The Old Cast Iron Pot

The farm provided Virginia with numerous illustrations to use in teaching. One such story was that of an old cast-iron pot, which she used as a metaphor for self-esteem:

When I was a little girl, I lived on a farm in Wisconsin. On our back porch was a huge black iron pot, which had lovely rounded sides and stood on three legs. My mother made her own soap, so for part of the year the pot was filled with soap.

She explained other uses for the pot.

[A]t other times, my father used it to store manure for my mother’s flower beds. We came to call it the “3-S pot.”. Anyone who wanted to use the pot faced two questions: What is the pot now full of, and how full is it?

Long afterward, when people told me about themselves—whether they felt full, empty, dirty, or even “cracked” I thought of that old pot. One day many years ago, a family was sitting in my office struggling to find words to tell each other how they felt about themselves. I remembered the black pot and told them the story. Soon the members of the family were talking about their individual “pots”, whether they contained feelings of worth or of guilt, shame, or uselessness. They told me later how useful this metaphor was to them.

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