Anger, Gratitude, and Confusion

September 13, 2017

I can write when I feel anger.  I can write when I feel gratitude. I cannot write when I feel confused.

Anger and gratitude are strong motivators. Anger forces me to confront something or somebody. Gratitude pulls me forward to follow someone else steps. But confusion mixes  my feelings and my words. I am left confused on a sticky web without directions and without energy.  I don’t even feel helpless.  I don’t know what I feel.

Over the years I was angry at some of the people for their neglect of my son and I was grateful to other for their thoughtful efforts to help Robert.  But on Labor Day Monday, as three of us were riding home from New York City, I was bewildered and lost.  That day we were planning a lunch with my husband’s relatives, but Robert kept screaming since 7 AM.  I didn’t know if he was in pain or “just” furious about something. As, I said over and over, Robert cannot explain himself. He screams leaving to us the interpretation of the noises he produces.  It might be a physical discomfort.  But what exactly?  He might be angry that we didn’t accommodate his wishes.  But what wishes?  And it might be that he is confused. What Robert hates more than anything else is to be confused.  He hates when he gets contradictory messages.  He hates when he doesn’t grasp why he is in a particular place, what is expected of him, how long he has to stay, or what would be the next step.

Robert almost continuous screaming put a dent in my brain.  I couldn’t stop the screaming.  No extinction and  no redirection which so well worked in the past.  I didn’t have any techniques to apply in this place, that day, and in the circumstances we were in.  I only wanted to leave.  I knew the car would calm Robert.  That is the only thing I knew.  So I woke up Robert’s father,canceled our lunch with relatives,  packed and a half hour later we were on our way to Massachusetts.  Robert calmed down considerably.Now, he just wanted to stop at the McDonald in one of the service area.  He was clear about what he wanted and he made it clear to us.

But I remained confused.  It was the first time when I surrendered to Robert’s behaviors. There were many difficult behaviors I  confronted before.  I don’t think I have ever given up.  I always tried to  manipulate the words and the situation in such a way that I wouldn’t feel that I lost the battle.

I remember that when I couldn’t stop 4 years old Robert from shutting repetitively door when I had sever headache, I made his access to the door contingent upon his efforts to say the word, “open”. (or rather its approximation)   When Robert had a terrible tantrum in a supermarket because I didn’t let him buy ALL the jars of bubble soap, I carried him outside to the car, buckled him, took a few minutes to pull myself together, drove home and immediately devised a plan to make sure that this won’t happened again. The plan included two trips to the stores made the SAME day.   Robert was allowed to buy three bottles but when he took the fourth, he  returned home with nothing.  And it worked.  We haven’t had tantrums in store in the next 20 years.

I  could always rescue something from almost any situation.  But not this time.  I was confused and resigned. After so many successful trips to New York, the last three have been very difficult. I didn’t know why and I certainly didn’t know what to do.  What did I miss?  What did I do wrong? What  could I salvage?  And how?


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