This has been a struggle in our house. You can see through experience and wisdom how a person appears stuck in a destructive pattern- but seems unwilling to break free from this negativity. Probably because the comfort of what life is like currently isn’t bad enough compared to the fears of what will be expected by behaving.
Another therapy session with my youngest brought this to light. On the way to therapy I tried to engage in conversation with my daughter about her day in school. She states that two days in, she’s not a big fan of her classes so far. Exploring why, she wanted to shut down and deflect onto anything else other than processing her feelings about the situation at hand. I didn’t condemn her thoughts or feelings- I only wanted to know the reasons or events that led to her less than enthusiastic view on sixth grade.
10 minutes before therapy, she states to me that she plans on doing work in therapy- that she wants to improve her relationships with my wife, myself and her sister. However confronted with her decision making over the past week- especially her manipulating grandparents or living in victimhood over other situations that she had a part in- she reverts back to hiding her head in a pillow, throwing dirty looks my way and acting like she never heard the full conversation. We asked our daughter to leave the room until she would be willing to participate constructively.
The therapist asked me point blank if I’m prepared for the fact that she may never progress socially beyond her current frame of reference. I told her we are in this for life. I’m aware that I do not own her behavior, and that she has to want to change in order for a full commitment to be made to us as parents. As long as she has her meals, a warm bed, and casual conversation/ attention, I really think she believes her needs are being met. She admitted to me that she cries a lot of times to avoid her problems and her pain- yet will not confront the issues day in and day out that continue to plague her mind.
Combine this with the start of a school year and its a wonder I’m sane. I’ve worked very hard at not taking on her problems. I’m willing to be a rock and a listening post whenever possible- but I don’t have to take her verbal tirades and temper tantrums and act as if it doesn’t affect my day.
Does it scare me that she could be behaving the same way in ten years? Certainly. I can’t make her change though. Just like I can’t make her happy. She has to take pride within herself, realize that she didn’t do anything wrong as a child growing up and begin to process all of the craziness that happened in her first five years. She needs to learn that others who’ve had a rougher life with even dire circumstances have made happy, healthy and successful lives- so she can too!
A couple of years ago she did a project on Helen Keller, and I figured this would influence her to make turnarounds in how she views families, especially with the love, care and structure we provide. Maybe I need to present more examples not just in story form, but viewing them in real life.
I’m not giving up on her. It only takes one experience, one trigger to turn the light switch in her brain on to realize that she can make a difference for the better. She’s a survivor, and I want her to know that I’ll be there in good times and in bad. I just want her to want life rather than merely existing, passively watching events go by.