Are you Living in a Bucketful of Crabs? Evaluate your Relationships - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Are you Living in a Bucketful of Crabs? Evaluate your Relationships

Aug 26, 2014


I met an old friend last week... I hadn't met him in years. We talked about our lives, our experiences, our dreams... the way we saw the world... I don't know what it was about those conversations, but I came away filled with energy and inspiration.

I realized that doesn't happen to me enough. Every day should be filled with conversations that inspire. Instead, more often than not, the opposite happens.

I thought about the story of crabs I'd recently heard. If you put a crab alone in a bucket he can easily crawl out. But if you put in many crabs together, every time one crab tries to crawl out the others pull him down, so that no one ever escapes.

People sometimes act this way too, don't you think? "If I can't have it, you can't either," is a much-too-common attitude. When we see someone getting ahead, our first instinct is to doubt, scoff, envy... not support and boost morale

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How many times have you talked about a dream and heard a response that's something like, 'I don't want to burst your bubble, but that sounds impractical?' or, 'Have you thought about all the bad things that could happen?' or even 'Take my advice, it's safer if you just stay with your current steady job, house,'s too risky to change the status quo.'

Stay where you are ... don't derail the car.

I'm tired of hearing that. I want to derail the car. I want to shake the shack. I want to cause mayhem. And I want to surround myself with people who give me a leg up when that's what I need.

I'm not by any means saying you should look for other people to push you to achieve your dreams. No, the will to act comes from one place, and one place alone, inside you. Nobody else's thoughts, words, actions, strengths, successes can be yours. You have your own. But, some people make inspiration brim over inside you and come spilling out.

My old friend is a philosopher and a literary scholar. My own strengths lie elsewhere. My inspiration had nothing to do with what he was talking about. It had more to do with the way he is, his passion for his work, and his support for my dreams. His presence shone a light on what is already within me... my energy, my ambitions, my inner strengths.

So surround yourself with people who awaken within you the motivation to act, either by their own example, or by their understanding of your dreams.

Choose the people that are in your life.

Your life is a series of interactions, of conversations. No man is an island. Maybe the lonely sadhu living up in the mountains is... but even most monks live in groups in monasteries. And no matter how introverted you think you are, you're really not going to get away without human interconnectedness influencing your life.

So I am not now, nor will I ever, advocate any kind of snobbery. I firmly believe that 'everyone you meet knows something you don't'. In my quest for learning everything I possibly can I will talk to almost anybody. I love starting conversations. If I see someone reading a book that looks intriguing, or a smile that's charming, I will talk to them.

People come into your life for many reasons. Some are there to inspire, others to support, some to comfort, others to provide security, stability, even just plain fun. And sometimes they come so that you can inspire and support them.

But, and this is difficult to say, some people have no place in your life, or in your heart and your head...because they cause more damage than benefit. These are the crabs.

They pull you down, sometimes obviously, sometimes in backhanded ways. Sometimes they even mean well, but end up hurting and hindering you unintentionally.

We don't usually think much of the people that are in our lives. They just happen to be there. Your colleagues are just there, you didn't put them there. Your friends, quite often, have just been around for so long it's not a choice anymore, it's a habit.

But we do have a choice. We have the choice to think actively about the people that populate our lives, the conversations that dominate our minds, and figure out whether they are energy givers, or energy suckers.

Recognise energy sucking behavior.

In our lives we have some people like Rancho (Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots) and some like Chatur (the NRI boy who was always trying to come first). Aamir Khan was an energy giver ... he enabled his friends to follow their dreams, made them believe that 'All iz well", that all would work out. The other boy, Chatur, was a negative influence, trying to put everyone down.

When thinking about your relationships, think about whether you have someone like Rancho in your life, and make sure you don't end up with too many crabby Chaturs.

My friend Sheila couldn't even have a conversation about her boss without frowning. The mere mention of him changed her body language. When I mentioned work in a conversation, her smile disappeared and her shoulders stiffened up. I could see the energy draining from between us when she talked about work.

If time spent with someone usually leaves you with less energy than before, that is not a winning relationship for you. De-energising behaviour includes one-upmanship, put-downs, fault-finding, not-listening, whining and irritation. You might consider phasing such a relationship out completely, or if that's not possible, limiting your time spent there, or the amount you let it affect you.

Sheila couldn't leave because she liked the work and needed the job, but she has been working to make adjustments to her own behaviour in their interactions. She is now stronger, her skin is thicker and is prepared for the assault on her energy now. She can respond calmly and sift through the conversation to ignore the negative tone and words, protect her energy reserves, and just take what she needs.

