Pushing and Pulling: Part 1

At the suggestion of my lovely friend Nicole, what was going to be one massive, convoluted post, is now going to be a series of three or four, maybe more later on! For now, the basic idea…

I’ve heard it said—or likely more accurately, read it written—that in life, you’re always either running to or running from something.

I’m not sure I entirely agree (mainly because that sounds like way too much running!), but it fits well enough with what’s been running through my head.

There are things in life that pull you—goals, desires, ambitions, interests, affection…—and things that push you—dissatisfaction, problems, circumstances, things you want to avoid, even people (intentionally or otherwise).

Things that pull you pull you toward something. It’s more directional. Things that push you are less directional, just sort of pushing you away. Toward has a destination in mind. Away doesn’t care where you go as long as it’s not here.

Like with magnets! if you have them oriented with opposite poles facing, so the force between them is attractive, they pull to each other. If you let go of one, you know exactly where it’ll end up—right up against the other! If you have them oriented so the force between them is repulsive, they push away from each other, and if you let go one one… who knows where it’ll go?! Maybe directly opposite the other magnet, but it could veer off to either side, or flip around or over…

It works the same way with people. Physically poking, prodding, nudging, or shoving someone is at best an ineffective way to move them (as they can’t tell if you’re trying to get them to go somewhere specific or just somewhere else), and at worst, outright hostile. You take someone by the hand or arm to lead them somewhere, perhaps just to draw closer.

Less concretely, we talk about being drawn to someone (perhaps someone with a magnetic personality), or feeling like a loved one is pushing us away. This pushing and pulling is a notion that’s already ingrained in our language. Words like attractive and repulsive are used far more often in emotional contexts than in reference to actual physical forces!

My thought, though, is that just about everything in life—not just interpersonal relationships, but all the events, circumstances, reactions, etc. that affect our lives—can be thought of as either pushing or pulling. And which one? Depends on the situation.

Say you leave your job at an office and go to work at a bakery. Were you pushed or pulled?

  • If you made the switch because decorating cupcakes is your passion: pulled.
  • If you left because you were fired and the bakery just happened to be hiring: pushed. (Maybe literally?)

I go hang out at a coffee shop for a few hours. Push or pull?

  • If I go because I’m in the mood for a lovely cup of chai and a nice place to sit and read or crochet: pull.
  • If I go because I’ve been cooped up in my house or office all day and I just want out: push.

You’re at a party, and spend most of the evening chatting with a person we’ll call Sam. Pushing or pulling?

  • If you’re hanging with Sam because Sam is cool and you’re enjoying Sam’s company: pulling.
  • If you’re just hanging with Sam because you don’t know anyone else there: pushing.
  • If you’re hanging with Sam because an ex or otherwise someone you wish to avoid is present: pushing (and you’re pushing back).


Thoughts? More examples? Do share!

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