The Leaning Tower

“How much longer? My arms are killing me,” my daughter said dramatically.

We were visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Seeing other visitors posing for pictures that looked like they were holding the tower up, I thought it would be fun to see if we could get the perfect shot.

The challenging part was getting just the right position. My daughter had her arms fully extended. She was responding to my continued direction: left arm up a little, flatten your hand a little, make your right hand angle back more.

At first, she was a willing photography subject. After a few minutes, she said her left arm was starting to ache. A few more minutes passed, and she exclaimed that one of her hands was feeling numb. Five more minutes went by, and she declared her arms were most certainly going to fall off. 

The weight of her arms had not changed. The longer she held them outstretched, however, the heavier they seemed to become.

We all carry things with us – recurring negative thoughts, challenges we are facing, regrets about the past, worries about the future. The longer we hold on and ruminate about them, the more they can weigh us down – and make it harder to think about anything else. 

Thoughts and worries can become exhausting, making us feel like we alone are responsible for holding up the entire Tower of Pisa with our own two hands. Other times, we realize that we can simply put our arms down, and the tower will manage to stay up just fine.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.