After I sent you the e-mail and had the chance to review your response I sat and did some soul searching. I am struggling with some of the things that I am required to do. Not because I do not wish to comply, but because I am so badly hurt from the years of defiant behavior, lying, and stealing. I forgave him the best I could throughout the years and he turned around and did the same things repeatedly. Sometimes telling me that he hears things in his head and others because he can’t help himself.
In my last e-mail to you I described one of our worst physical encounters with B__ and there have been many. My only regret was that we did not call the police on him that night instead of allowing it to escalate the way it did. Yesterday I was met by someone from child protective services accompanied by a police officer. B__ has threatened us with this before and we have feared it since it poured off of his lips. He states that my husband punched and bruised him. I can tell you that my husband pulled the child off his back and restrained him on the floor, but did not punch him. It is now our word against his and we feel like we are prisoners in our own home. The person appointed to our case heard us out and gave us a number to call in case he starts to destroy our home or attacks us in any manner again. We don't know what to do? The child throws himself through his room, against walls, furniture, and out of his window sill. I go to my room and shut the door as to not feed into his attention seeking behaviors, but when he is injuring himself and telling people that we did this to him it crosses the line. I ignore the behavior and it gets worse. He demands and manipulates an audience. According to him nothing is ever his fault and the world is against him. I do not know where to get help for us. At this point he has seen that we are powerless and that all he has to do is make up another story and we are in serious trouble. My husband and I do not want him home because with another accusation, we can lose everything. We are considering putting cameras throughout the house to ensure our safety through this process with B__. We don't want to be with him unless the other parent is with us. Summer is here and his sister who is to spend the summer with us will arrive in a few short weeks and I don't know how to keep her safe and ensure that B__ doesn't have all of us arrested. We need help. I have asked for help starting when he entered pre-school and all I got was a handful of varying diagnoses and a handful of prescriptions. He is bigger, stronger, and smarter and his behavior nor the outcomes are ever his fault. I find it nearly impossible to say I love you to him, I cannot stand to hear him ramble on because it is usually a fabricated story and when I get to the bottom of it I am more disappointed to find out he was at fault for whatever had happened and that he cannot and will not see it.
We have regular chores and each day the battles are getting worse and for the fact that I don’t want the fight, I don’t want to give them to him anymore. B__ is only ever happy when he is running the show. Anyone other than him in control will create behaviors that we not wish to have in our home or in our lives. B__ thinks that because we were not arrested and that they won’t keep Beth from coming here means that all is well. It is not well. My husband and I will have this stain on our (until yesterday) clean records till the end of our lives and again he walks away unscathed and newly empowered by his newest form of parental control.
Nick and I need help to get back on our feet on working in a better direction for all of us. Can you please tell us where to start again because we are heartbroken and devastated by what is happening?
Sounds like you have a bad case of “resentment flu” …also, it sounds like you feel a significant sense of defeat. When we drill deep into the root of resentment and anger, the cause always revolves around our ego and the mind’s attempt to protect it from “extinction.”
I am not suggesting that we suppress or deny these feelings. But rather, use responsible methods for dealing with these uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions so that we are no longer slaves to the emotional reflexes of our animalistic instincts.
As hard as it might seem while we are experiencing anger towards someone (especially our own child), the keys to overcoming the emotion lie first in understanding and finally in forgiving. This seems counter-intuitive, since our instincts tell us that we need to defend ourselves, and possibly come up with ways to hurt the other individual.
Understanding gives us insight into what the other individual is feeling. Even before we reach the stage of forgiveness, understanding will automatically ease some of the emotional burden we’ve been carrying.
Before seeking to understand, we need to find a place of clarity within ourselves. Clarity means that we are not acting out of our emotions or our caveman instincts. When we can step out of our inner caveman, we are able to see the situation for what it is. It will quickly become clear that the other individual was acting out of the instincts of their inner caveman, and thus blinded by their own emotions.
Let’s dive deeper into each major step in overcoming these bothersome feelings:
In this step, the goal is to feel well again. When our minds are frazzled with random thoughts of pain and resentment, it is nearly impossible to overcome anything. Therefore, we need to first find peace within ourselves.
