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Bitterness, revenge and fox gloves

One of the major themes that is covered in RO DBT is that of bitterness.  If you say the word out loud, it can sound like it tastes – harsh.  When I say the word out loud, my lip inadvertently curls into a contemptuous social signal.  It’s like bitterness and contempt walk hand in hand.  For many of our OC clients, bitterness can look like holding grudges – sometimes for years – or quiet thwarting of rivals’ progress.  For anyone who has attended an RO DBT intensive, Thomas Lynch shares the story of an early client who was so bitterly envious of his neighbour’s roses that he walked along his fence tossing over “special ice cubes” (read: water and weed killer) and feigned amazement when the neighbour could not figure out what he had done wrong tending his precious new hobby.  I, too, am OC and no stranger to bitterness.  I, too, also have a gardening story but this involved growing things in the garden and not killing them.

Many years ago, my partner and I had the opportunity to re-landscape our front yard.  My partner is a gardener by trade and I am not – I generally like to stand around in the garden drinking beer and holding a rake so the neighbours think I am helpful.  My partner had laboriously removed the poppies and fox gloves that had snuck in via a blanket of compost; most had been eradicated over the season and had been unceremoniously laid out to dry in the late summer sun that hit the garden refuse pile.  Now, there was some passionate conversation about these poppies and fox gloves.  I pleaded to keep the poppies because they reminded me of a very special place in Canada (Lake Louise) and the fox gloves, well, they just look cool and remind me of Shakespeare for some reason.  My partner, on the other hand, insisted that due to their propensity for propagation should go, for good.

I was quite upset about this, after all, I was told that I had input into “our” garden. Despite having zero gardening expertise, I wanted to get my way, and was pig headed about her ideas which were based on 25 years professional experience.  So I waited until she went away for a weekend several weeks later.  I collected the dried poppy heads and fox glove carcasses, poured myself a glass of beer and hit the yard.  It is actually amazing how many hundreds of seeds “fall” out of the dried flower heads and I merrily decorated the yard until both glass and pods were empty.  I then put the dried stalks back on the refuse pile, in approximate order of where they had been prior to my partner’s departure.

Now, like many of my OC clients, I had to wait quite a bit for my revenge to become apparent.  After all, these were not Jack’s beans I planted and a bean stalk would not grow overnight.  The next spring we were surveying where to plant the veggies and where to move the garlic, when she leaned down and said “huh, that is crazy, there is a poppy growing here!”  I feigned ignorance, stating in my most expert gardener voice: “I understand they are quite aggressive and prolific.”  She looked sideways at me as I clutched my rake.  “So annoying, I was sure I managed to get them all.”

Needless to say, the poppies and fox gloves grew everywhere, dominating the precious real estate for the strawberries and annexing the peas.  My partner’s anxiety regarding this take over was a bit much for me to handle, and I finally came clean about my seed party when she was away.  So while my revenge was a relatively short wait, her revenge was sweeter; I am still weeding those poppies and foxgloves 8 years later.

About the author: J. Nicole Little, Ph.D., R.C.C.

Nicole is a therapist specializing in eating disorders and other conditions of overcontrol in Victoria, B.C., Canada.  She has also taught for 13 years at Universities and colleges. Her passions are RO DBT and animal assisted therapy.