For many years I worked doing what is called, "Home Based Family Counseling". This family oriented counseling primarily addressed the needs of children who were experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety, depression. Most often we worked with children who demonstrated severe behavior issues and were at risk for hurting themselves or other. Our job was to work with the children and their families by providing individual counseling for the child, and to work with the family to address parenting, communication, and to bring about reduction of symptoms of children with these intense challenges. I remember working with a twelve year old boy who had severe tantrums. During the summer I would frequently take him out to get ice cream. One Saturday at the end of September we went to an ice cream place which we had often frequented, but unfortunately they had closed for the season. The young boy was extremely frustrated and angry that the store wasn't open. I reassured him that we could go to some other store to get ice cream, but he wanted the ice cream from this particular store. I remember him throwing himself on the ground screaming and kicking his feet. He absolutely wanted the ice cream from this store. The tantrum seemed to last forever. As he tantrumed, I remembered thinking how absurd his behavior was, since no matter how much he screamed, kicked, and yelled, the store would not open. I wondered why he couldn't see that. He wasn't three years old, he was going to be thirteen years old soon. Where was his reason, his logic. It is so easy to look at other peoples absurd behavior, and believe that there is no reason involved in their behavior, and yet how often do we do the same thing, certainly to a lesser degree. How often do we become angry, and tantrum internally, or maybe externally, when the world does not respond to our needs. How often do we wear blinders with regards to the facts, to the data, that lets us know that we do not have control over certain aspect of our world. We want another person to behave differently, to be kinder to us. we want them to change in some way, and yet so frequently it may not be within our control. Maybe our spouse doesn't understand us, or respond to a need, or request in a way that was disappointing for us. For me I have my own issues where reason does not dictate my behavior. Sometimes I want certain aspects of the world to change, or I want someone else to change, to be more responsive to me, to be more mature, or to accept accountability for their actions. I might not lay down on the sidewalk and scream, or pound my feet, the tantrum may be more internal. There are times when the internal tantrum is clearly absurd, and when I see it, I can only laugh at myself for being human. If we were computers we would not likely make these mistakes. This young man's frustration and anger regarding the ice cream might have symbolized a deeper need, or emotional injury which was not apparent at the time, and which he had not consciously identified. He likely lacked insight regarding his behavior. Clearly there was a "limbic hijack", and reason was not in charge. There was no consciousness and there was no mindfulness. We are quick to judge, but the other reality is that there is always a reason that underlies our behavior. There is always a reason that determines the way we behave and feel. For this young man the ice cream he did not get, may have symbolized the father that abandoned him, or the mother who was dealing with an addiction and was not as attentive to his needs as she could be. We can criticize ourselves when our emotional reactions don't make sense, when we crave something, or when we cling to something we can't have. We can criticize ourselves, and feel worse about ourselves, or we can compassionately explore our feelings and reactions, to learn more about the deeper hurt and injury that lies under our seemingly absurd feeling and behavior. Thank you for reading.
When We Are Not In Control
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