A tale from India retold by Mary Dessein.
Story is a natural tool for use in addiction treatment and offers a safe way to examine some very difficult issues, ones that can be frightening or shameful to have to admit too soon in the recovery process.
A water-bearer carries two large pots on a yoke across his shoulders up the hill from the river to his master’s house each day. One has a crack and leaks half its water out each day before arriving at the house. The other pot is perfect and always delivered a full portion of water after the long walk from the river.
Finally, after years of arriving half-empty and feeling guilty, the cracked pot apologized to the water-bearer. It was miserable. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t accomplish what the perfect pot did.”
The water-bearer says, “What do you have to apologize for?”
“After all this time, I still only deliver half my load of water. I make more work for you because of my flaw.”
The man smiled and told the pot. “Take note of all the lovely flowers growing on the side of the path where I carried you. The flowers grew so lovely because of the water you leaked. There are no flowers on the perfect pot’s side.”
Using Story In Addiction Treatment
Story is a natural tool for use in addiction treatment and offers a safe way to examine some very difficult issues, ones that can be frightening or shameful to have to admit too soon in the recovery process. There are endless issues to be explored and endless stories. One of the wonders is that in the group setting, people explore issues together and very often find what they have in common, not just their differences from one another. This then allows candor, personal scrutiny, increased awareness, perhaps some empathy, and just maybe, some trust. Each person has to find his or her own answers. Story opens the door.
This story works well in the recovery world and the community of Twelve Step programs because there is a strong focus on a person’s deficits. This is appropriate as it is aimed at awareness and then positive change. However, sometimes people get stuck on their deficits, seeing only the flaws. The Cracked Pot reminds people even their deficits have a function. As a therapist, I believe the problems in our lives and our character defects are also some of our best teachers. Groups almost always go, “Aaaah,” when they hear the last line the water-bearer says to the pot. That awareness is often given lip service however. Really believing it is difficult for many people.
Of course, the play on words the cracked pot being close to expression of being a crackpot is fun for clients. There are usually a couple remarks about that, plus:
– “If that was whiskey and me carrying it, the entire pot would’ve been empty.”
– “We are our harshest critic.”
– “I never measure up to someone else.”
– “Sometimes we do good we don’t even know about.”
– “My bad traits are easier to see.”
There’s a group exercise that works here. Each group member draws a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On one side, they write “how I see myself”. On the other, they write “how others see me”. I usually get a lot of resistance as clients claim they don’t know how others see them. But after some examples and a little thought, most begin to see some positive aspects about themselves as well as some contradictions. Also, that others tend to see them in a more favorable light than they see themselves. Just like the cracked pot.