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Sowing the seed of knowledge

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.

Matthew 13: 3-9 (KJV)

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.

Heeding advice

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.”

Change theory

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.”

STAGES

Consists of three distinct and vital stages:

1. “Unfreezing”

  1.  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.
  2.  Unfreezing is necessary to overcome the strains of individual resistance and group conformity.
  3.  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.

3. “Refreezing”

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.



9 Comments on "Sowing the seed of knowledge"

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  1. the sisterhood says:

    Thank you for this article, Joyce. I love the connection to the parable. It really makes clear what we are up against.

    I have had to learn to accept that the ones I am trying to help are at a different place in their journey than I am. That doesn’t stop me from planting the seed, it just helps me to be more compassionate when I see that a friend in need isn’t quite getting it. What blocks them from getting it is something they need to work out if they are willing. I just keep on educating about disordered people, anyway.

    Planting a healing seed is never in vain. You may never know how you have touched another’s life…and that’s O.K.



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  2. Truthspeak says:

    Joyce, thank you so much for this insightful article. And, it does come at a very good point.

    It’s not only “other people” that aren’t ready for change, just yet, but my own Self wants to resist change, as well. I know what I know: the true facts and why. Knowing doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to alter myself and my beliefs to avoid the same type of harm from someone else. It’s a strong and sublte desire to resist the changes for recovery, honest-to-gosh. It requires far less energy and attention to avoid changes. But, if I don’t make some serious changes in my system of flawed beliefs and my approaches to daily life, I’m going to remain miserable for the rest of my life.

    Now, this isn’t to say that changes are all warm and fuzzy and that everyone is going to respond to the “New Truthspeak.” But, that’s no longer the focus.

    So, when I’m talking to someone else who, by their descriptions, are living a similar situation that I did, I have to keep in mind how much I wanted to resist change, myself. I didn’t want to hear anything about anything – I just wanted it all to be a nightmare and to wake up.

    Joyce, thanks again for a wonderful topic.

    Brightest blessings



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  3. skylar says:

    Great article, Joyce. I needed to read this now because I need to start exercising and it’s just not happening – consistently. I’ll try to apply your “unfreezing” theories. Thanks.



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  4. Ox Drover says:

    Glad you liked the article guys, and God alone knows how much I RESISTED changes I needed to make. The Smoking is only ONE example. LOL

    I still want a cigarette once in a while, but I realize that I must MAKE myself do what is RIGHT not just what I “want” to do.

    Sky, exercise is another one of those things that don’t show “instant” results and it is easy to “blow off” doing what we KNOW IS RIGHT.

    I know that my patients who I was coaching on diabetic diets, low sodium diets, etc. didn’t see “instant” results and so it was difficult to get them to see the LONG TERM benefits of these changes when that cake or pie was tempting them rigth NOW with instant gratification.

    When we go NC with a toxic person in our lives it HURTS and we want to stop the hurt….and just like picking up a cigarette might stop the craving right this second, in the long run, it hurts our health.

    I counseled other women about their toxic relationships yet, I didn’t see the problems in my own toxic relationships. Or to use another of Jesus’ parables, I needed to remove the log out of my own eye before I tried to take the splinter out of someone else’s eye!

    I have the greatest compassion for people who are not yet ready to learn and I’ve been in their shoes and to some extent still am….learning, growing, getting more healthy and making better and wiser choices is a day by day effort, not a “one and done” situation. I just try to keep on learning and putting into practice what I have learned. It is all anyone can do.

    In the meantime we just have to realize that not everyone is ready yet to hear our message, no matter how well we present it or how true it is. Ultimately, we must each “save” ourselves.



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  5. dancingnancies says:

    Excellent post Joyce! ( I’m so accustomed to saying oxy haha it feels a little off. ) Thank you.



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  6. G1S says:

    These are excellent points.

    Professionally, I deal with resistance to change. In short, the people you target are those who are open-minded and willing to hear new ideas or trying new ways of doing things. Some people will never change and some people won’t consider something until they see somebody else try it and have had demonstrable success. Then, of course, there are the times when people have reached their rope’s end and are open to hearing something new because they can’t think of anything else to try.

    When it comes to the “unfreezing” state, I have sometimes felt that I am a train or ship in motion. It isn’t possible to immediately come to a full stop and change tracks or course. We need to remember that something set things in motion off in a particular direction. Those things might still be present and operating. Also, the brakes need to be applied, the momentum needs to slow, and only then can I go change and execute the energy to go off to do something new.

    12-Step recovery calls this the 3As – awareness, acceptance, and action. Awareness and acceptance can take an eternity. That’s probably due to whatever brought the person to the place he or she is in today is still present and operating in that individual’s life. They may have blinders on or in deep denial, but they didn’t get to where they are today by chance.

    On the other hand, action is usually the shortest of the three because by the time one is truly aware and accepting of what is going on and what needs to be done, it’s possible that action can start immediately.

    I’d like to add something to planting seeds, which is a big part of 12-Step recovery.

    We need to remember that God is preparing the soil for that person’s best interests. The particular seed being cast by somebody (me) may not be the seed that God intends to thrive in that soil. God may have a different crop in mind entirely.

    That is why in Al-Anon, we put the focus on ourselves and let go and let God (do what God will.)

    When it comes to soil preparation, nobody knows what somebody else has gone through in his or her life, nobody except the person in question has the best knowledge of that person’s circumstances, and nobody knows who else is involved or will become involved in somebody’s life.

    I like “God can see around corners” as the best expression to describe this.

