Many years ago I read an account written by a father of the struggle they were experiencing with their teenaged daughter.
The girl was overly emotional apparently. The slightest things would hurt her and she would either dissolve in floods of tears or blow every one away in terrible anger storms. As you can imagine, life was a roller coaster with her around. Never a dull moment. He related many incidents that showed how over the top her reactions and responses were.
As I read, I tried to imagine the plight of these parents. Putting myself in their shoes, however ineffectively, I began to feel anxious and overwhelmed too. They had become wary of their own child. The joy they could all have experienced had been blighted. They were very sad about the whole thing. Their daughter too was aware of the sadness of her parents. After all, they’d shown it to her often enough!
She didn’t want to make her parents sad. She knew they loved her. For a teen to believe in her parent’s love, is in itself a cause for celebration, given that the standard teen peeve is Nobody loves me. As long as they have this, I thought to myself as I was reading, they can’t really complain. All else could be built upon this bedrock.
The father then talked about a paradigm shift he and his wife experienced because of a conversation with a friend of theirs. That friend asked them to stop looking at the situation with a tunnel vision. The first step, he told them, was to accept that their child was an emotional girl. The second was to accept that all of us have our own central impulses. These impulses drive us and are the core of what we are. They define us, and sometimes, they limit us. But these impulses are unalterable. With time an immense patience, you may dilute their intensity slightly, but not too much. A human being’s core is primarily unalterable… that’s what makes us so beautiful.
The last thing he told them was to throw away their narrow perspective and to broaden their vision a bit. Yes, the girl is emotional (a given). She cannot be altered too much (another given). An emotional person’s reactions are larger than life (a third given). But these reactions and responses are not always bad or undesirable, they are very touching and positive too (the paradigm shift).
That’s when these parents began to look at the positive effects of their daughter’s extreme sensitivity. They began to notice the way she would always take care of her friends. They noticed the way she intuitively understood when her mother was tired and needed some comforting. She went out of her way to do things even for random strangers. When a neighbor was taken ill, she volunteered to take care of her four year old son. She did such a wonderful job of it that the child never realized that something untoward was happening in his life. He looked upon those days as a kind of extended picnic.
It was then, the father wrote, that they began to cherish their child as much as she deserved to be cherished. They minimized her over the top reactions and focused instead on the positive effects of her sensitivity. They showed their child how proud they were of her empathetic and intuitive understanding of people’s emotional needs until she too was proud of herself. With time, as she became more secure and centered in her parent’s love and regard, her roller coaster rides diminished in intensity and frequency. She was able to channelize her emotional energy in positive and beautiful ways.
This account has been a cause of one of my biggest and most rewarding paradigm shifts. It has taught me to lift my attention away from the actions/ behaviors of the moment and look beyond. I have understood my children much better than I would have otherwise. The biggest benefit of all has been that I no longer delude myself into thinking that people can be- or need to be- changed at the core. I have learned to accept people as they are, complete and beautiful in their diversity. I have also learned that the world is fuller of beauty than it is of ugliness; all you need is the will to find the beauty as it lies camouflaged under conflicting perceptions.
We are Imperfectly Perfect… all of us.
Pic from the Internet.