Failure to Thrive

As a nurse working in the Intermediate Care Nursery with premature babies we watched for and treated babies who were ‘failure to thrive’. Those babies didn’t grow, didn’t develop. Sometimes it was a simple matter to help those babies thrive, sometimes it took more work to find out why those babies didn’t thrive.

Today I want to focus on the words themselves ‘Failure to Thrive’. Thriving is our baseline. Thriving is the normal state of being. Not thriving is failure to meet the baseline human requirements. Failure to Thrive is a failure to attain the level we are meant to achieve.

But why do some people not thrive? Why do some people struggle with anxiety, depression, fear self loathing? I believe it all comes down to connection. Some people are connected to others and easily form new connections. Others have a greater difficulty forming connections, but have enough to support them to begin with, and then there’s some people who don’t have enough connections to others and also have difficulty forming new connections. The longer a person experiences disconnection, the more work required to thrive.

In my last post I talked about the types of boxes people live in: Golden Boxes, Beige Boxes, and Black Boxes.

Those living in Golden Boxes are thriving. Yes! All of us are meant to be in Golden Boxes! But some people live in beige boxes or black boxes instead. Why?

I deeply believe it all comes down to connection.

A person in a black box is closed off from others. They may be around them, but the connection isn’t there. Without this connection, the joy, light, and life of these people wither. Soon they become sullen and angry. Each interaction or thought on any day reinforces to them that they are unworthy, unlovable, but also that others are not worthy or loveable.

Those in Beige Boxes have stronger connections or more connections, in general feel more connected to others. But there’s still something missing. It’s a baby that grows, but meets milestones slowly for no apparent reason. Or a baby that meets milestones, but is very small for their age. Over all, nothing is wrong, but something isn’t quite right either.

I think it’s important to note that within any box, there’s a continuum. Some people in black or beige boxes may have moved there recently, or maybe they’re working on moving up to the next box. These people on the edge, with holes in their boxes, are able to see some light, and have some places for positivity. The larger the holes, the more they’re able to step into the light.

The windows and doors in our boxes allow us to see others and be seen by others. They allow us to hear other views and to change our minds about our beliefs. They allow us to let go of negative thoughts, especially negative thoughts about ourselves.

The more details our boxes have, the more cushioned our sense of self. A well cushioned box provides a safe haven that nurtures resilience, empathy, and self love. The Golden Boxes provide this cushioning for us, and also allows us to share that cushioning with others. Beige boxes can receive cushioning from others, can be guided to land on cushions, but cannot offer cushioning to others. Those in Black boxes can neither give, nor receive cushioning. Golden Boxes maintain they

A Golden Box  is baseline. This is what thriving looks like. These people are able to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. They know mistakes don’t define who a person is. They admit when they make mistakes and change their actions for the future. When they speak it is with respect, for themselves, and for others. They are able to see people who are different, and accept them. They are able to let others have differing views without feeling attacked.

All people, in all boxes, are interconnected. All of us can impact those around us. The greater the connection between people, the more impact those people have on each other. We can help maintain a person’s box, we can also break the windows and doors on a person’s box. Once an opening is formed in a person’s box, we can help that person move up to a more open box.

Our interconnection is a beautiful thing! But it isn’t the only thing. A person in a black or beige box cannot move into a more open box without help, but they are the ones who need to do the actual work. We can hand them tools, we can bring supplies, but they need to be the one wielding the hammer.




In my next post I’ll step away from the metaphors and talk about what this looks like in real life. 

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