Fear and Relationship
For those of you who have children who came to you with MULTIPLE, OVERSTUFFED Trauma bags, I pray this post can bring you hope.
I have written much over the years about Trauma and FEAR and how our children, because of literally living day in and day out in a state of trauma, their brains have learned to interpret trauma as normal every day life, and a life that is not full of trauma, as something to be TERRIBLY feared.
The truth is that FEAR is their familiar, and in a strange way, something they embrace. Why? Because they know nothing different, and they are too afraid of the change.
So, if you are living with a child who’s behaviors are over the top FEAR…. which can come out in many ways, INCLUDING: defiance, control, anger, frustration, hyperactive behaviors, hypervigilance, withdrawl, disassociation, depression, anxiety, PTSD, RAD, etc. there is an answer.
There IS healing, but it will take a HUGE commitment to learning how to reach them AND it will take TIME.
Just as much as our kids need to change behaviors, WE DO TOO!. I wrote a post earlier about “When We Need to Change“, this is a part 2 for that post. 🙂
I think that the very hardest things for we parents to get, is that when what LOOKS LIKE outright rebellion and defiance are staring us in the face, what we are REALLY facing is a STRONG reaction to FEAR.
Many MANY times our kids may not recognize it themselves, because THEY don’t know anything BUT fear. It is, and has been a HUGE part of their lives. It is that strong survival instinct that has become their accomplice in life. I won’t call it their friend, but it is certainly their familiar companion.
I use the word accomplice, because an accomplice is NOT a good person to be with. FEAR, CAN be a healthy thing in appropriate situations, but for our children who have suffered so much, it is an accomplice for them, an albatross about their necks, holding them in a prison of torment and despair, refusing to let them go.
We have some of the BRAVEST of children. 🙂 I say this very seriously. It is a BRAVE and STRONG child that learns to overcome. And it does NOT happen overnight. IN FACT, it cannot happen, until our children take the plunge of TRUSTING us. That bridge of trust is a FEARFUL bridge to cross. Imagine yourself walking over a shaky bridge with pieces missing, over a burning hot fire down below, where one misstep will cost you your very life. Imagine that you are so terrified that just trying to make that step forward is so daunting, that every fiber of your being holds back.
That is what it is like for some of our children.
Now, imagine yourself, as a parent on the other side of that bridge. Are you the parent holding your hands out, encouraging your child to come and trust you with warmness and acceptance? Or are you the parent who is standing on the other side saying, “Why Don’t You Just Get Over Here? What Is Wrong With You? Hasn’t It Been Long Enough? Why Don’t You TRUST US???”
Our children will not get there on their own. They NEED us to disarm that fear mechanism and take the plunge of trust. But WE MUST be that instrument they can TRUST!
This brings me to the Amygdala. This is the part of the brain that processes emotion. There is no logic here, just interpretation of data with emotion. There is no reasoning here. And for kids with TRAUMA backgrounds, it is MESSED up! It takes over and causes the thinking part of the brain to not be able to reason. It interprets the unknown with fear and our children will go into a fight or flight mode, or they will regress into themselves and shut us out.
Our children’s brains became wired this way in order to survive. It took time for this connection to take place…..circumventing the reasoning part of the brain, but the GOOD NEWS IS, IT CAN BE CHANGED! It is NOT a forever thing, if we can learn to reach our children.
I received a letter from a reader not too long ago who’s new son had severe RAD. She said nobody in their state would even take him for fostering, and now, just 6 months later, he is connecting to them. She was SOOO HAPPY! And I am thrilled for her. 🙂
Miss Sweetie 4, is another one who continues to make huge steps of progress in adjustment and trust.
I too have learned myself, to REMEMBER what I am truly dealing with, if FEAR shows itself.
It is awesome to see how quickly something can be resolved that would have taken HOURS or days just over a year ago!
