Monday, May 16, 2011

The Frustration Traffic Circle

Last night Ava was in tears about her aunt and uncle leaving in a day to return to BC. They were here over the weekend and we've had lots of fun making memories with them on this trip. Ava was so sad at the idea of them going home, and I held her while she cried her tears. I thought about how I used to cry when my Granny left our house, or when we left hers, as I always felt the loss of her presence so deeply.

In the parenting course I'm in, we have been talking about how tears are healthy, and when you don't have tears, you end up with aggression. Dr. Gordon Neufeld described it as a traffic circle, where you enter as soon as you feel frustrated (he made the point that aggression is not anger, as we sometimes identify it, but instead frustration which doesn't end in tears), and you can exit the frustration if you can change the situation, but if you can't, you have to adapt.

Before you can adapt, you must reach the still point, realizing that you aren't going to get what you want, and that sometimes life isn't fair, and that is the moment where you recognize that your struggle is futile. All of that frustration energy has to go somewhere, and the healthiest place for it to go is in tears. Then you accept that you couldn't change the situation, so you must adapt to it.

If you don't feel safe to cry, or you don't reach the point of stillness and acceptance, then you tend to turn that frustration energy into aggression, and exit the traffic circle by attacking, either in words or with your body. Seeing this picture of the traffic circle, and understanding that I have the same process, over and over again when I am frustrated, really rang true for me.

I see this in my kids, and in myself, and I believe it to be true for everyone. I cried all of the time as a child, and was deeply connected to my emotions, but over time, as an adult, I learned to cover most of that up, and found William's raw vulnerability challenging to deal with. Ava learned by about age five or six to pretend that she was fine when she was actually upset. At first, I was proud of this defensive maneuver, but I'm learning in this class that tears are the best way to release this kind of energy without hurting anyone else.

In getting away from our vulnerabilities, we have shut down some of the best parts of ourselves. We need our feelings. Soft hearts mean caring and loving people. Hard hearts won't change the world. Soft hearts can change and grow, and I love that Ava has been slowly getting back to her vulnerabilities, in the same way that I have been digging through the hard earth to reach mine. Dr. Neufeld said, "You must feel the pain of what you cannot change."

While holding Ava last night, her body shaking with tears, I hurt for her, but I also rejoiced in the depth of her emotion, because when she reached the still point, she drew a shuddering breath, and accepted that they had to go home soon. It was good that they came, and it will hurt when they go, but better to love them so deeply that it does hurt. That's how you know you are alive, and able to experience the full range of feelings that are available to human beings, and ensure that you remain tender and open to caring and loving to the best of your ability.

No comments:

Post a Comment