When we seek peace and clarity, we are ultimately creating the space within ourselves for alternative possibilities and healing. Without which, we will remain in a never-ending cycle of unnecessary pain and suffering.
• “You are In Control” - Remind yourself that you are in control of your thoughts and actions. You are never as helpless or in as pitiful a state as your ego would have you believe. Remind yourself of the responsible individual that you are - using the real definition of responsibility: the ability to respond, or the ability to control our responses. Map out the worst case scenario and accept it. You’ll often find that the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as the dreadful scenario that you have dreamt up in your mind.
• Exercise: Express Your Emotions - Fully express your emotions without physically harming anyone (including yourself). If you feel angry, express that anger verbally (while you are alone) with the intent of releasing it completely out of your system. You can jump up and down, cry out loud or exert unusual sounds. Listen to your body as to how it wants to release this negative energy. Give yourself a time limit of say 5 to 10 minutes in which you must express all your anger, either verbally or in writing. Additionally or alternatively, go for a run, a hike, a workout or a swim. Many individuals find exercise to be an effective way to release toxic energy.
• Exercise: Finding Peace via Focused Attention - This has been the most effective tool for me when clarity and inner peace is needed: First, find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Bring your focus onto your breath. Focus all of your attention on your inhales and exhales. Do this for about five minutes. Next, bring your attention to your heart (the center of your chest). Focus on all the things you are grateful for in your life, right now. You can either visualize each individual or thing, or you can hear the sound of these things spoken in your mind. As you see them, or hear them, experience the feelings of gratitude in your heart.
Now that we’ve put our inner caveman/cavewoman aside, we can objectively look at the situation for what it is. We can seek to understand what is causing the other individual to act in this particular way.
In most cases, once we’ve figured out the cause for their behavior, we will find that it is often not an attack on us, but a reflection of their primal instinct to protect themselves.
What’s more, as we gain perspective into their position, we might find that we’ve learned something valuable that will contribute towards our well-being and happiness in the future.
• Freedom of Expression - Accept that it is okay for others (even your children) to have negative thoughts or feelings towards you. They have the same freedom of thought and freedom of choice as do you. Choose understanding. Choose compassion. Choose doing the right thing by staying honest to yourself. Outside of that, don’t worry about it, let them go. We cannot control other’s actions, so why should we exert energy trying? Let others be, and find peace with that.
• It’s Not Personal - When individuals are in pain, they sometimes cannot help but to spread that energy onto others. When individuals communicate in ways that are hurtful to you, it is not meant to be personal, but rather a reflection of their internal state.
• The Painful “Enemy” - Seek out the scenarios and perspectives which may have triggered them to treat you in a manner that hurts you. They may be in such a deep-seated state of frustration and emotional disturbance that they have lost the capacity to communicate rationally and with consideration of your feelings. Seek to understand that individuals, by nature, do not want to harm others, but circumstances that trigger their inner caveman cause them to act out in self-defense.
Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other individual to die.
Forgiveness is a gradual process, and understanding will eventually take us there. However, if we do not attempt forgiveness, the only individual we are harming is ourselves.
The goal here is to find peace with the situation and to move on with our lives. Life is too short to dwell on the past, or to dwell on other’s opinions of us. Give yourself a gift of freedom: forgive them with grace, compassion and understanding.
• Forgive Others - After the exercise of breathing and gratitude, continue to keep your eyes closed. Now, let go of all resentment and regret. You can imagine each of these separately. Imagine all the individuals who you hold a grudge against. Optionally you may see their harmless face smiling at you. Recognize that we are all trying our hardest in our current state of consciousness. Tell them in your imagination that you forgive them. Have the intention of forgiving others and ourselves for any actions that may have resulted in pain.
• Forgive Yourself - Forgive yourself for having had thoughts of retaliation, resentment, regret or grievance. Forgive yourself for exposing your inner caveman.
• You can repeat the mantra “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I relinquish all resentments, grievances and regrets. I choose the miracle.”
Mark Hutten, M.A.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents