Sunset Northern NH
Today's appointment with the therapist was, ostensibly, to discuss our new living arrangements with MIL. It began, however, as a rant of frustration with my younger son who'd agreed to attend the therapy session then bailed last minute because he was out late partying.
My therapist is a wise man. The anger I was feeling towards my younger son came blurting out first and next thing I know, I'm asked to examine the feelings behind the anger: disappointment in my son, insecurity about my parenting skills. He then proceeded to have me break down the insecurity as it related to being a child. What's the earliest incident of insecurity I remember? I immediately focused on my discomfort in Jr. High, as a nerdy, unattractive girl with few social skills outside my own small circle. From there I remembered an incident in the 4th or 5th grade where the cliquey group of kids to whom I did not belong, they called themselves "The Royal Family", persuaded me to join them in pelting my best friend with orange peels during a lunch time fracas in the girls bathroom. My best friend! It bothered me forty years til we re-connected and I wrote to her about it, apologizing.
I was asked about my home situation at that time, how did my parents get along? I replied that my father would pick fights with my mother when he was tired or in a bad mood. He'd browbeat her and she'd protest but take it, rarely fighting back. There were no obscenities or physical abuse, just anger directed at Mother. I hated it and wanted her to leave him.
The therapist asked me to be the nine year old, to get in touch with the feelings I had then. Hard to do. Eventually he pointed out how being a young child in an unstable family situation would imprint insecurity and teach me to retreat from standing up for myself, etc because that was my role model. This leads to anger and lashing out, etc. I protested saying I'd found my voice as an individual when a teenager and probably went too much the other way...standing up for myself to the nth degree, getting in people's faces (including my fathers') when I felt I'd been wronged. He showed me how I carried this insecurity and anger to the present day, suppressing my fear/anger/insecurities with the real situation and later lashing out at a loved one. It's a learned pattern.
I am now asked to "be with that little 9 year old girl" whenever these feelings arise. I am to provide a safe place for her to come and be protected. I am to learn to help her. It's a tall, weird order but I think I can do this. I'm just amazed at how much I still have to learn about myself, others and life.
Incredible series on this subject on PBStv right now. Check local listings for:
This Emotional Life explores ways to improve social relationships,
learn to cope with depression and anxiety and become
more positive, resilient individuals.
Part 1: Family, Friends and Lovers demonstrates that relationships
are not only important, they are central to our emotional well-being.
Part 2: Facing Our Fears examines negative emotions such as anger,
fear, anxiety and despair and how they play a part in the balance of life.
Part 3: Rethinking Happiness offers research supporting the theory
that many people look for happiness in the wrong places.