Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Behind Anger

Last night my children sat in the living room preparing to watch “Underdog”. We needed some downtime. Zach has a flu bug. Grace is 13. I had worked all day. Rick had a painful visit to the dentist earlier in the day. Grace told Zach to scoot over and not breathe on her. This was understandable since he was sick. Zach said something about the movie and she told him he was spitting on her when she spoke, even though he had moved 3 feet away. He may have been letting the spit fly as he spoke, but it wasn't intentional. Grace has this way of speaking to her brother that just reeks with resentment and exageration. Zach became defensive and said Grace was being ignorant and criticizing him for being sick. They were both right in their own minds. They bantered back and forth until they reached my critical mass and I sent them both to their rooms. Then they turned their hostility towards me instead of each other. They did not feel justified in their imprisonment, but I sure felt better.
After a little bit I told them they may return and eat their dinner and that we could watch the movie providing there was no further bickering. Zach was totally cool with this and seemed to have moved on. Grace refused to speak or acknowledge my presence. She did say at one point during her confinement that I do not listen to her. I told her I would listen to her after we all calmed down but this was not good enough. “It will be too late!!!” she screamed. Oh to be 13 and female again. I am so glad to be 37.
She also made a sly comment under her breath as I sent her to her room. She grumbled “Why do we have to do this every night?” I felt like saying “Because you are mean to your brother every night”, but I felt that would not be beneficial. The problem is that she does not see how she treats her brother and that it is difficult to define. What does that “tone” sound like? How do you describe the anger and resentment that lingers behind the words or that “look” that says I hate you? How do you tell a child to stop feeling what they’re feeling? At the same time I see Zach suffering because of her feelings towards him. I don’t know what to do.
The family counselor said something very helpful the other night. She said that anger is not a primary feeling; there is always a feeling behind it. I know this also from my work with NVC. SO what is behind Grace’s anger? Is it fear? If so, of what? I have spent the past few months trying to find a way for Grace to see how she is treating him. I am realizing this may not be the best path. She may never see how she is treating him and even if she does, how does that help with the anger itself? I am hoping now to find out what is beneath the anger. I have no clue how to excavate this truth. Any ideas?

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