If you drop a crab into a bucket it will usually manage to climb back out.
However, if you drop two crabs into a bucket the first crab to attempt to climb out will be pulled back down by the other.
When you have a bucketful of crabs you don’t even need to worry about them escaping. There will always be crabs pulling the other crabs back down.
Known as “crab bucket mentality” this has become a catch phrase to describe the all too frequent thinking of “if I can’t have it neither can you”.
We all have lofty aspirations in our crabby little hearts and we all have crabs close to us who feel it’s their responsibility to set our feet back on the ground.
Crabs that seem irritated by our dreams and sometimes even our successes.
And let’s face it, some days we’re the ones reaching for the rim and some days we’re pulling others down.
Sometimes we don’t even think we’re being crabby. We’re simply feeling protective. You see a loved one teetering on the rim and you worry. It’s a long ways down and anything could happen.
They might break something or maybe a seagull will gobble them up. So you pull them back down to where it’s safe and familiar. You forget “safe and familiar” is still a crab bucket, and like life, no one is going to make it out of this thing alive.
Other times it’s envy. Strange how we always seem to be more jealous of the ones we share a bucket with than the ones we don’t.
When a celebrity loses a hundred pounds we are inspired.
When our best friend loses a hundred pounds we are a bit undone. If a stranger becomes a famous singer we’ll stand in line for hours to get an autograph.
If a high school friend becomes a famous singer, we’re in disbelief. Why is that?
It’s as if we believe each bucket has only so much success to go around. Like a pie. If someone grabs too big of a slice there might not be enough left for the rest of us. This makes about as much sense as thinking, “Well, Joan got greedy and lost 100 pounds. Now there’s no pounds left for the rest of us to lose so we’re just going to have to stay fat. Thanks a lot Joan.” There is no pie.
Each of us has everything we need already inside us, packaged up and waiting to be unwrapped.
And then there’s fear of change. We seem programmed to resist change, which is odd since change is the only thing we can really count on.
A dark part of our heart wishes Joan had just been content to stay beside us in the bucket eating nachos, making excuses and complaining.
If someone digs deep and manages to clamor their way out it shakes things up. It forces the rest of us to face the fact we could do it too. Now we know it’s not just crabs from other buckets that realize their dreams. Excuses are comfortable.
Blaming others for pulling us down is easy. Watching Joan exit the bucket is terrifying. It’s a path out of our comfort zone. Can we overcome our excuses and make our way out too?
Or will we give up and spend the rest of our lives—however long that might be—crabbing with the other crabs?
Where is “out” anyway? I believe out is in. It’s the art of finding peace and happiness inside you. If you’re an unhappy, bitter little crab inside the bucket, you’re going to be an unhappy, bitter little crab outside the bucket.
If upon learning about crab bucket mentality your first reaction is, “I knew those @#&%s were holding me back! It’s their fault I’m not happy!” you might be missing the point.
The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “If the love within your mind is lost and you see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education or material comfort you have, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”
It is impossible to hate someone for how they treated you in the past, trash people for their political beliefs, mock their religious practices or give in to whatever else affronts us and still be truly happy.
Hate—no matter how righteous we think it might be—is still hate and hate is what ultimately destroys us.
Perhaps the happiest people of all are neither pulling someone down nor shaking someone off, but the ones who spend their lives giving others a leg up.
Something to think about the next time I’m feeling crabby.
Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com