the valuables I have let them break.


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