Support Without Control
Yes, I am human, and sometimes things throw me off a little (lot).There's an issue with which I have been a little lost... it's not good... it's not bad... it is where I am and it feels like a good place from which to connect to humanity. Do you ever have times where it seems difficult to decipher which thoughts and feelings are coming from your fears or resistance, which are coming from your higher insight or deeper intuition, and which are coming from protective instinct? Any time I feel myself at odds with a situation, I take the time to ask myself why. I want to know where that conflict is coming from. I want to know if it's rational and what my options are to change it. Sometimes, intuition is easy to recognize and follow... like when you spot the perfect flower for a particular essence, or paint the perfect stroke, or feel the rhythm, or just feel moved to touch another in that certain way, or when you follow the feel to add your spices in the kitchen... Other times, I find it is a bit more buried or disguised. Intuition to me is not about resistance... it is not about erecting roadblocks.... sometimes it does involve a "no" but it is never the kind of "no" that feels like an end. It is a calm "no" that opens possibilities. One is intuition, while the other is FEAR. So when I find myself saying "no" to something because of a feeling and I don't identify a movement or opening once it's uttered, I don't want to trust that feeling is intuition. I want to give it a deeper look. I want to ask myself where it is coming from and dissolve any fears that may actually be blocking the path to higher guidance.
Any mother will tell you that the strongest feelings she has to sort through are those related to her children. Where do you think the term "mama bear" comes from? We all love them. We all wants what's best for them. We all fiercely protect them... whether or not that is what they really need. I usually recognize that I cannot save others from their own growth experience. I am good at supporting others through their own growth without directing it; but when it comes to my kids, I just want to do it for them! I want to give them my lessons and save them the pain of finding it for themselves! I want to at least manipulate better ways for them to learn it. I want them to be happy! What mother doesn't? So, yes, my resistance is sometimes an urge to protect them from the discomfort of their own growth process... a process that if left to unfold, will support their full bloom.
My son is amazing. He has always been happy and curious and continues to inspire me with new ways to look at the world. He is kind and compassionate and intelligent and creative and I love him from the bottom of my heart. Sometimes I see a lot of the negative aspects of my younger self in him -- sensitivity, lack of confidence, self-criticism, the tendency to get lost in a wave of emotion that he cannot even identify, not recognizing the possibility of alternate responses -- these are all things I had to grow my way through. Yet, I expect him to take my word for better solutions. And I sometimes lose patience when he cannot immediately understand the truths it has taken me a lifetime to learn. I need to remember that he is not me and that he needs to acquire these lessons in his own way and his own time. I need to trust in that process. We seem to experience similar challenges, but we react differently. And I do not know how to guide him if I do not understand the way he is processing. I have to let him do it.
Sometimes I get frustrated by the way he processes. As a child facing difficulty I always felt compelled to fight harder. I would work twice as hard to do half as much in order to prove myself. He, on the other hand, doesn't see the point. If he feels he cannot do something as well as others, he simply stops trying. This is so frustrating to an overachiever like myself! I understand the lack of confidence it comes from, but it's still hard to accept as a valid response! I imagine some of you can relate to this. It is hard to remember what it was like to confront issues as a kid, to work our way through the process. Sometimes, it's even hard to remember how we worked through something last week when dealing with other adults. We may remember how we think we reacted, but we do not remember how we chose that response. Because we have taught ourselves over the years to embrace a specific response, we assume it was automatic, and it is difficult to understand a different or less evolved choice. It is sometimes hard to imagine how they are putting things together, and how can we help them improve the picture if we don't understand all the parts? I have to keep reminding myself to focus on helping rather than fixing. I really do not think there is anything to fix. There is simply a growth process to support.
