Don't sour grapes forever

The title of this blog post is a reference to this fable I read in Chinese school growing up. I may get some of the details wrong, but the story is about a fox who discovers some grapes. Unfortunately, the fox is too short to reach the vine and so can't eat them. The fox walks away from the situation with the conclusion that it didn't want the grapes anyways, they were probably sour.

Now, I think of that mental move as sour grapes-ing something. It's a coping tactic that I've used for many years, and was something that I honestly associated with maturity and responsibility and being an adult. Adults aren't supposed to get upset when they don't get their way, but as a young adult, it was difficult for me to sit with the negative feelings that accompanied that, so sour grapes-ing whatever I was trying for ended up being my approximation of that. 

To give an example, I recently ordered a suitcase and compressible packing cubes online. The packing cubes came in three colors (grey, tan, and black), but the grey ones were sold out, so I went with the tan, figuring that I generally like nude-colored things. When they arrived, I placed them into the suitcase and then felt some buyer's remorse. I realized that the reason why the grey ones were sold out was probably because the interior of most suitcases are grey, and the tan ones kind of clashed in contrast. However, I didn't want to return them, so I tried to console myself by focusing more on the positive, e.g., I have them now, instead of having to wait a couple months for the grey ones; they don't clash that much, etc. 

That is a slightly subtle example, but I still view it as the same mental move. Instead of being open to the regret and allowing myself to fully accept it, I tried to rewrite the situation to distract myself from the fact that it didn't turn out how I would have liked for it to. 

Although this strategy has served me a lot, especially when I was younger and had less control over my life, I'm happy to be more aware of it as I'm cultivating my ability to hold more nuanced beliefs. Now, the distance that sour grapes-ing puts between me and my true feelings—and the delusion that results from that—no longer feels like it's worth the suffering that it may protect me from. I feel like I'm trading up coping mechanisms as I try to let go of this one and continue cultivating the skills of equanimity and acceptance.

Other examples of this from my own life include: trying to convince yourself to really want the option that is most convenient/cheap/healthy/fits into some other ulterior motive; identifying the flaws in a romantic interest who won't work out for whatever reason; trying to convince yourself that you actually like doing chores (rather than just liking the results of the chores having been done). I hope this list helps you.

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