Posted by: Marie | January 27, 2012

(624) Behavioral reflections

Post #624
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, May 19, 2011]

I’m looking forward to having therapy sessions more frequently this summer. My lighter summer teaching schedule will allow me time to process more – heal more, I hope.

In the last session, Edward said several things that cause me to feel more comfortable about doing exercises that involve physical expression of my emotions. I’m feeling hopeful about being able to move through the “frozen” feeling and being physically expressive.

Yesterday, I sent him my usual pre-session emailed status report:

Hi, Edward –

Just checking in for Monday’s session . . . I’m thinking I would like to take another “whack” at the racquet/pillow exercise (ha ha, pun intended) . . . typing it here seems to make it more do-able in my mind . . .

I’ll see you then!

– Marie

Edward responded quickly:

Dear Marie,

Thank you for the email.

Looking forward to supporting you Monday as you take your next whack at it.

Warmly,

Edward

——————————-

Today was the last day of school and my last day of working at the bus barn. I have been mostly working as an aide on a bus that transports a handful of kids from one school to another school that can better deal with their troublesome behavior.

I have been challenged greatly by learning how to work with them. I had to really come down hard on them and set some pretty tough boundaries and consequences. But, overall, my time on that bus has gone fairly well.

Photo by Martin Chen

However, on this last day of school, the afternoon route was total chaos. The kids were totally disrespectful – they made a point of breaking every rule and totally ignoring my threats. I could have taken action . . . I could have written violations. I know the transportation supervisor would carry them over into the next school year.

I kept thinking, “Just get through the next 15 minutes. Just keep the kids alive and unharmed, keep the bus damage free . . . let that be enough. This is the last day. You don’t have to deal with them ever again.”

But, I had trouble doing that. I found myself being very rigid and legalistic. If I saw anything in their body language that indicated defiance (and there was plenty of that), I barked an order at them and demanded they toe the line. I pushed back as hard against their behavior as they were pushing against the rules.

In the last ten minutes of the route, I found myself almost being a bully – raising my voice, giving them “the stink eye”, sticking my finger in their face . . .

As I was doing that, I could feel myself doing the same behaviors my dad used to do to me. When I realized that, I felt sick. How could I behave that way towards another human? No matter how ugly their behavior, they don’t deserve to be bullied.

But, I don’t know a better way. I tried to reason with them . . . get them to understand their behavior was cutting them off from opportunities. I tried to understand their motivation . . . wouldn’t they prefer a relaxed, light-hearted bus ride? Don’t they understand their behavior was taking them down a path that leads to a life of limited options . . . ??

After we dropped off the last child, I talked to the bus driver about my frustration. He has been a foster parent for many years and he and his wife have adopted a couple of at-risk kids. He is an active advocate for kids who are in the foster system – he has a long history of working with kids who behave in anti-social ways. So, I knew he would have some legitimate insight to share.

He sympathized with my frustration. He was raised by a strict and abusive father and has often found himself re-enacting the same behaviors. But, over time, he has mellowed out and has found better ways to deal with them.

He stressed the point that some kids – for example, those with fetal alcohol syndrome – literally do not have the ability to regulate their behavior. Damage to their brain causes them to be unable to manage their impulses. Even if they logically understand that their behavior is hurting themselves, they don’t have the ability to change their behavior.

With that explanation, I started having a better understanding . . . there are a lot of things in my own behavior that I logically understand I would be better off not doing, but I still do them. I do them because the pain and the life-long behavioral patterns are incredibly powerful. The only way to shift my behavior is to manifest healing of the underlying pain.

I have access to an awesome therapist who is helping me with that. Where would I be in my healing journey if I didn’t have access to Edward – or at least to someone like him? I’m betting I would not be where I am at now.

Not only do most of these kids not have access to such resources, they don’t have the family structure that would encourage them to search out and take advantage of such resources. No one has told them they are worth it. No one has even given them that option.

I’m not sure that helps me know how to deal with them on a day-to-day basis, but I do have some sympathy for them. Maybe sympathy (empathy?) would help me get through to them – if I ever am again in the position of needing to do so.


Responses

  1. I do think empathy and sympathy are valuable. It can also take a while and this can be a problem when the behaviour is risky. It is very difficult.

    • Hey, Evan –

      Edward works mostly from a place of empathy . . . it is his main “tool of the trade”. I know from first hand experience how the experience of receiving empathy has been so powerful for me.

      – Marie


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