From Broken Promises to Safe Play

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”Let Down – Why Are Promises Broken?”


Q: Dear Dr. Gelb:

A while ago someone who I thought was good for their word promised me a favor. In time it became obvious that this person was doing little about my request, pacifying me with excuses. In the end, nothing was done. I feel so let down. Is there anyone in this world to trust? Even our governor — I believed much of what she said in her campaign, even though she is a politician. Now I think I might as well expect her to not make good on her word. It’s not easy to stay optimistic after this type of disappointment.


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Disappointed:

Yes, it is disappointing to be promised a favor that then falls by the wayside. People often excuse such broken promises by rationalizing, “Well they had good intentions.” This reminds me of the saying, “The streets of hell are paved with good intentions.” It seems unfair to be promised something that has no follow-through. Personally, I strive for independence and take promises from others with a grain of salt.

There is another saying that is worth its weight in gold, “I take promises with a grain of salt, relying on self to achieve my goal.” However, I do not allow this to interfere with my affection and love for others. Another rule of thumb I rely on — after someone betrays one’s trust three times, then, like any ball game consider them “out.” Also, the truism, “There are many fish in the ocean” can be helpful. At times it may be necessary to seek a different fish to help achieve a goal. Some people relate to following concept — “Promises are made to be broken and if promises were horses, beggars would ride.” Good luck in your venture. I’m sorry you were let down.

”Kid’s Play – Is it Safe?”

Q: Dear Dr. Gelb:

On Saturday I was walking on the sidewalk opposite the beautiful Ala Wai. As I passed a section of the sidewalk that was also a driveway, four kids, about 7 years old, were playing with 3-foot-long sticks like they were fencing each other. One of the kids was lying in the driveway, acting wounded or maybe even dead. I had to dodge out of the way to avoid being poked by a stick. I grew up as an only child and never played with friends much, but I think these kids on Saturday were just playing at pretending but it seemed dangerous.

Almost Hit

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Almost:

I understand your question, especially since you were raised as an only child and it sounds like you had few friends to pretend and played with. Siblings and playmates love to pretend, play and act out situations that they observe in their environment and stories that they read in school about heroes and villains. So they pair off and one child is the villain and the other one is the hero. I believe there is a saying that it is fun to play Cowboys and Indians. Somebody gets to be a cowboy and somebody an Indian. In these battles, someone usually gets hurt. So one child pretends that he or she is dead or hurt.

This is not unlike training sessions in the fire or police department, which involve re-enactments and practice rescue missions. Here pretend injured people tend to be lying all over the street with bandages and pretend blood. This drama is created in order to condition emergency responses.

I believe that in those instances where children pretend and “act like” what is occurring is a growing and maturing process. It is a harmless way to learn about life, and whether we like it or not, weaponry for defense is a part of life. Without these simple teachings we could fall prey to the masterminds and bullies of our society. We are not a passive, submissive people. Americans have learned to grow strong and independent and to not be afraid to face the enemy or to recognize fowl from foe.

So, next time you see children playing and pretending, enjoy the drama because in the future it may save your life or theirs.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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