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Self-Reliance is a Fool's Game

Self-help books alone are no help at all. What good is a self-help book if you’re relying on yourself for the answers? Every self-help book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot, give answers to questions the reader neither understands or isn’t aware is a question they should be asking.

Many of the clients I see know what the symptoms of their particular problem are: “We fight, don’t talk to each other, say hurtful things, drink or take drugs to escape, or are angry all the time.” Very seldom does anyone come in with a self diagnosis of “I have codependency issues.”

Society and current medical practices are on a fast track for solutions. You walk into the medical doctors office and tell them the symptoms and you walk out minutes later with a prescription for drugs. The self-help book has become the “prescription” for mental health practitioners. The problem is that a pill is easy to take and can be accomplished very rapidly and results can be seen within days. A self-help book must be “ingested” as well. One must consume the information, then find ways of application to their specific need or problem. This is where the self-help book falls short. There are too many variances in life which can present problems in too many ways. So the reader is given insight without specific application. This is where I like to come in. As a licensed marriage and family therapist I help people find solutions to their specific problems and teach them application through learning new coping skills.

I look at every relationship as a field which is being considered for planting. A lot of preparation goes into the selection process of finding the perfect field for the specific crop which will be planted. Considerations such as soil nutrients, composition, drainage, sunlight and wind exposure are all closely calculated. Obstacles such as streams, hillsides, and rocks are factored in as well. This is the dating stage of a relationship. Each person looks both consciously and subconsciously for the field which will meet their particular need. Often obstacles are seen but not addressed for fear of losing the field altogether. Rocks pop up, insects buzz around ones head, but these obstacles are seen as minor annoyances are ignored and the field is purchased.

Prior to placing the seeds in the ground, the field needs to be prepared. The dirt may be lacking vital nutrients and often fertilizer must be added to the soil. They believe the soil is properly prepared because they assume the other has prepared it. There may not be any nutritional value, too much sand, or water to sustain life for the seeds you’re hoping to plant. Sometimes the rows are not even, the distance is not far enough and the depth is too deep which prevents proper drainage and seeds won’t germinate.

The bible talks about seeds and proper planting preparation in Matthew 13:3-8:

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

The farmer then considers how this field will be plowed for planting. Tools for ripping the soil are carefully selected. A tractor pulls the ripper which has teeth set at specific distance and depth and the soul is methodically plowed. There are ruts and grooves left behind by the tractor which has ripped the ground up and prepared it for planting. In relationships ruts and grooves are also created as the couple spends more time together. They learn how to avoid the rocks by denying they exist, they don’t discuss differences even though they experience conflicts concerning their differences.

The bible cautions against ignoring obstacles in 2 Corinthians 6:14:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Before modernized tractors and farm equipment oxen were used to pull the plows. I heard once that one oxen is able to pull about 1500 lbs alone. The two oxen together doesn’t double the amount to 3,000, it triples their strength to pull 4,500 pounds. When two oxen are “yoked together” (a collar device connects the two so they will pull together) they are more efficient because they are moving in one direction directed by the team master. This was an easy concept to understand because if the team were not equal in weight or experience, the job would be difficult and the rows uneven resulting in a sub-par production.

The Bible speaks of being unevenly yoked in Deuteronomy 22:10:

“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”

Self-help books may help you identify the rocks in your field, the missing nutrients, and they may even help you understand if you are the ox or the donkey; but they don’t tell you how to go back to your field and correct the mistakes you made. A good therapist can help you find ways to re-plow and re-plant your field for future improved crop production. Call Encouragers today if you need help with your field or any other needs you may have. We look forward to serving and encouraging you.

Vicki Coffman, LMFT

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