Letting go of crabs is not easy, but is necessary.

The need to be liked, the hope that things will get better, the guilt of losing a friend, all lead to an inability to let go of people. It's so much effort that you find yourself thinking, 'chal let it be na I'll deal with it. It's no big deal.'

But it is a big deal. The people who are a negative influence are not only draining you, they are taking up the space an energy-giver would occupy.

Sheila had learned to manage the negativity, but think about what she's missing. If she had a positive relationship with a boss, someone who was a mentor, who supported her and helped her in a career, her life would have been very different.

Releasing yourself from such crabby relationships can have a wonderful effect on your well-being and the quality of your life.

Letting go of your crabs will free up room in your life for energising relationships.

Again, this is a really hard exercise. The people who are in your life are there for a reason. But you do have the power to make sure they are there for a good reason. The reason you want them there for. Not as invaders. Not as naysayers. But as vibrant energy-givers to lift you up, and help you out of your bucket.

Have you experienced crabbiness in your relationship? Tell us how you dealt with it.


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13 Responses to "Are you Living in a Bucketful of Crabs? Evaluate your Relationships"


15 Apr, 2015

thanks for the wonderful article but I would have appreciated if you had given suggestions regardings crabs in our life who can't be done away with

Prabhakar Parikh

26 Dec, 2014

Have you ever tried to clap with one hand? No you can't. Relationship is just like that. It takes two to make a win. If your relationship is not going well, you have a hand in it. So look hard at yourself and identify the crabby attitudes in you that if you change will take your relationships to a new level. Always ask yourself what you can do for others, without expectations and life will have a new meaning.

Abhinav Singh

23 Dec, 2014

Nice to read it.

Like (1)

Parvathi M.S.

09 Oct, 2014

Excellent article which make us self analyse


29 Sep, 2014

A very insightful article. its the fear of letting go because we probably are afraid to lose or afraid of being lonely that makes us stick on to crabby people.


31 Aug, 2014



28 Aug, 2014

Excellent inpirational thoughts.


28 Aug, 2014

I strogly believe that acceptance is the greatest tool in one's day today life.Once we are able to develop and apply this , we can creat harmony every where even in conflicts..Accepting some one or some thing unconditionly means giving respect.Humility begins with unconditional gratitude. Thnx


27 Aug, 2014

Yes ...I think a better way for me to put it is to look at the relationship dynamic, not the person, where each relationship is a win-win situation, and no one is pulling anyone else down. Often it really is just us having to adjust our own attitude - how we receive other people's words, that matters more than what other people say. It's most important to let go of the crabs within ourselves.


27 Aug, 2014

Very inspiring article. But to my mind, the important question is "Whether I am being a crab in some one else's life ? One can behave like a crab without realising that the effect he is having on others. So self analysis is equally important,; able to recognise one's own behaviour a real competency; ability to change & control oneself a real quality. Saari Zindagi nikal gayi, khushian batorte batorte; par khush na ho sake; Phir jana ki khush to woh the, jo khushiyan baant rahe the.

Ashok Kumar Sethi

26 Aug, 2014

Your article in regard to crabs full in a bucket is a lesson to all. To say that a single crab can come out of bucket is right, but in this world, we all are social being and loneliness hardly happens. I have heard saying of Tagore Rabindranath, Ekla Chalo Re. As a leader to lead your way, this slogan fits with the story of a single crab. But, when you have to walk in group, in society, or in community, this phrase does not work. Even, I have seen in your social circle, if one is keeping himself or herself aloof can hardly be acceptable to all. Ofcourse slogan is right in certain perspective but can not be applicable right for all for always.


26 Aug, 2014

Thanks for the article. After reading the article, instead of finding out who possibly are the crabs in my life, I am having a feeling whether I am a crab for some people. And if yes, what right do I have to be a crab. Thanks for reminding me of Ranchho... there is always a time in our lives when we all are like Ranchho... full of enthusiasm, full of energy, oozing with optimism... I need to find Ranchho inside me... Behati hawaa sa tha wo... Udati patang sa tha wo... Kahaan Gayaa Usse Dhoondo...

ak bhargava

26 Aug, 2014

the crabs are more often there than we think. Problem gets complicated when crabs are ones wth whom you have to continue the relationship through out life. In such circumstance best is to divert your mind and thinking about positive people , limiting your time given to such people.


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