Language Translation

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hitting

I've received a lot of messages asking about hitting.

First, if you haven't read the previous posts, please do so.  They all have pertinent information that, added together, will give you the foundation for this post.  It will not make complete sense to you if you do not have the information from the previous posts.

Now, the first thing about hitting - again - is it tantrum or meltdown based?  (See corresponding post to learn how to tell the difference between tantrum and meltdown.)  If it is tantrum, of course deal with it like you would with any other child.  If the hitting is meltdown based, there are few more things to figure out before you can know the best action to take.

I would hit A LOT as a child.  Mostly it was my replacement for my words.  If someone was trying to force me to do something I didn't want to do, I'd hit them.  If someone was feeling something that wasn't nice (see previous posts for sensing feeling as well as my false interpretations of those emotions), I thought they were feeling those things about me and so I'd retaliate in the only way I could - I'd hit them.  I can't begin to tell all of the reasons I'd hit.  Some of them were the reasons NT (Neuro-Typical) kids hit, but it would be hard for someone to tell the difference from my actions on the outside.

The most effective thing you can do is what follows here.  The rest of hitting is going to be coming in sections because it is so much depending on the motivation and the environment you are in.

Until you are really able to discern from your child why he is hitting, there are a few things you can do to minimize the trauma.  The one we will address tonight, is this.  When he is hitting you a lot, check your own emotions.  If you are frustrated or hurt or feeling some sort of negative emotion, explain to him what it is you are feeling.   As in the Tantrum vs. Meltdown post, I cannot stress to you enough the importance of explaining verbally to him what you are feeling and why you are feeling it.  If you just tell him what you are feeling, he will interpret it as validation for what he is feeling, not as explanation.  You have to say WHY you are feeling what you are feeling and WHO IT IS DIRECTED TO.  If you do not do this, he will not believe you when you say, "It's not your fault."

He feels what you are feeling.  If you don't explain why and who then he will just resent you more.  He will feel like you are lying to him and that is so aggravating.  It leaves him in a quandary - does he trust the person who is his teacher, mentor, caregiver, and support or, does he trust his own instincts.  He feels the emotion coming off of you.  If you just say that everything is fine, he will resent and mistrust you.  The gaps will grow wider and wider.  You must learn to be completely honest with him.

That doesn't mean dump on him and use him as your therapist.  It should look something like this: "Sweetheart, I know you are aware of what I'm feeling right now.  I am angry.  I'm not angry at you.  I'm angry that this disorder puts a wedge between us and that I can't understand you.  I'm angry that I can't understand what your frustrations are and so I can't help you.  My hurt is because I know as your mom I am supposed to be here to take care of you and protect you.  I feel like a horrible mother because I can't do that and I want to.  The feelings I have are not pointed at you.  I don't feel like you are horrible.  I don't feel angry at you.  I am upset with the problem I can't solve and I want to solve it."

Now, you may think you are really upset at him, but if you will go beyond the first layer of emotional reaction, you will find the true reason for your anger.  I call it the "Why Game."  We'll use the situation above.  I am a mother who is angry because my child keeps hitting me and nothing seems to stop the abuse.  I'm at my wit's end and am fighting every minute just to maintain self-control and not hit him back.

Take a time-out for yourself.  This is a verbal exercise.  If it is not done audibly, you will lose the benefit from it.  First, realize what it is you are feeling - the raw emotion - which, in this case would be anger.  Then you have a verbal conversation with your self.  It is very important that you do not filter anything coming out of your mouth.  Say the first thing that comes, don't pause to think about it or filter it or change it in anyway.  Just say whatever comes out.  If you are worried about what will come out, it may be best to do this exercise in the privacy of your bedroom or bathroom or closet or car...anywhere you can go to be alone for 5-10 minutes.

Ask yourself, "Why am I angry?"  I am going to just go on from here and give you a sample of what the conversation may look like.  Every reason is different for every person, so your answers will be nothing like mine, or they may be very similar in some places and totally different in others, or they may follow mine exactly.  DON'T FAKE IT WITH MY ANSWERS.  If you do not do this exercise, then you cannot help your child...and that really is the point of all this, right?

Why am I angry?
Because Sam keeps hitting me.
Why does Sam hitting me make me angry?
Because when he hits me it makes me feel like he is mad at me.
Why does it matter if he is mad at me?
Because I don't know what I did.
Why do I need to know what I did?
Because if I don't know what I did then I can't stop doing it.
Why does it matter if I stop doing it?
Because if I don't stop doing it, he'll keep getting mad at me.
Why does it matter if he is mad at me?
Because I don't want him to be mad at me.
Why don't I want him to be mad at me?
Because I'm his mom and he's not supposed to be mad at me, he's supposed to love me.
Why is he supposed to love me?
Because I do everything for him.
Why do I do everything for him?
Because I'm his mom and that's what I'm supposed to do.
Why am I supposed to do everything for him?
Because I love him and that's what you do for people you love.
So what does it say about my love if I don't do something for him?
I don't love him, my love is conditional.
What does that say about the kind of mother I am?
I'm not a good mom.  I don't really love him.
If I don't really love him, then what does that say about me?
I'm a bad person. 
If I'm a bad person, then what does that mean?
Then I'm worthless. 

Underneath every emotion we have that is not a fulfilling emotion is a lie, lurking in the shadows.  If we keep going until we expose it, we are able to instantly replace it with the truth.  Then the behavior changes.  Why is it important that your behavior change?  Because he can feel you.  If you change what you put off, he will adjust as well.  You can't change it by submerging it deeper.  The only way to change it is to find the lie and replace it with the eternal truth.

So ask yourself, "Am I worthless?"
When you feel the answer (notice I said feel not think), ask yourself, "How do I know it's not the truth?"  The answer can be as simple as, "I just know."  Or it can be more.

Once you know how you know it's not true, then it's time to replace the lie with the truth.  The truth may need to be repeated multiple times before it sticks.  It doesn't have to be the exact same words, but you do need to feel the words as you speak them.  It is that simple.  Once we know the truth, we have something to hold onto when those moments of discord come.

In the end, we all have to come to the truth or live in the lie. The truth will set you free and by setting you free it will set your child free. Or, you can choke on the lie and live the rest of your life trying to change something that is unchangeable. You may see me and think my Autism is cured, but it is not. I still think the same way I always have and have the same problems understanding. I have learned to cope and by conscious effort I can appear like everyone else. But I am not.

The more I embrace who I am and let that part of me have a voice, the more clearly the lines are drawn.  I can hide the gifts I have and slink back into my corner and pretend I don't know and see what I know and see. But I choose to live true to the voice within that is telling me who I am and why I am here. Some are made uncomfortable by that. Some wish I would take my words and my views and adjust them slightly, or hide them altogether. But to be anything other than who I am is far greater a crime than hiding my light.

I let my light shine because I am meant to let it shine. It may be painful, even blinding for some.  I cannot cover it, because there are many searching for the light and, when they find it, they run to it with joy and eagerness. I cannot let them wander in darkness so that those who do not wish to see can continue to stumble around. I was not meant to hide, and neither are you. Maybe, by seeing my light, you will have the courage to light your own lamp and let it shine.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his address, The American Scholar, "When [we] can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must,--when the soul seeth not, when the sun is hid and the stars withdraw their shining,--we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we may speak."


*This is a blog about my own life and my own experience.  If you choose to follow anything written here, you do so without any claim on me for problems or complications that may arise.  I am not a doctor.  I have no degree.  I am not a professional.  This is my perspective and experience, that's all.  If you don't think you should do something on here, then don't.*

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