I sit on my backside. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to talk to anyone. The world can just f*** off. I’m just fine as I am, doing what I do, which is, well… nothing.
Doing nothing, not trying anything, not talking to anyone except my mates really, is the best thing I can do for myself. You see, it’s safe. REAL safe.
As far as ‘doing’ goes I might immerse myself in drinking or taking drugs or getting a buzz from nicking cars or even just gaming 24-7. Anything that involves having a damn good time and sod the consequences. I’ll do anything that helps me to stop feeling.
And I’ll do anything that helps me avoid ‘doing’ anything that puts me at REAL risk- the risk of failing if I try something, the risk of being rejected if I put myself out there and try and build relationships, the risk of drowning if I face the fact that actually deep-down I feel pretty crappy about life and try and change. The risks that you professionals tell me I expose myself to by drinking, or driving stolen cars, or having unprotected sex with anyone who wants some is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to the risk rating I apply to exposing myself to failure. Failure from trying to build relationships, getting educated or getting a job, or trying to fix my life. That’s the shit scary stuff for me. I’ve got my fingers hellishly burnt trying to ‘do stuff’ before. If you want me to stick my hands back in the fire then you can go take a long walk off a short cliff. It ain’t happening.
When I’m in this scared, ‘I’m not going to try a sodding thing’ place I can be an absolute nightmare to work with. I’ll either be a mouthy obnoxious so-and-so or I’ll say nothing. You might as well be working with a cardboard cutout of me for all the real interaction you are going to get. I will make you think you are THE most annoying or boring person in the entire universe. You will get to the point where you think there is little point really trying with me… I’m a lost cause.
But please don’t give up on me. I might look like I’m bored; I might look like I don’t give a crap about what you have to say, and probably at first I won’t, but if you stick at it the barriers will fall. You see, if you give up on me and quit trying, then you are only showing me that giving up and not trying is okay. You will never solve my inaction and apathy by being inactive and apathetic yourself. It will be tiring, you will need to grit your teeth, but you HAVE to keep on chipping away at me. It will bring results if you just keep on trying.
Even though I will probably treat you as if you aren’t human, it is your humanness, and your humanity towards me that will ultimately cause the barriers to fall. If you show me warmth and care, then I will come to realise that maybe it is worth taking a risk on you and trying to build some sort of relationship with you.
If I see you really giving of yourself in your pursuit to connect with me, then I will be more inclined to give of myself and build my half of the bridge. This doesn’t mean you have to cross any professional boundaries, just stuff like asking what I did at the weekend and saying what you did. You don’t have to go into personal details about what you did, but even stuff like, ‘well I went shopping’ or ‘I went and played footie with my mates on Sunday. Our team was stuffed’. Anything that shows you are a normal human being. That you aren’t just Mr or Mrs Social Worker, or Mr & Mrs Teacher etc.
And don’t feel guilty about just talking with me at first. Don’t dive in with worksheets and programmes to address my issues. If there’s no real interaction going on with simple stuff like ‘hello, how are you?’ then there is little chance that you will achieve anything when talking about anger or peer pressure, whatever.
Once I’ve taken the risk on building some sort of a relationship with you, then I will have taken the first step in positive risk- taking. I’ll then listen to you more, respect you more and will be so much more likely to feel safe enough to give stuff like going to college or getting a job a go. I’ll be more likely to open up and talk about stuff that is bothering me. And once I get the positive feedback from trying different stuff from usual then I will be less reliant on old patterns of behaviour. I will start to build a life, a proper life rather than pretending to live, either sitting on my backside or getting involved in dodgy stuff.
Help me to take the first step in positive risk-taking and help me to take a risk on you. Relationship is the key to the rest. If you haven’t got that then you ain’t got nothing.