I remember being scolded for laughing when I was young, and often. It was very common for me to laugh or giggle at a lot of things. But the thing that was most frustrating to my mother is that I would laugh when she was upset at me for something. I would giggle to myself when she was scolding me. It got to the point that if I had done anything wrong, she wouldn't even waste time with words anymore, because words were too frustrating. She would just spank me and tell me not to do that again.
Depending on the severity of the thing I had done, her spanks ranged from a slight tap, to a bare-bottom beating. The more I laughed, the harder she hit and the more frustrated she would become, which would make me laugh all the more.
I laughed for a lot of reasons, as I said. But laughter when I had done something wrong - well, I'll tell you a little of how I was feeling inside when I would laugh. At first it was laughter out of nervous agitation - knowing I had done something wrong, not quite sure what it was, and knowing that mom was really upset at me. I picked up on her energy. Her emotions were overwhelming me and I was scared and nervous and I didn't know what to do, but I had to do something to release some of that angry, frustrated energy that was pouring over me. So I laughed...or giggled usually.
As the scene escalated, I became more and more agitated, more nervous. I was not capable of doing anything but laughing because what she was feeling was so hard to bear and I had no other way to get out all of that emotion then and there except to laugh. When I think back on those experiences and close my eyes, I can still feel the tension and anxiety and........and..........GGGEHHGHCK! (for lack of a better word) oozing out of my heart.
Whenever I felt all of those things, it made me feel like I needed - no, had to laugh. Not because it was funny. Not because I didn't know how angry my mother was and how much trouble I was in. I laughed because of all of that darkness building up in my heart. I needed it to get out or change, it was painful and would instantly cause a meltdown. (Yes, laughter can be a meltdown.) Because I was so very connected to my mother, more than any other human being, her emotions were as strong as (and sometimes stronger than) my own. There was nothing that overwhelmed me faster than my mother's anger directed in an undiluted stream at me.
I don't think I put two and two together until just now, but I realized why it was so hard coming from mom and would cause an instant meltdown. I always picked up on everything my mother felt. It was not overwhelmingly intense usually. I think the reason it was overwhelming when I had done something wrong is that it was aimed directly at me. For one so young and with so little life experience, her anger with all of her perceptions and baggage from her 40+ years of life was like a laser stream of rage pouring directly into me. It was like that anger had all of my older 9 siblings and their mistakes plus all of my mother's years of growing up and the anger from her family......it all piled up into this massively painful rage searing my heart and ripping me into a broken mess. So I laughed because crying wasn't extreme enough, and I doubt that I could have cried, even though I may have wanted to.
I don't know how to explain that the laughter was the most positive and fastest release of the toxic pain. I could have screamed, but that would have just intensified the negative emotions and made them stronger. Laughter weakens them, changes the negative to positive, and allows me to feel like I can still breathe. The more angry my mother got, the harder I laughed. It was not a conscious thing. I was not choosing to laugh. I was choosing to survive.
So, long story short - my laughter was because I wanted the death-ray of anger to change before it consumed me. My laughter was a meltdown. Plain and simple. I knew how serious it was. I could feel it. It was as though my mother hated me more than any of my siblings. I know in my head that she didn't. But when my heart was forced to feel so much anger from her, it made it very hard for me to believe her when she told me she loved me. I felt her love. I knew she loved me. It's just that the feelings coming off of her when she was angry were about 6-10 times more powerful and intense than the feelings coming off of her when she was sharing love with me. She didn't love me as fiercely as she was angry at me - or so I interpreted. Not because it was truth, but because of the emotions she accessed.
When she was angry, once that part of her heart was opened, all of the anger for everyone came out and was dumped on whomever was unlucky enough to open it. When she was pleased with me and loved me, she was only thinking about the emotions she felt towards me and not everyone. So her feelings were not of the same magnitude. I interpreted it to mean that she disliked me far more than she liked me. That's sad. My poor mom. I wish I had known how to tell her these things so that she could have explained to me how she felt. I wish I had been able to let her know that I understand now and that it's all okay.
