Tribbles, promises, and emergency escapes!

Here is a top-secret tribble fact: they want you to keep your promises. It seems like an odd mission for fears and insecurities, but it’s true.

Tribbles are kind of like toddlers: they are little fuzzy balls of feelings and worries and desires! There are things they believe about reasons, but between you and me, they’re sometimes a little wonky. So when you talk with tribbles — naming, acknolwedging, reassuring, negotiating — you are the world’s greatest preschool teacher. They will do a lot for a gold star, as long as they are sure you’re going to hand out the star.

Because they really want this for themselves, often they want it in every arena of your life. My tribbles pretty much universally believe that it’s better not to make any promise than to make too big a promise, and they’re suspicious of promises that seem long-term or complicated.

Figuring this out was tremendously helpful because it gave me ways to describe my will and intentions that don’t suddenly trigger a Greek chorus of tribble worries. If I want to set an open-ended intention, I bound it with a feeling — I’m going to do this for as long as it feels helpful — instead of saying forever. (My tribbles are against forever, because they have this adorable — albeit sometimes incongruous! — faith that I can change, and might, and then I might hate whatever I promised to do forever!) I use time limits a lot, to help out What-If-You-Hate-It Tribble, and I often say things like “I’m going to try this, just this time,” even if I am secretly hoping I will love it enough to do it forever.

I also have learned to love the emergency escape hatch. This is a way out of a commitment if you really can’t stand it, and if you have as many But-You-Owe-It-To-Them tribbles as I do, you might also find it useful. Mine is if it makes me cry. If something makes me cry, that’s a hard limit: no matter how much I think I ought to do it or owe it to someone or hope that it will get me, I can quit. (“Can” is an important word here: learning to build in an emergency escape hatch was important, and so was learning that it was a permission slip, not a command.)

Of course, everyone’s tribbles are different, but so far, the love of keeing promises seems pretty common to me. What do you think? Is it true for you?

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