Posted by: Judy | July 27, 2017

Meme Debunking

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“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” ~ Alexander Den Heijer

Awesome quote, isn’t it? When I first read this I cheered. My last counselor told me that had I been a child he would have me removed from my home. A quick way to change the environment. I know that changing the environment is not the same as fixing. However, all too often it’s believed that if you change something it will be fixed. How many times did I wish that I could have escaped? I know I’ve mentioned it here on my blog numerous times.

Then I thought about something that’s been nattering at me lately.

I did escape. I worked in Yellowstone for the summer. I was a missionary in Thailand for sixteen months. I lived in England for a summer. I changed my environment. And ended up right back in the hornets’ nest every time.

Why?

Yes, I changed my environment. I thought I’d fixed it; the new environment wouldn’t be broken like the one I left behind. Yes, the environment I grew up in wasn’t healthy. Fixing it would have helped. However, fixing my environment wouldn’t fix my thinking.

Something I realized in England: I could run as far and as long as I wanted, but I couldn’t outrun my problems. Those came with me. What took me far too long to figure out was that the problems came with me because of my thinking.

I’m not denying the benefits of changing the environment. However, it’s vital to remember that we aren’t dealing with flowers. We’re talking about people. You can’t teach a flower to think differently, but you can teach people to do that. If an abuse victim doesn’t learn new skills, new ways of thinking, new habits, they fall right back into the cycle no matter what environment you put them in. Been there. Done that.

I complained to my last counselor that I felt like I had “ABUSE ME” tattooed on my forehead. The lightbulb flashed. I know how to interact with abusers. I’m highly skilled at it. I was brutally trained. Those are the kinds of people I gravitated toward because they’re familiar. I knew what to do and say. Sick. I know. And really frustrating. I wanted to stop having unhealthy relationships, but my thinking was still unhealthy.

I need to acknowledge that my friendships were improving, slowly. I worked hard at it, but it was a constant battle of wondering what I’d done wrong. There were mistakes I was making over and over. Trusting too soon. Giving too much information too soon. Only sporadically protecting my boundaries. Setting myself up to fail when I’d been doing “too well.”

It wasn’t until my last counselor that the cyclic insanity was slowed to a significant degree and pretty much stopped. He taught to look at myself and my relationships honestly. He taught me I had the choice to stop… stop pretending, stop the magical thinking, stop the downward spirals.

I still fall back into old habits, from time to time, but not to the degree I used to and not for nearly as long.

A good example is the other day I went shopping. I scheduled too much to do. I can handle three stops. More than three and I’m easily overwhelmed. I lost one of the store receipts. The old nasty tape kicked in telling me how stupid I was, how irresponsible, apologizing over and over, and I burst into tears. Before my last counselor, the berating would have gone on for hours… actually it would have gone on for days. This time, only as long as the drive home and a few minutes more. What a difference. (Note to self: Keep errands to no more than three at once.)

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