The Chicken And The Egg Theory (If You Push Her, You Will Break Her)

As you know, I work with a lot of abused women. At this point I would say that the hours I dedicate to my girls add up to being another full time job outside of the work I do with the nonprofit. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent running support groups, giving presentations to the community, sitting through court hearings with women who need nothing more than a supportive friend, meeting with women who need help navigating the public aid benefits system, answering late night phone calls that run into the early hours of the morning, and more.

What takes the most time though?

Just listening to them.

And it’s hard.

It’s really hard.

Abused women have a method of thinking that is very distinctive to the life that they have lived. Typically when I first become involved with them they are fresh out of an abusive situation. While it’s easy to think that they should feel free, in reality they don’t. They don’t feel free because all they feel is terror. Terror at the long road ahead of them and terrified because they no longer trust themselves. They feel ashamed that they let someone do this to them and they feel angry that it went on for so long. Angry at their abuser and angry at themselves. So although “free” they may be, truly free they are not.

While they may have won the battle to stay alive, for many of them a new battle is just beginning; the battle to really live. Because although they are no longer fighting to free themselves from their abuser, they are now fighting to free themselves from what their abuser has done to them.

It’s a hard road for them and it’s hard to watch them walk it. It’s a road paved with self doubt and second guessing, a road littered with negative thinking and changes of heart. Watching an abused women try to walk her own path for the first time, it’s frustrating, it really is. They take two steps forward and five steps back. Just when you think they are finally going in the right direction, they get scared, turn around, and retreat back. The right choice is so obviously right in front of them but they can’t see it, and even if they do, they doubt themselves so much that it no longer looks like the right choice to them, it simply looks like another opportunity to make the wrong choice. So what do they do?

They do nothing at all.

They stand there, frozen in fear, and life moves on around them.

And it’s hard to watch. It’s SO hard because all you want to do is to tell her what to do, push her in the right direction, because I can see it, we can all see it, we all know what she needs.

Everyone knows what she needs, except for her.

But you can’t push her, you can’t push her because she’s not ready.

If you push her too hard, push her too fast, you risk shattering the work she has done and irreparably harming her.

Do you all know how a chicken hatches?

A baby chick moves around inside of its egg for days and then right before it hatches, it absorbs the yolk sac into its body. The yolk gives the chick energy and nourishment to survive the task ahead, because it’s fight for freedom is about to begin. The chick will start to peck at its egg thousands of times until it finally breaks a tiny pip hole through the egg’s shell. The chick then takes its first breath of air, its first breath of freedom really, but then it stops. It stops working, it stops fighting, and it rests while it gathers its strength, because that chick knows that it’s going to have a long road ahead of it.

After hours upon hours of rest, the chick then gets back to work.

Have you ever seen a chick hatch? You just want to jump in there and help it. The chick looks so tiny, so new this world, and you know that the only thing standing between it and freedom is the shell that’s covering it, trapping it inside and hiding from view the world around it. You want to jump in, break the shell, and pull the chick free,ย but you can’t.

You can’t force the chick out because you will kill it.

The chick is in there learning to flex its neck and move its head, skills it will need to survive. Oftentimes the yolk sac isn’t fully absorbed until the last of the shell falls free and if you break the shell before the chick was ready, it will bleed to death. The chick is struggling because it needs to struggle, it’s part of the hatching process.

If you really want to help the chick hatch you have to help it in supportive ways only. Keep it warm so the chick doesn’t get too cold, keep it humid so the egg membrane is easier to break through. The best way that you can help the chick to hatch is to support it while it does its own work.

Break the shell and you may kill the chick.

Push the woman and you may send her back.

She’s not ready to run full force yet, because she’s not ready.

She’s resting.

She struggled for a long time before she finally got that first breath of air. Just like the chick, she pecked thousands of times before she even cracked the surface and got her first taste of freedom, but she did it! She broke through and she let us all know that she was in there.

It was hard work and sometimes she needs to rest while she gathers her strength to shatter the rest of her shell. She is struggling no doubt, but her struggle isn’t without progress. While the progress may be painfully slow to anyone watching from the outside, inside she is making progress. She is gathering her strength, her nourishment, and she is learning to flex her muscles. She is hatching, you just can’t see it because all of the hard work is being done on the inside.