I forget that he is not old enough to really grasp the concept of changing the underlying thoughts. He hasn't lived long enough to really identify what his underlying thoughts are! When he is having a breakdown and I ask him what he is feeling, he cannot tell me. It is hard to identify
where an emotion stems from when you can't even identify what it is. I can hazard a guess... but I cannot rationally sort through it with him because he does not understand what he is feeling. Last night in the middle of a meltdown instead of telling him to stop crying or questioning why he was getting so upset over something so trivial or letting his father send him to his room to calm down, I decided to respond with inclusion rather than exclusion. Instead of suggesting with my tone or words that his response was wrong, I taught him some alternate nostril breathing to calm himself. I explained how it works and why it can help to balance the emotions. I am hoping it is simple enough that he can do it on his own sometime, but it's okay if he does not. I can give him tools and hope that he figures out where he can use them. I cannot take away the problem or control his reactions, but I can be supportive and understanding and patient while he learns to navigate those reactions.
I know that this is not easy for him. I know that he feels "different" and I know that he gets upset when he feels like he is not living up to expectations. He struggles with executive function and overidentifies with his emotional response. He is easily distracted, forgets a lot of things, and is very unorganized. I still have those problems, but I have had more than 3 decades to learn how to cope with them (and I still waste at least 20 min looking for my keys every morning). I learned to cope with these things through life experience and adjusting my approach to meet demands. As a natural part of maturation, I also learned to separate from my emotions. I didn't learn any of this when I was 8. I don't think any amount of medication or nostril breathing would have taught me these things at that age. But I have learned more about ADD in the past month than I ever felt compelled to learn in a lifetime of having it, and I am learning ways to support the process. Data PLUS Intuition, EQUALS better decisions. I am resistant to the suggestion of medication because I see it as a carry over... it does not address the things that actually need to be learned and developed... it simply quiets the symptoms. And some of those symptoms, I am learning, when worked on and developed, actually become strengths (like the ability to entertain 20 different lines of thought at once, not everyone can do that, or tap into a rhythm, or the depth of emotion that can grow into empathy and compassion).
Still, I have to admit that perhaps medication did assist me over the years in integrating these lessons and making these adjustments. I cannot be sure if the benefits outweighed the dependency created, but I believe there is more than one way to achieve that development. I have no idea what my son needs right now. I have no idea how to judge if medication would help or hurt this learning process. But I do know that I believed I was broken. I believed that I could not function without medications because someone whom I deemed an authority had indicated such. I believed and accepted that I would never function without it. I felt powerless. I felt "different". And I never felt like enough. Remembering this feeling, brings me to tears. I am now aware that this self criticism is associated with an underdeveloped frontal cortex and are not based solely on any diagnosis or any medication, but I still connect them with that time in my life. And I am certain that a fear of projecting that feeling onto my son, is exactly where my resistance comes from. It is not the medication itself that I am against or afraid of. Just like any other fear, it is the feelings I attach to it, feelings that I do not want my son to have. Feelings that ultimately came from within myself and the navigation of which have contributed to whom I have become. Feelings can be released and that process is where we learn... it is where we grow. So if it turns out that medication is needed to foster a state of mind where coping mechanisms can be more readily learned down the road, I will remain open to it as an aid, but not as a "fix". In releasing the fearful and protective need to resist or control the experience, I am able to begin asking "How can I support it?"
I want my son to know that he can learn to manage his emotions, his energy, his focus, and his creative output. And I know that he can. I want him to know that he is not broken and that he does not need a "magic bullet" to be like anyone else. With support, he can identify his unique gifts and implement coping skills that allow him to bring them forth into the world. But I will have to let him navigate the feelings and evolve at his own pace. And I will have to be open to whatever he may need to support that process. We could expand this line of thought and apply it to any type of growth.
A little bit of discomfort is part of the path to unique expression. I can offer techniques, but I will have to let him figure out what works for himself. I will look for his strengths and support them while making sure he is aware of them. I will continue to remind him that he is whole, just as he is, and I will patiently wait for that to sink in. I will accept that he does not need to be "saved" from his own growth process. Sometimes, no matter how much we love or how much we want to protect, that is all we can do. We can offer support, be we cannot manipulate another's experience. We can water the root, but we cannot control the sun. We must let the bloom unfold on its own -- and trust in the beauty as it does.