I had a new student come into Outback one day that was cheerful and pleasant to be around. As we talked he said, “The only problem I have is my mom. I don’t ever have problems with anyone else. As long as I’m not around her I’ll be fine.” This oversimplified statement raised a red flag in my mind, so I logged it away for later. As the days went on, it didn’t take long before I began noticing concerning patterns. He was dismissive of staff’s requests, disrespectful to other students, neglectful in his self-care and complacent in his group and individual chores. When the other students began noticing these patterns, they began confronting him about these patterns. When this happened, he verbally exploded and began defending himself and blaming others. We de-escalated the situation by removing the group from the situation and talking with him about the feedback he had just received. After a long time of recreating an emotionally safe place with him, I asked him, “Is this the same kind of thing that happens at home?” Before even realizing the discrepancy of his answer, he acknowledged this is exactly what his mother did.
As we continued to process what it was that frustrated him so deeply, I pointed out the inconsistency between what he originally stated upon entering the program and how he was behaving now. After a brief review of the mathematical principal of common denominators, I told him, “where ever you go, there you are”, which means, you take all of your positives and negatives with you where ever you go. In time, he eventually acknowledged that his problems had more to do with him than he had previously stated. Later that evening, he sat with the group around the campfire and apologized for his outburst. He wasn’t perfect after that, but this new found awareness of how he contributes to his problems became a foundational part of his progress during and after Outback.