And so you have to be patient. You just have to watch her and encourage her because she is doing it. She knows how hard she is working and she knows how trapped she still is. She wants to break free, trust me she does, but sometimes she just needs to rest.

And so you let her, because if you jump in and break that shell you risk cracking it before she was ready. You risk ruining everything she worked so hard for, you risk pulling her out before she had the strength to survive.

So you wait.

You wait, you watch, and you cheer her on. You support her where you can but you allow her to do the work, because she’s not failing, she’s hatching, and hatching just takes a while.

So be patient with her while she hatches because trust me, she is hatching.ย 

You just can’t see it because all the hard work is being done on the inside.

Photo Credits
Hatched Egg
Womanย on floor
Woman holding head

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  • Mzfuzz
    March 12, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Wow. This is amazing, Eden. Having also worked with numerous victims of domestic violence, what you say is really accurate. It's SOOOOOOO frustrating to be on the outside and see the solutions, but the victim can't see it for herself yet. Or if she does, she can't act on it yet. YET. That's the key. Our society is so willfully ignorant about this very dynamic. If I had a nickel for everytime I heard someone say “Why doesn't she just leave? If she stays there, it's because she wants to get hit…” I'd have about……$50000. I'm gonna be sharing this around my social circle…..Cuz some people need to have the truth right in front of their faces. They won't see it otherwise.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Thanks love! Please share, I wish more people understood this. It would save a lot of trouble!

      You are right, it’s just “yet.”

  • Jenn Kota
    March 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    This is just beautiful. It speaks to me in every sense: as a mom, a woman and a person.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Thank you very much for that sweet compliment ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Anonymous
    March 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    This is so beautiful Eden. I remember when I first struck out on my own. It was so very hard. I had so much self hatred because I had allowed myself to be in such an abusive situation. It has been 13 years now and I still get terrified if I think I see my Ex. I am so afraid of him finding me that I won't even file for divorce. I have come a long way since then and yet not that far at all it seems. Thank you for everything you share with us! It really helps! All my love, Michele

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

      Aw hun, I’m sorry that you are still so afraid ๐Ÿ™ Trust me, I totally get it. I’m so happy to have you all along with me in this journey. I’m glad we can go through so many similar feelings together ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Evelyn
    March 12, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I've always heard you can't really help a bird to hatch very well, or you can but very carefully. Never heard about it in this sense. Thanks for the post. Looking forward to seeing Mr Attorney Man's responses to the questions in the previous post.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:17 am

      I can’t wait to see the answers either! It won’t be for a few weeks, we are giving people time to submit questions and he is pretty busy, but I’m excited as well!

  • Victoria Bell
    March 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have been trying to explain this to people for years.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Thanks Victoria. I’m glad to know it helped ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Anonymous
    March 14, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I get exactly what you're saying. But how do we email or contact you directly?

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Yep! Feel free to send me an email at that address!

  • Anonymous
    March 14, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Her email is at the top of the blog under the “contact Eden” tab. I hope that helps!

  • Katy Anders
    March 14, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    This is pretty fantastic and I do hope you're submitting it elsewhere. Your imagery works very, very well!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

      Thank you very much ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous
    March 14, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Beautiful, poignant post.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 14, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Aw thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Zoddbrah
    March 15, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Is it just me or isn't this just common sense (ie help people help themselves)? From an emotional perspective, you want to intervene but from a rational perspective it's obvious why someone needs to go through the “hatching” process themselves and be “born” as a new person (new chick?lol)

  • Anonymous
    March 16, 2015 at 1:48 am

    This is most definitely not common sense. People look at abused women and how fragile they are, and they try to fix them. They try to make all the choices for them, push them in the right direction, and what they end up doing is filling the role their abuser left behind; they become the new controller of her life. People don't realize that these women need time and space, gentle guidance, not a savior. “Saving” her is not helping her.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      March 16, 2015 at 3:02 am

      I don’t think its common sense in the sense that people see a victim and just want to help. What they end up doing is unintentionally pushing her towards what they think they should be doing and stifling the newfound freedom she needs to be exploring. I think emotions tend to take over many people’s rational lol!

  • Zoddbrah
    March 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I dunno…I find it fairly easy to engage logical robot-mode, perhaps it's a guy thing as we tend to be less emotionally aware haha

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