Therapy is a common place to find people definitely situated between a rock and a hard place. There simply are those times when neither choice is great or all choices have so many unwanted consequences. Let’s look at some of the rock and hard place situations that cause you and most folks considerable angst.A rock and hard place dilemma is also known as Morton’s Fork where contradictory arguments lead to the same undesirable outcome or conclusion. The origin of this term is from the 15th century. There is a book by Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. This autobiography was later made into the film, 127 Hours. As some of you may know, Aron was forced to amputate his own arm when he was trapped in a crevasse while hiking in the Canyon Lands of Utah.
A rock and hard place example I recently encountered was while counseling a mother. She has been divorced for many years and has a teenage daughter. The daughter hates mother, according to mother and daughter. The father is rather unstable, has few rules, and let’s the girl call her own shots. Mother and father have joint custody, another rock and hard place situation for many. Daughter wants to live with dad; mother wants to have her influence as mom. However, the girl makes visitation time a nightmare with physical assaults, threats of harm, destruction of property, and more profanity than one can talk about in a blog.
Mother would like her life back. She would like to walk away from the girl.
Mother doesn’t want to give up on her daughter.
Mother has found herself between a rock and a hard place or Morton’s Fork. There is no simple good outcome as both choices involve unwanted consequences. The loose variable is the daughter. If only we could effect what is going on with the girl and bring understanding to her anger, her acting out, her violence, and her crazed ways? It could be drugs, but dad vetoed drug testing. It could be mental illness, but that too was vetoed for the girl. Hmm.
Another example of a rock and hard place in everyday life is when you have a child on drugs. One young man I worked with was using alcohol and off and on every imaginable drug. He had settled with the comforts of heroin. Of course, heroin made it impossible for him to really do anything of substance and soon he become held hostage to the predators known as drug dealers. Drug dealers know a great deal about rocks and hard places. They exploit these queasy opportunities.
This young man’s mother went into debt, mortgaged her house three times, maxed out her credit cards, and put her son into treatment three times. He relapsed again. She didn’t give up on him, but she stopped paying his bills and his drug dealers. She offered him the opportunity to move home, get into a fitness and diet correction routine, and try alternative medicine for healing his now poisoned body. This was a rock and a hard place for years and then it changed.
Have you found yourself between a rock and a hard place with someone you love or with a situation at work or school? I would enjoy hearing about your examples.
Take care and be well,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 14 Jun 2013