Saturday, November 3, 2012

Running to the Roar

Abandonment issues often get discussed in counseling settings. Generally, it is not difficult to identify, especially because it is so prevalent in this current culture. So many children have been unintentionally abandoned because of economic needs. They are brought up in single parent families where their parent must work outside the home or in two parent families where both must work. Some children feel this separation at a deep level and as a result they turn into anxious adults.

There are other conditions that create a feeling of abandonment in a child. When a parent withdraws and uses silence as a punishment a child will feel scared and rejected. This form of manipulation may inflict an attachment wound, causing a child to become anxious or insecure.

The child is at risk of growing up into an adult that will react fearfully when encountering distancing from another adult. 

A fearful adult may shrink from conflict, but often it is just the opposite. To them conflict becomes a form of connection, even if it is a negative connection. If a person tries to walk away from them during the conflict, the historical feelings of abandonment are triggered and the fear escalates into rage.

So what is needed here?  

If you are facing a raging spouse, I recommend a technique called “Running to the Roar”. Although counter-intuitive, moving towards the conflict rather than backing away from it will usually yield the best results. Think of it like this: giving a fire more oxygen (space) will increase the size of the blaze, whereas putting a blanket over it will reduce the oxygen and smother the flame. An angry spouse is like a burning fire – it is scary. But our job is to determine whether our spouse is dangerous or just noisy (roaring). Most of the time it is the latter.

When I explained this concept to one of my couple clients, the husband said “I’m not sticking my head into the mouth of a roaring lion (his wife).” I said to him “The lion has no teeth – she’s actually safe, just scared and noisy.” She was in the room nodding her head, agreeing with me. The tears came as she realized that her real need was to feel valuable enough to her husband that he wouldn’t leave her when she was feeling emotional. We were able to get him to reverse his tactics during future conflicts, and both the intensity and the duration were significantly reduced. Often all she needed was for him to hug her and reassure her that everything would be OK.

If you are the fearful spouse, you must realize that it is still your responsibility to work on the problem. It is important that you develop self-soothing strategies, positive self-talk, an active prayer connection and to practice containing your emotions. Your spouse is not the source of your fear, just the trigger. Working together you will create a much more peaceful and satisfying relationship.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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