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Posted on 13 Jul, 2015 | 0 comments

When It GETS To You ‘Cos You’ve Been Here Before

Originally posted on Jul 29, 2013

I got SO angry with my son the other day” she tells me, “It wasn’t pretty. And we were out in the street too. I’m just hoping no-one saw me.”

“What happened?”

“We went for a walk and JJ just wouldn’t stay in his pram. He kept wanting me to carry him. We’d already walked a while, it was hot, I was tired, it was time to head home and I just wanted him to sit in the pram but he wouldn’t. He wanted me to walk and push the pram uphill and carry him – and he’s not light anymore. I tried to reason with him and then I totally lost my cool. I feel so bad about it.”

“What made you lose your cool like that?”

“Well he just wasn’t listening to me. It was like I was pitting my will against his. I felt powerless.”

“It sounds like it was important to you that he listen to you”

“Well it’s a busy road and he doesn’t walk very well yet so he needs to be in the pram – to keep him safe.”

“How would you feel if you didn’t manage to keep him safe?”

“Oh terrible! Guilty. In pain.”

“So at that moment when you were pushing for him to listen to you what were you actually doing?”

“Trying to prevent that kind of pain for us both I suppose.”

Think back to that moment when you were trying to make JJ listen and were feeling so angry and powerless. Is this a familiar feeling? Have you felt this way before in your life? Does this dynamic remind you of anyone?”

“Oh it’s JUST like with my father when I was small! I would try to tell him something and he would just steamroll me. He didn’t listen. I felt exactly the same – angry and powerless. I can’t believe my 18-month old reminds me of my father!”x

“You mentioned earlier that JJ always asks to be picked up when it’s time to head home?”

“Yes, he’s fine in his pram but as soon as he knows we’re turning back he asks for me to carry him. I don’t know why. It drives me mad.”

“So something about turning back to go home seems to make him need the security of being held – and you don’t know why?”

Yes. I don’t know if he’s afraid, or sad or what. I have asked him but he can’t tell me.”

“All you do know is that he’s telling you he needs ‘up’. But think about it, in that moment when you are afraid of your potential pain and you’re pitting your will against his to try to prevent it, are you listening to him?”

“No, I guess not.”

“When your father wasn’t listening to you those times back then, what do you think was going on for him?”

She’s thoughtful. “He was probably trying to keep me safe…”

“So was it the same for you the other day with JJ? Were you pushing your agenda and not listening to him because of your own fears about keeping him safe – just like your father used to do with you?”

“Yes. Ugh! I was being like my dad. Although it is interesting to see it from my father’s side like this. It’s hard to believe all this was going on inside me just from JJ not wanting to stay in his pram.”

When JJ did that, you were right back in your childhood, feeling unheard and powerless again – which is hard enough. But then you were also scared of the pain that might come if JJ got hurt. That’s a potent combination. When we are thrown back into an old dynamic like that it can be so painful we just want to make the feelings stop – so we attack the thing we think is causing them. That’s when you ‘lost it’ at JJ – to try to make the pain stop…

Think back now, when your father did that back then, is there something you wish he’d have done differently?”

“I wish he had listened to me and then explained his side.”

“What do you think JJ needs from you at turning back home times?”

“To listen to him and then explain my side.”

“It’s not a power battle is it? You are both part of the relationship and he is telling you what he needs. You have the right to tell him what you need too and then come up with a plan that gives both of you at least some of what you each need. You need to listen to you too because, as you well know,  it hurts terribly to not be heard…

How do you feel about what this has uncovered?”

It’s made me see my father a little differently. And I feel like I can listen more to JJ next time – maybe to myself too. And I’ll be more aware of what’s triggering me next time I get so angry. Whew! I never would have guessed all this was going on inside me. All I knew was that I just couldn’t anymore with him.”

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