The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.
~ Fred Rogers
Yesterday I argued with a family member.
We’re not especially close. (The argument, in fact, was just an exchange of angry texts.) We don’t see each other often, and I’m not especially concerned about what this person thinks or feels about me.
So I was surprised at the strength of my reaction to the fight.
I was upset. I felt like crying. I was also furious. I couldn’t stop raging, replaying the argument in my head over and over. I was also confused. What this my fault? Was I missing something? Nor could I stop imagining what would happen if we were to resume it in the future. What would I say? How would X answer? How would I feel?
I did this so much I couldn’t sleep. I mean, at all.
So at 3:40 AM I’m lying in bed and wondering Why the hell is this happening?
And my smarter self answered,
Because you feel like a kid.
This happens every day in my therapy office. It’s just not me it usually happens to.
It happens to the wife who hates her husband and is desperate to end their marriage but looks at me helplessly and says, “But I don’t know how to start.”
To the mom whose daughter bullies her and to whom she cannot reply because she’s afraid she’ll lose the girl’s love forever.
To the husband who vents endlessly in therapy about his wife’s drinking but finds her anger so unnerving that he has never said a word to her.
To the adult son so desperate for his father’s love and approval that he bites his tongue whenever Dad launches into a racist political harrangue.
To the boyfriend whose fiance makes all the couples’ decisions unilaterally but who doesn’t complain for fear she’ll break their engagement.
To the nurse who’s afraid to seek a better job because of how scared she gets in interviews.
To the teacher who’s worked herself into chronic health problems by overworking and never saying No to any demand.
To the therapist whose need for clients to like her is so great that she regularly extends their therapy hour, reduces her fee, comes in on weekends, and takes crisis calls at all hours of the night.