Peeling an Onion


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.


Did you ever really pay attention to an onion?  Most of us take off the outer skin, and then set about chopping, dicing, slicing, or chunking it into quarters.  The next time you cut a big onion in half, stop and look at it in cross-section.


I counted seven or eight layers thick enough to see clearly, but the rings get smaller and tighter as you get to the center.  If you take that center and cut it crosswise, you’ll see that there are lots more tiny little layers.

Counseling is like that.  The outer layers peel off pretty quickly, but then you have to start working on the layers, piece by piece,  working slowly toward the center where the seed of the problem usually lies.   In the process, you cut away the bigger layers first.

Those bigger layers are things like anger, bitterness, depression, anxiety, resentment, fear,  Once you get past those layers, you’re getting near the center where the underlying causes reside.  Often, childhood sexual abuse is like a rotten center in what looks like a healthy onion.  Sometimes the core is made up of spiritual issues that need to be dissected. Sometimes, there is a thick inner core of years of reacting to physical, verbal, or mental abuse.  Sometimes the person’s father or mother–rarely both– was an alcoholic, and that sets up  some pretty clear behaviors for the adult child of the alcoholic.

One thing I’ve learned is that the center of the onion is always going to contain a surprise. One woman I’d worked with for months suddenly broke down one day and sobbed out that she’d been raped almost daily by an older brother until he finally left home.  She had told no one, ever.  Why?  He was a golden boy.  No one would have believed her. Or so she believed.  He was still the star of the family. She was the dysfunctional one, not him.

Years ago, I heard someone say that behavior is always caused, and causes are always multiple.  This is a principle you can apply in working with your own children.  There’s usually more than one cause behind any given behavior or misbehavior.  When those causes are not discovered and rooted out, they rot the onion from the inside out.

2 thoughts on “Peeling an Onion

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