Tag Archives: emotions

The Other Side of the Couch – A Storm Passes  

 

A friend and I were recently eating lunch at a popular Nashville restaurant.

We often sit toward the back of the restaurant, and this is also the area that many of the families with young children choose.  As we sat down and were served our meal, a little girl, perhaps four or five, dissolved into loud sobs.  Her distress intensified, as did the sound of her crying.

What happened next was amazing.

The child’s father, seated to her right, calmly pulled her chair closer to his, reached out, and gathered her into his arms, holding her close against his shoulder – and he just held her and let her cry.  He didn’t talk; he didn’t explain or tell her what to do; he didn’t tell her to pull herself together – he just held her and let her cry.

Within a couple of minutes the sobs began to diminish.  The child sat up, took some breaths, and soon got back to her own chair and her own meal.

The storm had passed.

We never really knew what precipitated her distress.  It could have been anything – hurt feelings, not liking her lunch, competing with her sister, wanting attention – we didn’t know.  What we did know, however, was that this father knew that if he let his daughter feel what she was feeling, without interfering or explaining or trying to change things, she would work it through.  And she did.

Children are so in touch with their feelings and their bodies – they know that they need to express the emotions that arise in them.   Our job is often to stay out of their way as they do so.  A child who has experienced a challenging moment has feelings arise and allows those feelings to move.  Loving presence is often the best thing we can offer.

What if the child were acting out – throwing things or harming self or others?  In that case, clear boundaries must be set, but loving presence as the child works through the experience is still needed.

I appreciated this father’s skill.  His daughter is being given a gift that will last a lifetime.  Would that all children could have that opportunity.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com .

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The Other Side of the Couch – What Is It about “Frozen?”

Frozen 2

I was attending a theater performance some days ago and noticed a young girl sitting in front of me.  She was wearing a very pretty dress and when I commented on it, she looked at me as though I were completely “not with it” and informed me, “I am Anna.”  Now, had she been wearing the Elsa costume I would have caught on much more quickly.  I nonetheless realized that I was in the presence of one of the myriad of young girls (and young boys, for that matter) who have been caught up by the amazing movie “Frozen.”  For those aliens who have completely missed out on this phenomenon, the movie is loosely (very loosely) based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, “The Snow Queen.”  However, in this story, the hero is an anti-hero, the main characters are two sisters, and the final redemption happens as the result of sacrificial love.

Elsa, the snow queen, sings the anthem “Let It Go,” a song that has taken the hearts of young people (and many adults) by storm.  Elsa has tried to hide her power, has been afraid to use it, and finally reaches a point of letting it out or letting it go…also letting go of the restrictions and fears with which she has lived.  Her gift, her power, was considered dangerous by her family and had indeed inadvertently caused harm to her sister.  Elsa herself was afraid of her power, and so, contained it, rejecting her own strength in the process and never learning how to use and control it.

In an article that appeared on June 25, 2014 in the New Yorker Magazine, Maria Konnikova describes an experiment set up by George Bizer and Erika Wells, psychologists at Union College.  They became interested in the “Frozen” phenomenon and decided to ask some questions of “every psychologist’s favorite population: college students.”

“While responses were predictably varied, one theme seemed to resonate: everyone could identify with Elsa. She wasn’t your typical princess.  She wasn’t your typical Disney character.  Born with magical powers that she couldn’t quite control, she meant well but caused harm, both on a personal scale (hurting her sister, repeatedly) and a global one (cursing her kingdom, by mistake). She was flawed—actually flawed, in a way that resulted in real mistakes and real consequences. Everyone could interpret her in a unique way and find that the arc of her story applied directly to them. For some, it was about emotional repression; for others, about gender and identity; for others still, about broader social acceptance and depression. ‘The character identification is the driving force,’ says Wells, whose own research focusses on perception and the visual appeal of film. ‘It’s why people tend to identify with that medium always—it allows them to be put in those roles and experiment through that.’ She recalls the sheer diversity of the students who joined the discussion: a mixture, split evenly between genders, of representatives of the L.G.B.T. community, artists, scientists. ‘Here they were, all so different, and they were talking about how it represents them, not ideally but realistically,’ she told me.”

Elsa has become a symbol in many different ways to many different groups.  The song itself, although it is now driving some parents crazy, allows for an experience of internal letting go, of just being who you are in the moment.  In a society that often values stiff-upper-lip attitudes toward emotions other than joy and happiness, some kind of relief is experienced in just throwing everything to the winds.  Elsa’s salvation ultimately came when she allowed her power out and learned through her sister’s sacrifice to control it for good.

Is there “letting go” that needs to happen in your own life?

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”

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Mother of the Bride

Bride Holding Bouquet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day is coming soon, the day my only daughter will walk down that aisle into the arms of a young man who will promise to love her, care for her, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”…and I am bewildered by the wild swings my emotions are taking in these days leading up to this event.  It’s not the planning.  She is actually firmly in charge of all that and has clear ideas and strong organizational skills.  It’s not any kind of mother-daughter conflict.  It’s not even that we (my husband and I) don’t trust this young man and believe he will do all in his power to make her happy.

What I am experiencing is a kind of shame-faced wish to stop time.  As parents we pour our love and care and support into our children, hoping and praying for a life full of joy.  And then when the time comes, and it is time for them to fly away into that dreamed-of life…we have to say goodbye.

I know that these feelings are not necessarily rational…it’s probably not the last time we will eat dinner together, just the three of us, or the last time we will go on a trip together…yet these days have a tremendously bittersweet edge.  The focus of her life has changed, and we’re not so central to it anymore.  The irony of all this is that I, myself, am a Professional Counselor, helping others to deal with life transitions.  It’s hard no matter where you come from.

I will face that day with all the grace I can muster.  I will cry (I already cry at commercials, so I don’t have a prayer that day.)  And I will welcome her husband into our lives as a son.  I will accept the changes in our relationship that are inevitable.  I will learn to love him.  But I will always miss my little girl.

Tips for Dealing with “Good” Transitions:

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself…even if it’s a wonderful event, it’s still a change.
  1. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.  It doesn’t help to tell yourself you “should” feel a certain way if you don’t.
  1. Find support.  Talk to your spouse, a best friend, a counselor (!).  Sometimes writing about it helps.
  1. Plan something special for yourself after the event.  The week after might be a big let-down…so have something on the books – a massage, a day trip, a visit to a museum – something just for you.

Above all, be gentle with yourself.  You deserve as much care as anyone else does.

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