Well, this is a first for this blog. I am starting off with a uTube video. Please take a moment to view it and then c’mon back. It is under two minutes and I think you will find it worth the click. It’s Not About the Nail!

Okay. Chances are you are laughing or nodding or both. We all know people who just live to pull our nail out!  We know immediately when it is happening to us-we feel a tiny bit of our brain simply shut down. This is something most of us have experienced; how we wish the significant people in our lives would just be better listeners!  “Nail Pullers” use words like “You just need to…” or “What you should do is…” and they often say it over and over. The result is we feel nagged, unheard and disconnected. We all get her frustration! We lament that he doesn’t listen, is trying to control, or is constantly trying to fix it.

We can relate to the woman with the nail, but let’s take a good hard look at ourselves. If we are really honest, many of us, just like the guy in the video, really, REALLY want to just yank out that nail! So before we begin to label this as typical “male” behavior( a direction I think is blatantly sexist) let’s face it- women do it, too!

If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who suffered from addiction, impulse control, a personality disorder or is under-functioning in any way, then chances are you have spent your fair share of time walking around with a hammer claw trying to figure out how to remove that nail and fix their problem. And the closer the relationship, the harder we try and less we actually listen. Isn’t it interesting how we can listen to an acquaintance express feelings/frustrations/concerns without having to jump in and fix it, yet with our significant relationships-family, spouse, children, we experience an intense desire to charge right in and yank out that pesky nail?

Recognizing ourselves as “nail pullers” isn’t easy. It is ironic how we resent when it is being done to us yet we forge ahead and justify our behavior with, “I am just trying to help”, “I am trying to show them their options” or “I feel sorry for him/her” or “ I worry”,  or “I know what he needs better than he does.”

“Nail pullers” often spend hours ruminating about the other’s problem, their issue, their health, their finances, their….”everything”. You know if you are a chronic “nail puller” if most of your thoughts and attention are focused on the “other” even to the expense of yourself. AND when you do focus on yourself, you feel kind of guilty…as if you are being selfish.

So, right around now you may be saying, “Ok, I get it, I am a nail puller,   but I see so clearly what he/she needs to do. Isn’t that just helping?”  After all, we all see the nail in that young woman’s head, and yes, we all agree it needs to come out. But the nail is in her head and it is her choice what she chooses to do with it.  Telling or doing for someone else what they can do and need to do for themselves does not make us helpful; it makes us an enabling or controlling.

Giving up your career as a chronic “nail puller” is not an easy change to make, but you will find a pleasant payoff-more peace and contentment, less drama and conflict and more time to focus on things that bring your pleasure and positive results.  Ironically, your relationships will improve. But this can only happen if you accept that fact that someone else’s nail is not your problem.

Sometimes it feels as if our own happiness depends on getting their nail pulled out. But consider this-when you shift your focus from their nail and take the time for self- reflection, you may discover YOU have a nail that you are either avoiding or haven’t yet discovered.  Try figuring out what you need to do about your own nail and then you may find all your headaches actually disappear.


© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.


  1. Callie on the 21. Jul, 2013 remarked #

    LOL. That video’s a riot. I admit it. I’m a nail puller, too. Ouch. Just touched my own!

  2. cj golden on the 21. Jul, 2013 remarked #

    It’s so difficult, isn’t it, to discern the difference between being asked to be the nail puller and being asked to just help. In this case, she just wants him to listen. And he needs to honor that. Hard to do – but often the best and only way to help.

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