Red and Green Jellybeans

People tend to see patterns where they don’t really exist and to come to faulty conclusions about what a series of events means.  When things repeatedly don't go a person's way it's easy to feel like a failure or someone who's "jinxed".  Such a confidence killer can erode further effort or optimism. 

At certain times in your life you’ve probably had a string of positive events happen to you, while at other times nothing seems to go your way.  One day you catch all the green lights while on another day you hit six red lights in a row.  (In an earlier post I wrote about what I call life's “20% hassle tax” which describes the importance of handling annoying situations with grace and good humor. It may be helpful to read that next.)

At one time I kept a glass jar of red and green jellybeans on a table at my Atlanta counseling and psychotherapy practice.  Sometimes I would ask a client to shake or stir the jellybeans to be as random as possible.

The result was always the same: part of the jar would have about the same number of red and green jellybeans while in other places the same color jellybeans seemed to congregate together.

On reflection this makes sense: random ordering is not all red-green-red-green.  Sometimes it is more like red-red-red-red.  These collections don’t mean that jellybeans of the same color attract each other.  Random distribution inevitably includes such clumps.

It’s the same with our lives.  Sometimes things go our way, other times they don’t, no matter what we do.  It’s easy to feel discouraged, even jinxed.  But really the only thing that is happening is that we are going through a patch of same-color jellybeans.

Of course there are lots of things we can do to increase the “good jellybeans” we want and decrease those we don’t want.   At the same time, clumps will always be in our lives. It's not personal, intentional, karma or a portent of things to come.  It's just a bad patch of beans.  Just move through.


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT provides psychotherapy and counseling to adults in Atlanta, specializing in helping people deal with problematic sexual behavior patterns including sex and porn addiction. 

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