Our children all were functioning in FEAR mode when we first brought them home, and FEAR IS NOT LOGICAL! That is why LOGIC does not work. There is no reasoning in fear. FEAR is a raw emotion, not based upon logic.
I believe one of the reasons that I understand how paralyzing fear is, is that as a child, I was TERRIBLY fearful.
I was so full of fear, (much of which nobody knew, because I chose not to share it) that it was paralyzing. I was the child who withdrew and shut down. I turned my fear of a person, into an unreasonable fear of the dark, and being alone. It carried into my adult life until 2 of my boys were already born. I had to learn to identify why it was there, and conquer it! It was HARD!
I know there are those that do not believe that defiance or control is a fear mechanism. They don’t believe that a child who is disrespectful is fearful. I cannot do anything about that but I DO know that as a child I felt RAGE and DEFIANCE. I didn’t act out on it, but it was there, brewing.
I almost feel like the child who actually expresses how they feel, is a little healthier and stronger!
I continue to write about our very real experiences with TRAUMA and how we have been able to help our children overcome, in hopes that it may be of help to somebody out there who is really struggling. In the process of understanding my own children, I personally have been able to unpack many more of my own personal traumas of the past, and lay them to rest. 🙂
Now back to the amygdala. Did you know that it can be REWIRED to CALM down and not over react! It CAN! A long time ago I used the term “rebooting”, but a counselor friend of mine said, rebooting gives the idea of something happening right away, like flipping a switch. He said “rewiring”, is more like it. That gives the concept of time. Because it DOES take time.
We REWIRE the amygdala and give our children something new to hang onto. Instead of FEAR, we offer them TRUST. We offer them TRUE LOVE, which is an action on our part. And the result of this rewiring, will be a mutual, REASONING,trusting, relationship. The defiance and rebellion will begin to disappear and a true relationship based upon mutual respect and affection will begin to take shape.
RELATIONSHIP is of UTMOST importance. If you have no relationship, you will have no trust.
It must be NURTURED and PROTECTED…. Things that destroy relationships with our children, OR PREVENT THEM FROM FORMING IN THE FIRST PLACE are judgmentalism, harshness, unfair treatment, being controlling, anger, condemnation, shortness, over reacting, bitterness, self pity, non acceptance. Parents, these behaviors need to be FAR from us. Yes, I’m talking about US, not our children. HOW will they learn to trust us or WANT to trust us, if we give them nothing to hold onto for safety.
ACTIONS THAT BUILD RELATIONSHIP AND TRUST ARE:
Love, understanding, patience, kindness, gentleness, acceptance, Peacefulness, honesty, affection, laughter, humor, conversation, LISTENING, taking interest….
I am so glad that when we come to Christ, He accepts us with open arms of Love. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. I cannot imagine that GOD would save the sinner and then turn around and condemn him when he fails. Instead, he love us, patiently guides us and corrects us in full acceptance with GREAT mercy and GRACE….. and yes, it is UNDESERVED.
God calls us onto a journey in our lives and causes us to grow in our Spirits over time. He doesn’t expect a baby in Christ to suddenly stand before a pulpit and parse verbs in Hebrew and Greek!
Sometimes, I think that however is how we treat our newly adopted children.
They have NO IDEA what a family is, how it operates, how to interpret all the rules and nuances that each family has, let alone understand in many cases the new language they have had to learn!
And if there is continued tension, there is also no relationship.
We need to remove the LOG from our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our children’s eye so that a true relationship can begin!
We need to be a rope of SAFETY in our OWN behavior, so they can DARE to TRUST. By going over and over and over and over again the process of offering LOVE and TRUST and NOT a reason to fear, …. Through that repeat process, the brain will be rewired.
And that is SO SATISFYING! It makes me just so excited! Especially when I get encouraging letters of success. 🙂
Baby steps….. in the beginning and then….. a wonderful bouquet of wonder!
Our children are complex blossoms waiting to be discovered.