Don't Lunge at the Gerbil


Well-Known Member
This one really spoke to me this morning. From "The Language of Letting Go," by Melody Beattie.

"One day, my son brought a gerbil home to live with us. We put it in a cage. Some time later, the gerbil escaped. For the next six months, the animal ran frightened and wild through the house. So did we--chasing it.

'There it is. Get it!' we'd scream, each time someone spotted the gerbil. I, or my son, would throw down whatever we were working on, race across the house, and lunge at the animal hoping to catch it.

I worried about it, even when we didn't see it. 'This isn't right,' I'd think. 'I can't have a gerbil running loose in the house. We've got to catch it. We've got to do SOMETHING.'

A small animal, the size of a mouse, had the entire household in a tizzy.

One day, while sitting in the living room, I watched the animal scurry across the hallway. In a frenzy, I started to lunge a it, as I usually did, then stopped myself.

No, I said. I'm done. If that animal wants to live in the nooks and crannies, I'm going to let it. I'm done worrying about it. I'm done chasing it. It's an irregular circumstance, but that's just the way it's going to have to be.

I let the gerbil run past without reacting. I felt slightly uncomfortable with my new reaction--not reacting--but I stuck to it anyway.

I got more comfortable with my new reaction--not reacting. Before long, I became downright peaceful with the situation. I had stopped fighting the gerbil. One afternoon, only weeks after I started practicing my new attitude, the gerbil ran by me, as it had so many times, and I barely glanced at it. The animal stopped in its tracks, turned around, and looked at me. I started to lunge at it. It started to run away. I relaxed.

'Fine,' I said. 'Do what you want.' And I meant it.

One hour later, the gerbil came and stood by me and waited. I gently picked it up and placed it in its cage, where it has lived happily since.

The moral of the story? Don't lunge at the gerbil. Chasing just scares him more and makes us crazy.

Detachment works."


Active Member
I’m new here as of about 45 minutes ago. Came here looking for guidance not really sure if it’s my 19 year old son who is the problem or if it’s me. One thing is for sure, I have most definitely been lunging at the gerbil. I feel like I have taken my first deep breath in months after reading this. Thanks


Well-Known Member
Enmeshed Mom, why not start a new thread and tell us what is going on? Drugs? Abuse from him? Upsetting your entire family? Stealing? Wont work? Hits people?

Your son is 19, not 9. Anything he is choosing to do is on his shoulders, not yours. You did not cause his behavior and his guilt trips that it's your fault, if you get them, are lies.

Believe me, we have heard it all and will try to give our best advice. Welcome!