    I know that when I’ve tended to my own garden (put the focus on me,) it grows much better. When I leave others to cultivate their gardens with God by their sides, I’ve been amazed by the miracles that have resulted and the beauty of what came to fruition.

    I cannot see the flower or fruit that is in a seed. Seeds are often dark, hard, and withered. I can’t begin to guess what may come from that after one season. Long term, I couldn’t begin to know. That’s why I like:

    “Only God can see the trees that are in the seed of an apple.”

    That being said, none of this means that we are supposed to stay out of other people’s lives entirely. People need each other.

    In recovery, we share our experience, strength, and hope. If an opportunity comes to plant a seed, making a suggestion or offering my perspective may be part of God’s plan for that invidual.

    That’s where the 12-Step Serenity Prayer comes in:

    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

    If you go to a 12-Step meeting, you’ll often hear people temper their sharing using something along the lines of, “I don’t know if this will help, but when I was in a position similar to yours I did …” or “I know some people have found doing X helpful when faced with Y.”

    That’s them practicing the Serenity Prayer.



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  7. hope52 says:

    Great article. Since I began my journey to recovery over 22 months ago, many changes have occurred in my life. In fact, this morning, as I walked around in my new apartment I find myself shaking my head.

    If someone had told me I would lose my home, my car, most of my belongings, and my marriage, I would not have been shocked, but I would have struggled for acceptance.

    Now, I am divorced from a very emotional and finacially abuse man. A man I trusted literally with my life. The other day at my job for a travel company I was assisting a woman with her trip to Hawaii. She told me she was recently widowed. Her husband had “taken care of all the finances” and now she must learn to do so. I shook my head. It’s funny how many marriages can have this trust and committment to each other. I believed I had the same marriage, but only learned earlier this year it was a total farce.

    We are all on a journey in this life to learn lessons. Despite my insatiable desire to help other women understand the danger that lurks below the surface of the water with pathological relationships, I know I am not the steward of their ship.



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  8. Ox Drover says:

    Dear hope52,

    You ARE indeed not alone, and all those women (and men) out there who have these one sided relationships do find out in the end, one way or another.

    My elderly cousin found out upon her husband’s death that he had given almost every asset they had to their psychopathic daughter leaving her in utter poverty at 83.

    I “preach” to every young man and woman getting married or living together to keep finances separate, to have a pre-nup (50% of marriages end in divorce) and for them each to keep a savings of money that is theirs alone. Unfortunately too many people live from pay check to pay check never putting aside a few dollars into a “rainy day account”–even $5 or $10 a week adds up.

    I’m glad Hope52 that you are taking the helm of your own vessel, and realizing that is ultimately what we must ALL do. We can “preach” til the cows come home, but only those who are ready to hear will hear.

    Fortunately, I think that by the time they find LF most people who come here (at least those who post) are fertile soil to receive the seeds of knowledge that are available here. That’s why I still write and submit articles here after over 5 years.



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  9. slimone says:

    Great article Joyce.

    I really appreciate the explanation of unfreezing. I can see how this happened for me, and maybe the following example will help other’s here, who are struggling to unfreeze. G1S wrote that awareness and acceptance is the most difficult phase. But that once those things take place action can be swift. I have found this to be true.

    In the beginning, when I had cut contact with the last sp I became entangled with, I finally felt the full emotional impact of my involvement. This resulted in horrible depression and PTSD. Months and months of near non-involvement in the world, with weeks at a time spent in bed, eating very little, and living in fear. It took two full years before I felt actual safety being out in the world, and didn’t have periods of total panic.

    During that entire time I was in therapy. And I had been in and out of therapy, with the same therapist, for nearly 15 years. Most of that time I was in a stable relationship, with a good man. It wasn’t until we parted that my therapist saw me become entangled with several malignant personalities.

    The therapist, and this website, encouraged me to do the first part of the unfreezing: Go no contact with the spath. Thereby decreasing the restraining forces that effected forward movement, or awareness and acceptance. Secondly my therapist began to assist me in relating my childhood experiences and subsequent ‘beliefs’ to my current situation. Thereby increasing the forces that would direct my behavior away from both the existing situation AND the familiar ‘status quo’.

    One day, as I lamented my inability to heal the spath, and my relationship with my mother, and the awful boss I had at the time, my therapist said ‘Please look at what you are saying….and consider that your idea that you are the source of ALL these problems is quite egotistical’. She even went so far as to connect this to my own ‘narcissistic wounding’. THAT was a huge wake up for me. It initially angered me, but the seed did land in fertile soil, and I began to consider that because of my own ‘false’ ego I was, in a sense, continuing to punish and harm myself. How strange that my own mind would twist my infantile longing for parental love and mirroring (which went unfullfilled, and created a narcissistic wound in my psyche) around into this strange idea that I could ‘save’ anyone put in front of me.

    Instead of being able to understand this wound and subsequent longing to be reflected in the eyes of my mother, my young undeveloped mind created the belief that I COULD NOT judge another person as hopeless. I COULD NOT judge them as ‘bad’, deficient, unkind, hateful, irredeemable, UNSAFE, or otherwise flawed. It had to be me, unlovable me, that was the problem. And my mind had come up with a way to put a ‘positive’ spin on what could be done to ensure my safety and survival.

    This single revelation was the bright spark that awakened me and acceptance quickly followed. I wasn’t the source and solution to every problem that was in my life. Other people played their part. Some of them deserved MOST of the blame. More than 50% even!

    I could start practicing boundaries, minding my own business, building a better life for myself, and weeding out my rolodex of less than desirable friends and family.

    I have not looked back. The progress has been ongoing and productive. Not being responsible for the whole world, and all it’s problems, is liberating!

    Slim



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