Many moons ago, when I was in therapy after having worked for an abusive boss, I was told the following story about a broken vending machine.
Imagine, my therapist said, that you’re working in the office with a broken vending machine. It always gets stuck on your favorite snack. You put in the money, press the buttons, and the snack hangs there—suspended by a corner of its wrapping. Tantalizingly close yet utterly useless to your growling stomach.
You don’t give up that easily, though. You slap the side of the machine, kick the bottom, and bang the top right corner of the window. Twice. It’s taken you a few attempts, but you’ve learned that this exact order of actions gets your snack to drop down into the drawer—and your eager hand. Problem solved. Vending machine mastered!
But, as the weeks and months continue, it seems that repeating this formula is becoming increasingly ineffective. You have to slap more often, kick from different directions, and bang with increasing force.
Then one night, while the office is closed, the vending machine is exchanged for a brand spanking new model. When you arrive the next morning, you put your money into it, and select your snack—followed by the slap, kick, and bang routine that solved your problems with the old machine. But, of course, there’s no need for it with this new machine. Yet you’re so used to doing it that you do so on auto-pilot; forgetting the point: getting the snack in your hand.
Now consider this: how long will it be before all the slapping, kicking, and banging is going to break the new vending machine?
The Moral of the Story
When we continue our old, trauma-informed behavior and habits, there’s a good chance that we continue to struggle in our relationships. Not just because toxic people are more likely to be drawn to us, but also because we may—unwittingly—turn our connections sour.
It’s important that we learn new ways to manage our lives, our relationships, and our emotional health. Without these skills, we’re likely to go around in circles; repeating the toxic experiences of our past.
Are you ready to learn how to use the new vending machine without breaking it? Then click here to enroll in The Healing Academy for a bunch of resources that will support you as you learn to heal, and thrive, after abuse.