Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
You know sometimes we tell others about the things that we have gone through, and hope that they see by our example what has happened to us because of our associations with psychopaths or with people who are high in dysfunctional traits common to psychopaths. Sometimes people “get it,” and sometimes they don’t get it.
A passage of the Bible refers to this:
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying Behold a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up, and some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and forthwit they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had no root, they withered away, and some fell among thorns’ and the thorns sprun up and choked them; but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold some sixyfold, some thirtyfold.
Jesus taught both his close disciples and the multitudes who gathered around him by parables, which are simply little stories that have a meaning in the analogy. He spoke to people who were primarily rural and who knew about sowing seed by the ancient method of “broadcasting” seed from their hands as they walked along, rather than by putting a few seeds into a row or a pot.
Today a farmer in this country prepares a field by plowing, discing and killing weeds, so that the seed will fall into nice neat rows. In the time of Jesus, the farmers didn’t have much control over where the seed landed and as the parable points out, some of it fell on ground that was not prepared or able to receive it and nurture the young pants. As verse four points out, sometimes the seed was eaten by birds and never got a chance to sprout, and as verse seven points out, sometimes the seedlings were choked out by thorns.
Of course Jesus’ “seed” was the teachings he was “broadcasting” to large groups of people. Some people were not willing to listen to His message, and some people gladly received his message, but then the “cares of the world” choked out the message of peace.
Sometimes in telling people about psychopaths, and warning them, we want them to listen and to apply the message we are giving them to their lives. Maybe we warn a woman, whose husband we know is beating her, that she needs to get away from him … and she stays. We are disappointed and wonder why she stays, when we can see so clearly how much she needs to leave Now!
As a Registered Nurse Practitioner, I taught people what they needed to do to take care of their own health … like how to take care of their diabetes by watching what they ate, taking medication, and exercising. Sometimes they took what I said and “ran with it,” and sometimes they would literally shout at me “I don’t want to hear all about diet and exercise, give me more insulin!” (Yes, that really happened!)
At the same time I was telling other people how to live a healthy life, I kept on smoking myself. Now what does that tell you about how far people can live in denial? Well, quite a lot in fact!
Just because we know what we should do doesn’t mean it’s easy. Intellectually we may know “You must go no contact” in order to heal (and I firmly believe that, except for those of us who must, because of either danger or court orders, keep some contact). I know just how hard it is to actually cut those ties with someone we care(d) about.
It took time for me to make up my mind to actually do what I knew I needed to do about quitting smoking and going on a low sodium diet. Sometimes we know something, but are not yet ready to do it. We are not the “fertile ground” that is needed to “bring forth fruit.”
In learning “change theory” in school, I was taught about how people need to be “ready” to change before they are going to do so. In fact, there is a stage in one theory (the first stage) of a person’s willingness to change called (get this, it is funny!) “pre-contemplative” stage, which means, in common terms, “they ain’t even thought about it yet!”
So, I think many of us have been in that “pre-contemplative” stage where we hadn’t even considered real change as far as our relationship with the problematic person(s) in our lives. We didn’t even know that there was a need to change.
I grew up believing that what I grew up with was “normal” and even “good” family life. Now that I have passed the “pre-contemplative” stage where I got to thinking about how to change, or that I might even need to change, those people that we would like to influence must also be willing to think about change.
A model for change
Kurt Lewin, the father of modern theories of change, theorized a three-stage model of change that is known as the unfreezing-change-refreeze model that requires prior learning to be rejected and replaced.
Lewin’s theory describes behavior as “a dynamic balance of forces working in opposing directions.”
Consists of three distinct and vital stages:
- Unfreezing is the process which involves finding a method of making it possible for people to let go of an old pattern that was counterproductive in some way.
- Unfreezing is necessary to overcome the strains of individual resistance and group conformity.
- Unfreezing can be achieved by the use of three methods.
- First, increase the driving forces that direct behavior away from the existing situation or status quo.
- Second, decrease the restraining forces that negatively affect the movement from the existing equilibrium.
- Third, find a combination of the two methods listed above.
2. “Moving to a new level or Changing” or Movement
This stage involves a process of change in thoughts, feeling, behavior, or all three, that is in some way more liberating or more productive.
Refreezing is establishing the change as a new habit, so that it now becomes the “standard operating procedure.” Without this stage of refreezing, it is easy to go back to the old ways.
REFERENCE: Kritsonis A. Comparison of Change Theories. International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity; 8:1, 2004-2005.
When the soil is ready
Just as the old saying says “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” we need to also realize that sometimes those people that need our advice the worst are the least willing to listen to it.
So like the sower in Jesus’ parable, we can cast our seed widely and hope that some of it falls on fertile ground and produces “fruit.” That change may not come quickly. Sometimes though, like with crab grass seed, that seed may lay dormant for even decades and then one day when the conditions are right and that seed, that seemed like it was never going to sprout, it comes up and produces an abundant crop.
So when we are talking to people we must be aware of those that aren’t ready yet to listen, and gently give them what information they are willing to accept, but it is up to the condition of the “soil” within them that will determine what “crop” they produce from the seed we leave with them.