Here's the thing with all of this. When mom was angry - there was nothing held back in her emotions (again, I'm speaking of the ethereal, not the physical...she definitely exercised quite a bit of self-restraint physically). Those emotions allowed her to be open and poor out everything that was negative. Now, when mom was happy with me, her heart was still partially closed because there were other things in it that she was either unaware of or didn't want to deal with. Because her heart was fully accessible when she was angry and only partially accessible when she was happy, it lead me to believe that the anger was really how she felt about me. Not the love.
So what can you do? First, let your heart swim in love when you feel it. When you feel love for your son or daughter, while sharing that love think of ALL the people in your life that you love. This will intensify the feeling of love coming off of you and it will help counter-balance the anger. When your child does something wrong, step out for a moment once you've stopped the behavior. Just breathe and try to diminish the anger. If you cannot, then try to have the presence of mind to explain to him that there is more than just his actions this one time tied up in your explosion (again - ethereal explosions are what we feel, not the outward of what you show). Let yourself be open enough to at least explain that the entirety of what you are feeling is not his baggage but your own. And when he keeps laughing - try to remember it is a meltdown, not a sign of disrespect for you or the situation. A laughing meltdown is the most serious meltdown. It means that what is going on is harder to handle than anything else, I can't just release it, I have to be proactively changing it while releasing it or I cannot handle the level of darkness in it.
There is hope and there is light at the end of this though. It does not mean that you're doomed to vomit your darkness on your child. As you learn to open your heart fully, in the moments of joy and gladness, you will learn to release the things that are being harbored in your heart. Then the dark times will become less intense and the light times will be exponentially increased. Having a heart that feels is important. Having a heart that knows what it is feeling is even better. Having a heart that knows and feels will heal your family and your home. It will create a safe haven for your child and the rest of your family. Yes, to get to this level takes work....a lot of work! It is a lifestyle change unlike anything you've ever done before. But the joy on the other side of this situation is so worth the work required on this side of it.
Opening your heart is sometimes a scary process...you never know what is in there or the things that are hidden deep down; the things we are ashamed to admit. So, at the end of the day, it is facing those fears head-on and letting God show us His path for healing that will change everything for us. If mom heals, then the whole family can heal. If mom hides, then the whole family is doomed to repeat the cycle which will, more than likely, be intensified.
So how do you heal? Well. Now that is something I'd love to share with you. Truly love to. I think my next few posts will begin this process. I've tried to write it down several times, but it seems like each time I sit down to do it, I am forced to put it aside for one reason or another. I think it is time though. So I will try again.
In Isaiah chapter 6, the Lord had just given Isaiah his call to become the prophet. The Lord told Isaiah to make the heart of the people fat...in other words, to speak truth to them and let them take it as they would. They were not ready to come to understand what it was God wanted to say to them. So God told Isaiah to speak the truth: "....lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." (Isaiah 6:10, in part, emphasis added)
So, in telling Isaiah "lest they," God has told us how to heal. We must see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and understand with our hearts. If we will do those three things, we will "convert and be healed."
Great! So, how do I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, and understand with my heart?
You know, that's a perfect question. We'll talk about it in three parts over the next little while. First, we'll discuss what it means to see, then what it means to hear, then what it means to understand. Once we get that, then we'll pull it all together and discuss the how of it all. So have hope. You are not doomed to ruin your special children. In fact, it's a blessing that they are special. Remember how I told you that when a child reaches certain ages, they are no longer able to learn things easily? Well. This is true of unconditional love as well. If your child feels loved unconditionally by you before he reaches the age of 14 or so, then he will understand love from not only you, but others and God. If he is older than 14, then it is still possible, but it usually takes a stranger who loves them unconditionally - someone new in their life. Here's the great news for parents with special needs children...this is based on neurological age, not the physical age. So, even if your child is 50, but is neurologically only 14, it's not too late to prove to his heart that you love him unconditionally. YAY!
See you all soon. And here's to hoping that "soon" will bring the help you desire for yourself and for your family.