Feelings, we take them for granted. We think we should feel happy and when we don’t there is something wrong. Happy is our feel good feeling. It is the base feeling most of us gage all other feelings from. What would happen if someone came into your life and told you that your basic feeling is wrong? What you thought was ‘normal’ was instead warped and not normal?
You are 9 years old and rage is the only consistent feeling you know. Your whole world revolved around anger. Your normal feeling was anger. You don’t know what joy and happiness feel like other than fleeting strange feelings that were scary and different. Therefore when you find yourself feeling happy or joyful you acted out to get in trouble so you could again be mad. Can you imagine living your life in a state of anger and thinking this is normal?
A life change, the child is moved into a new home. Basic needs like food and toys and comfort are now met. You would think he would be happy and life would good right? Wrong! This isn’t normal. This is scary! So instead of being “happy” the child sets out to remake his world in the new home. He does things to make everyone angry. He disobeys. He pushes buttons. He yells and screams his rage at rules and consequences. Toys? He breaks them. A toy is good for less than 5 minutes in his hands before it is broke. He wanted others to feel the same as he does, angry. He is an expert at pushing all the right buttons to obtain lift off in everyone around him. This brings him great pleasure. This is his goal in life. His “joy” comes from having everyone around him as miserable as he is inside.
Time rocks on. His new family refuses to stay mad. They hold him accountable and offered consequences and ideas to change and most of all continue to offer him joy. He still was afraid to reach for it. He sees other emotions. He experiences other emotions, and they aren’t as scary. He keeps watching the different feeling that others have. He tests the water and runs back to anger. Each time he test the water he stays a bit longer. He samples joy and finds it doesn’t taste too bad. He forgets to be angry. When he discovers he isn’t feeling anger he is puzzled. He processes feeling different. He doesn’t understand why he isn’t mad. He puzzles over it. Sometimes he even voices his puzzlement. Time rocks on and he has fewer and fewer angry outburst. He doesn’t even notice he isn’t always angry. He is finding new feelings that aren’t scary any more. They feel good. As he changes he comes face to face with issues and feelings that he has to address.
When you know in your heart you are not wanted it is a breeding ground for anger and sadness. You know you aren’t wanted because your birth parents gave you up. Your adoptive parents didn’t want you either. Mom died, dad returned you to CPS like an unwanted item. This is fertile ground for the growing of seeds of resentment, anger, low self-esteem and other negative emotions. You are only 9 years old and you know that you aren’t lovable.
Then one day you and your new mom are swinging in the swing and discussion why you have so much anger. First person to blame is the new mom. This mom doesn’t accept the blame, but instead points out how angry the child was when he came to live with her. He then blames the foster family. Again his mom isn’t buying that as she points out to him he was mad when he moved into his foster family’s home. More swinging takes place as he thinks about why he is mad.
Finally he puts into words his deep seated most painful truth. He is angry because his adoptive dad didn’t want him. He feels rejected, worthless and unlovable. Still more swinging and talking about how he was given away instead of nurtured and loved. As he discusses his pain he says his dad couldn’t take care of him. Mom stops him with those words and ask him which is it? Did adoptive dad not want him or was adoptive dad unable to care for him? She explains they don’t mean the same thing. She talks about how not wanting is just getting rid of and not ever trying to take care of him, yet not being able involves him living with adoptive dad after mom died and dad trying to work, deal with health issues and deal with small child. More swinging happens. I light bulb goes on. Adoptive dad DID try to take care of him. He tried working and taking care of him. He had already had a heart attack so he had some serious health concerns. He came to understand that it adoptive dad tried very hard to take care of him, but couldn’t.
This was a freeing concept. He was wanted. He was loved. He wasn’t rejected. He tilled up his anger garden. He still didn’t understand why he wasn’t angry all the time. He just knew in his heart he wasn’t. He had room now for other emotions, the emotions he had been afraid to feel. Love, joy, peace and happiness where now taking root where anger and resentment had been. He still has to work at not allowing those seeds back in his heart garden, but it is much easier now to control the rage and temper tantrums that use to overwhelm him like a might ocean wave many times a day. He still slips some days and rages, but less often and less long. He is learning to ride the wave and come out on the other side stronger. He is 9 years old and has his whole life ahead of him. A life filled with joy and peace and hope. He now has a life of love and forgiveness and understanding of pain in others that will grow into compassion as he grows.