Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yank a Root, Plant a Flower

As a kid, being too short to push a mower, I was assigned the job of weeding. You can imagine how enthusiastic I was about that. I’d slump into the grass in the hot sun stewing and sweating as I ripped at the weeds around the trees and bushes. One day my grandfather’s shadow fell across me. I looked up and he said, “You can’t get rid of weeds by tearing off the tops of them. The root will stay and grow stronger. It will not only bear a new top but also send out shoots to grow more weeds. If  you want to get rid of the weeds, you have to pull them out by the root.” He squatted down and showed me how to loosen up the soil and slip the weeds out roots intact.

There is an important life lesson in that.

Once we leave a violent relationship, we think we have solved the problem. After all, everyone around us is saying, “You’re out now, let it go.” However, it’s not over. Leaving is a necessary and important part of ending the problem. You can’t remove the false beliefs if you are with someone who continually plants and fertilizes them. 

We are left with deep rooted negative beliefs about ourselves. We have lost our self-respect and trust in our ability to function in the world. Those affect our every decision from thinking that if we give up and let our lives fall into destitution it will in some way punish our abusers, to going into an interview for a job with our inner critics screaming, “You can’t do this job. You are an idiot! You will fail.”

Negative core beliefs nourish themselves with the help of that inner critic. The voice magnifies our every fear and self-abasing feeling into a confirmation that we are stupid, inept, clumsy, foolish, etc., establishing those negative views more firmly in our psyche. From there they bleed bad outcomes into our lives. 

We may rush into new relationships, hoping they will heal our fears and challenges. Trying to fix our lives in that manner usually lands us in other abusive relationships. Our inner critics are all too happy to point out that we are fools. We may not apply for any challenging jobs because we believe that we will fail. Instead, we resign ourselves to low-paying work. Fear and financial difficulties may prevent us from taking classes that would help us secure a better paying positions. We will most assuredly make some mistakes as we pull our lives together. Our critical voices will be happy to remind us that we are inept.

Suppose, we refuse to allow our critics to go on a rampage. We shut them down with an affirmation such as: “I am capable of taking care of myself and children,” “Investing in my future is a good thing so I will go back to school,” “I am capable of learning new skills.” “I am a human. I am not perfect and do not need to be. This error was a momentary lapse, not a big todo.” Then we take the steps that will improve our lives.

As we loosen up the ligatures of fear that hold us back we can extract false beliefs. Every brave step forward instills self-respect and self-trust.  Just like it takes time to get all the remnants of the roots out of the garden, it takes time and persistence to remove the negative thinking. By calling out our inner critics and slapping affirmations over their mouths, we can extract the false beliefs and grow declarations of truth in their place, then act on them. We are capable of creating wonderful fulfilling lives for ourselves.

Addressing the root of any problem or challenge is a habit that will prevent us from dealing with the same problem over and over. If, we only hack at the branches (do the easiest thing to give temporary relief) we leave the root problem intact allowing it to send out more roots and branches that we will have to confront again. Go for the root the first time and put an end to the problem. Plant some flowers.

Thanks, Grandpa.