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Screaming Child

Screaming Child

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I’ve recently spent a week with a single mother and her two children (5 and 8 years old). I am left with an appreciation of the great demands and expectations our society puts on single mothers – and how little support they are given. I learnt lots of stuff about children and how they live in the world. Perhaps this will be the subject of another post or two.

This post is about something else that I found quite striking. The kids when they wanted something would ask for it. When their mother said no, they would ask again – more loudly. And then more and more loudly. The principle seemed to be: If screaming doesn’t work – scream louder! Usually this didn’t work (though occasionally it did). If it didn’t usually work, why did they do it?

Then it started seeming not so strange. I think adults do it too – in all sorts of ways from the humble to the more serious. At the serious end are things like people leaving one partner only to get together with a new partner who they have the same problems with.

So I started wondering about why we adults do this. I think it is because we have fixed ideas that we don’t challenge. When our way of relating doesn’t work or a relationship is going badly we go back to our ideas of who we are: who we feel ourselves truly to be.

The problem as I see it is this.  Who we believe ourselves to be was how we thought of ourselves when we got into the bad way of relating (or bad relationship) in the first place. Going back to what we feel is our basic self, or the core of who we are, is not enough. It can be just starting again in the same old way. It can be a way of avoiding looking at our contribution to the problem. This is who I am: so I have to do this. The unspoken (or unthought) thought is: so I won’t worry about the consequences.

When I got divorced the scary part was that it was outside the story of my life as I had envisaged it. Getting divorced simply didn’t fit. It was like stepping into empty space – and I felt quite anxious – and started filling the empty space with ideas of what might happen (both good and bad).

I was lucky. I had friends and family who were supportive. I wouldn’t be entirely abandoned, so it was easier for me than for many. And it took me time to get develop a new way of living. Being with a new partner, developing our way of getting on, how we would live together, do the household routines and so on. It took me more than a year to realise I would not be automatically criticised during conversations about how we were to relate to each other. I would find myself for many months slipping back to my old way of responding and feeling.

To develop a new way of relating or to change a relationship can be difficult. Part of the challenge and difficulty I think is being willing to challenge our ideas about who we are.

Here are a couple of ideas to help you think about this.

  1. Imagine someone as opposite to you as you can. (This could be a real person or just someone you imagine.) Then ask if you don’t have some things in common. It is almost certain that there will be something in common.
  2. What is a quality or way of relating that you think of as being a part of you? What would you be like without this? Perhaps there would be positives as well as negatives.

Questioning who we are may lead us to new perceptions about ourselves. It may lead to us developing new ways of relating and new relationships. It may be liberating.

If you liked this post you may also like,
Do They Want Us To Stay The Same?
A Formula For Good Relationships
Staying Angry
How To Update Your Past

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I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk 2008/10/18, 1:03 pm

    I try not to define myself too narrowly…instead I try to stay curious and open to life and not take myself too seriously. See This Mystery Called Life.

    I agree with you that (listening to and) trying to understand other people is a great way of expanding our thinking and our repertoire of behaviors.

    Thank you for the thoughtful post. 🙂

  • Evan 2008/10/18, 7:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment Jean.

    I too like to stay curious and keep learning.

  • Evita 2008/10/20, 3:34 am

    Good message Evan!

    I think on a deeper level what one has to question is “WHY we want that something?” (This is obviously very applicable to adults, but can also be used for children.)

    Sometimes we “kick and scream” but we do not even know why we are screaming and kicking for this particular item. It is not until one does some deeper contemplation or meditation to evaluate their life and figure out what it is that they really want. These true and deep wants usually do not involve any kicking and screaming.

  • Hillary Martin 2008/10/20, 4:36 am

    Nice site, very clean, lots of content and loved having a look.

  • Evan 2008/10/20, 8:54 am

    Hi Evita,

    I do think it is helpful to know why we want something. Especially knowing our deeper needs and wants is helpful I think.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • Evan 2008/10/21, 9:05 am

    Thanks Hillary,

    Glad you liked it.

  • Suzanne Bird-Harris | vAssistant Services 2008/10/29, 12:30 am

    The principle seemed to be: If screaming doesn’t work – scream louder! Usually this didn’t work (though occasionally it did). If it didn’t usually work, why did they do it?

    There’s your answer, Evan, in the parentheses. 🙂 They do it because it’s worked in the past and that means there’s a chance it’ll work again. To the degree that they’re invested in getting what they want, they turn up the volume, thinking they’re increasing their chances of it working again.

    We adults do the same thing, as you point out, and I think it’s for the same reason. There’s a chance we’ll get what we want without having to change our behavior, who we are, how we operate, etc. We’re all very invested in our stories of who we are and why, and to change that or contemplate changing it, even, is very scary – sometimes more scary than dealing with the less than pleasing results we get remaining the same.

    Your idea to question who we are IS a very liberating one! There’s great freedom in it, and just asking the question is sometimes enough to bring insights that change how we think about something. I think being brave enough to merely ask the question is half the solution because it begs the possibility that change on our part might give us what we’re looking for.

  • Evan 2008/10/29, 7:58 am

    Thanks Suzanne,

    I do think that just contemplating changing can be scary. And doing it can feel very scary. It can feel very much like walking into a blank (that we fill with dangers).

    I do think it helps if we can get support. But (unfortunately) those around us sometimes don’t want us to change.

    As you say it is liberating. And asking the question can be enough too.

    Thanks for your insightful comment.

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