I end today with my heart filled with gratitude for certain parents who treat their children with such compassion. Here's a snippet, shared with permission.
My young patient's mother described an intense conversation with her son, who was anxiously rushing through a list of things he “needed.” She tried to help him slow down and think about how to strategically ask for things he wants a little at a time to not overwhelm the other person. In his intense anxiety, he heard "you are getting nothing" and "you are such a bad kid.” She shared how upset and frustrated she was because she feels like she never stops being his strongest supporter. She is always rooting for him, is always willing to apologize for making him feel a certain way and is open to hearing how to better speak to him.
My patient kept trying to interrupt her to defend his behavior so I had to keep light heartedly but firmly stopping him.
Near the end of session, I insisted that he explain his mother's experience of that conversation. He started by saying, "she thinks I'm too anxious and don't listen to her..." I stopped him, “no, tell me how she felt, not what you think she was saying about you." He thought long and hard: "upset."
Me: "what else?"
Me: "what else?"
Me: "No! Definitely not!" (As his mother shook her head too). "I think your mother feels hurt that she tries so hard to be the one person who never stops seeing the goodness inside of you, even when your anxiety takes over. And it really sucks to be attacked by your anxiety and made to feel like she's the one making you feel bad. She is absolutely frustrated by your anxiety but not at you."
Me: "how do you feel thinking about what I said?"
Him, honestly and apologetically: "I don't know"
Me: “That's ok. Then, I'm going to tell you how you should feel. Even though I really shouldn't..." wry smile.
He's listening, waiting.
"I think a small part of you should feel sorry that she feels upset. But, the largest part of you should just feel incredibly blessed and grateful for having a mom like her."