Walking on Eggshells

Go get five dozen eggs. You will use only the shells. Make omelets with the rest. Throw the shells on the floor. Now take off your shoes and walk. Walk on the shells , not through the shells, not around the shells, but on them . Notice how it feels. Notice the sensation in your toes, your heels and your entire foot. Notice how you walk. I imagine you are walking on your toes as gently as possible. Not a great feeling, hmmm?

The Rose Relationship Learning CenterHow often have you heard the expression “walking on eggshells”? How often have you used it? It is a common cliché and an accurate one when describing being in a delicate situation. In my office as a psychotherapist, people often talk about walking on eggshells when they are afraid of making someone else angry.

Joann uses this expression when she talks about her husband who says she has a bad temper. She says, “I feel like I am walking on eggshells whenever I am around him. I never know when he is going to lost it!” I asked Joann who put the shells on the floor and she looked at me as if I was crazy. “He did, of course. If he wasn’t so moody, I would be able to relax.” I asked her what did she think would happen if she just walked in her normal style without tiptoeing? She proceeded to describe her husband’s facial expression when is mad, how his voice escalates and that even once in a while he might throw something across the room. “Joann,” I said, “he would do this anyway regardless of how you walk.” A puzzled look took over her face.

I continued by explaining that her choice to tiptoe on eggshells is based on her fear of his behavior. His behavior might even be worse because she fears him. If she instead confidently was herself and walked out of the room when he got to his boiling point, she might feel more empowered, relaxed and in control. Basically, the notion of “walking on eggshells” suggest fear. “I am afraid of how you might react so if I tiptoe around you, maybe I have some (false) sense of control over you and the situation.”

Joann also realized this feeing is not a new one for her. She recalled feeling like she walked on eggshells most of her life as her alcoholic father would also “lose it” when he drank. This connection for her was healing . It allowed her to see that we often act the same way in a marriage as we did inner family of origin.

Joann was beginning to understand . She now understood that she has choices over how she responds . When the frying pan is getting hot, she can turn off the stove by walking away and taking care of herself. So, if you are hungry and in the mood for eggs, feel free to fry up an omelet or sunny side up if you prefer. but otherwise, the eggshells only hurt the bottom of your feet.