I remember walking along the pavement when I was young and getting my feet in a right old tangle.


Because I used to try to avoid stepping on the cracks on the floor, it’s harder than it looks to do this; you take a few mini steps and then have to take a huge leap. You can get away with this type of cavorting in the street when you’re a child but less so as an adult.

Where did this fear of stepping on the cracks come from? Who knows?

Maybe from the same superstitions that get passed down through generations. I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I still unconsciously knock on wood for luck and not to jink something good, and I salute a solitary magpie and ask how his family is.

What do you think will happen if you step on a crack?

Why Do You Worry about Cracks?
Are you plagued with what might happen if you step on the cracks? Maybe you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and think that something terrible will happen if you slip up and miss your footing.

Jack Nicholson had this feeling in the film As Good As It Gets. If this is you, remember that a thought isn’t truth; it’s just a thought. So, if you have a thought about what might happen if you step on a crack, you don’t have to obey the thought. These are intrusive thoughts that you can ignore.

If you start thinking about what disasters might happen if you don’t follow through, ask yourself how you can control situations. What is the relationship between the action and the awful consequences?

You know when it’s a compulsive thought because you feel urgent and mistakenly believe you’ll feel better when you act. I say mistakenly because once is never enough, and you find yourself repeating the action again and again.

Don’t try to push these thoughts away; notice them and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that the compulsion is made of thought and isn’t real. Bring your attention to this moment rather than imagining what might happen.

Notice when your compulsion feels strongest. Most people find their minds get busier with these thoughts when they’re tired, hungry, stressed, unwell, or even hungover, so when you’re aware of them, ask yourself if any of these things apply.

Emily had a compulsion to flex her arm often and felt upset with herself that she had to do this and embarrassed that people noticed, so I asked her to give herself permission to do this. I told her to flex away, and if anyone mentioned it, she could say that she had a cramp, a tight muscle, or anything that came to mind.

When she didn’t have a head full of thoughts about flexing, Emily found that she rarely had to do the action. Knowing she could was enough.

Don’t make it a thing if you either avoid or step on the cracks.

Do You Worry You’ll Slip Between the Cracks?
Not physical cracks. Avoid those at all costs.

But the other cracks in your life. The cracks in your relationship, for example.

These cracks start as hairline but can widen into chasms before you notice, so do your best to become aware of them.

Expectation causes cracks to appear. Betty expected that her husband would do all the ‘manly’ jobs, like fixing things and taking out the rubbish.

But her husband, Marcus, had other ideas. He told Betty that he respected her as a strong, independent woman. He was happy to take turns cooking and cleaning and didn’t believe in gender-assigned roles.

Betty internalised his words as meaning that he didn’t care about her and didn’t want to look after her.

Luckily, Betty saw through this illusion before the cracks got too big. I asked her to notice her state of mind when she slipped back into this type of thinking.

She saw that when she was in a happy or neutral state of mind, she was glad to take out the rubbish herself or ask Marcus to do it. She didn’t have anything on it. But when she felt insecure or stressed and saw him pushing rubbish into an already full bin, she went down a familiar rabbit hole about how he didn’t love her.

Betty could see that her feelings had nothing to do with the rubbish and everything to do with her state of mind at that moment.

Expectation and resentment never have anything to do with the other person.

Complacency is another crack. Naturally, familiarity creeps in when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, but how often do you think about your partner the way you did when you first got together?

Do they or you behave the way you did when you met? Do you still flirt? Think about their needs. Or have they become wallpaper in your life?

Do you feel seen and valued by your partner? If not, how often do you demonstrate that you value them? You can’t change someone else, but change happens both ways when you change how you see someone else.

And a problem with complacency is that it can engender a lack of respect.

Melanie and Adrian came to see me as a couple because they didn’t stop sniping at each other. They wanted to stay together but were worried it was too late to salvage the relationship.

They told me how, a few years before, they’d started play bitching. They would insult each other and then collapse laughing. But then the laughing stopped.

Being mean to each other had become standard, and now they didn’t even know if they liked the other person and didn’t respect them.

But no one says mean things when they’re happy. Melanie and Adrian had to try to think about their state of mind before speaking. This might sound like an effort, but it only takes a minute or two to check in with yourself and notice how you use your feelings as a barometer to see what type of thoughts you have.

The second effort was to remember to say nice things to their partner. They’d become so used to sniping that they rarely said or thought anything nice.

Remember, cracks can be repaired.

Final Thoughts
Whether you’re avoiding cracks in the pavement or the cracks in your life, remember the role thought plays in all you do.

Everything you experience, you experience via thought. The cracks in the pavement don’t care if you step on them or not. They have no opinion and no magic power to make things happen.

You only experience the cracks in your life via thought, too. You feel what you think, so think about how you would like to live and close those cracks.