I’ve been learning about “reflecting.” It’s a counseling term. And my life seems to be filled with counseling terms lately. I sit in the therapist’s office every other week. And I take a lay-counseling course at my church every Sunday afternoon, while filling in the gaps with books and conversations. I’m learning.
The more I consider my own anxiety and how it affects every facet of my life, the more I understand my little boy’s anxiety as well. The more I learn to be kind to myself, the more I learn to be kind to my son, whose reactions to life so mirror my own that they infuriate me. Isn’t that how it goes? When he reacts to his fears by losing control, I react to him by losing control. When he screams, I want to scream. When he stomps and flails on the ground, I want to stomp and flail on the ground. When he’s ridiculous, I want to tell him so.
I heard that anxiety is the most “porous” of the emotions. Anxiety absorbs more anxiety. So if an anxious person is living daily life beside another anxious person, those two are receiving and giving fear and urgency to one another all day long, absorbing and reflecting, making the feelings bigger and bigger until both feel used up, incapable of taking or offering back anything else.
There is, of course, another way. A quieter way. A way of living life together–two anxious types–learning to give and receive love more than fear.
I’m practicing the most practical of parenting tools these days. I’m trying not to react to what my kid says, but to reflect. I’m saying his words, his exact words, over and over back to him.
“I’m sad,’ he says.
“You feel sad,” I say.
“You’re screaming because you feel sad,” I say.
Over and over, I’m learning to turn the volume down between us, learning to let him know he is heard.
It’s working. If I can stop my frustrations. If I can calm my intense reactions to his intensity, I see him. I hear him. And I realize that all along, that’s all any of us want. Even in the moments when we fail, when we cower in our shame, we long for a God who comes to us and says, “You feel ashamed.”
Not a question, just an understanding. A God who sits beside us in our fury and says, “You look hurt. You feel like you can’t live this way.” We long for a God who knows us well enough to show us that we are known. A God who doesn’t say, “You are ashamed, but you have to change,” and instead a God who says, “You are ashamed. And you get to change. You get to have a new day, a new chance, a new heart.”
I want to reflect the reflecting God. I’m learning. I am.
Photo Credit: on Flickr Though speck's inked line has been available in various incarnations over the www.spying.ninja/hack-phone/ years, the new jonathan adler series is one of the nicer-looking versions we've seen