06: Promises and Prisons


A promise is a prison. Do not make yourself another’s jailer.

Zani, Star Trek: Picard – S1:E4

Kerry Lusignan, a Gottman Certified Instructor at Northampton Center for Couples Therapy, writes in her article On the Importance of Breaking Promises, “I’ve decided to teach my daughter that breaking promises to others is a critical skill when juxtaposed against breaking a promise to oneself.”

When I broke my promises it is because I lacked the skills to navigate change and growth. I lacked the willingness to be uncomfortable and say to someone, “This vow and promise doesn’t work for me and I need to do something different.” It’s taken a while to realize I’m allowed to change my mind, my choices, and my life if it breaks a promise. Especially if keeping a promise to another is breaking a promise to myself.

I need to get better at breaking promises without the attached shame and resentment I carry about it. I need to reject the stories attached to changing my mind and deciding it is time to renegotiate, reevaluate, and at times walk away from promises that conflict with promises I make to myself.

Additionally, I need to stop putting people in a place where they feel a promises is an appropriate response. I really appreciate the quote from Star Trek: Picard when Zani says, “A promise is a prison. Do not make yourself another’s jailer.”

I have no desire to be another’s jailer. I have no interest in being another’s prisoner.

If I am serious about growth I need to free myself from the prison built around conformity to expectations, promises, and the stories imagined about obligation.