A Hidden Truth: Kids Worry About Their Parents

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Dave:   Amy’s work in What Crazy Kids Can Teach Us appeared miraculous.  Eric at age 9 was incorrigible, resisting, crazy with anger and outrage. She gave up on persuading him and went ahead with the parents, talking about their relationship; something in the tone of the non-verbal atmosphere aroused the child’s curiosity, diminished the incorrigibility. He entered the dangerous room, he listened, then his therapeutic work was acknowledged. How did the Sorceress do that? Whatever she did, it was artful. It was not preplanned. She provided something like non-manipulative caring combined with attention to the whole family. There is a kind of attention that has abstract emotional energy it.

Both Amy and I  approach tension-filled clinical situations with a “systems mindset”. We know that behavior is created by relationships. We know there are no formulas, so we don’t try to find any. Each has a large Fund of Knowledge from training, from reading and from conversation with other charming misfits, and each has a large Fund of Experience from our years of working with families.

I am going to say a little about how I have come to think about children, about kids. This is my Mindset: A  collection of experience-based ideas and fantasies. We images-6come into this world for love. That is encouraging. But there is a problem. As we develop into people it is the case that no one gets as much love as they want, and there are few who know what to do with the loving they do get. Love is desirable, but it brings ambiguous obligations. Love that comes from abundance is easy to digest, love that comes from hunger is imprisoning or poisonous. The distortions of loving are numberless.

Kids instinctively “worry”, that is, feel responsible for their families. Don’t forget that. Children worry about their families. They are trying to help the parents become not only better parents but better people. But their therapeutic methods get diagnosed as mental illness. In the case of Eric he is a reactive angry pain. That behavior unites his parents against him. The dynamics are complicated by the manipulative evil grandmother spirit in the broom closet. But the result is that Eric  is ambivalently extruded.

He is taken to a somebody for ‘help’. It is most often the case the someone sees a problem, a ‘disorder’ in the child. Then they do something to suppress the problem. Medication comes into the picture, or parent education. Anything has potential to help. But if the family relational problems are not acknowledged, are not engaged, played with, the child will continue to be seen as sick, disordered.

Cimages-6onsider a single mother with three kids who fight all the time. It is impossible to raise three kids all alone. She is feels crazy and depressed. The kids sense it, but keep up with their yelling and fighting. She becomes angry, fed-up and gives them all a time out. They get her angry and her depression goes away. It is very difficult to be angry and depressed at the same time. The kids are trying to help, but the pattern becomes destructive when it continues.

The children do not do any of this consciously, they respond not with intellect but with whole self. So in my view the naughty child is the healthiest family member, trying to increase the health of the family. But they get kicked out. Thus outrage increases.

In Amy’s case, the child Eric was sent to Treatment Facility.  Some kids get put into foster care. Most want to go back even when the home is a site of emotional carnage; drug addiction, domestic abuse, distorted sex behavior, mental illness. Why do they want to go back? My view; they feel responsible for the inhumanity, for the disrupted love. They want to fix it.

The Sorceress worked her magic. No one was transformed, but they experienced themselves differently. Experiences of that sort are cumulative.


MAGIC : Constituted by a blend of imagination, accumulated experience, wisdom*, attention, empathy, awareness of limitations, sobriety, thoughtful, attentive, caring, unharried, unhurried, aware of mystery, artful, all residing in a self-possessed grown-up therapist.

*Wisdom: imagination + accumulated experience condensed poetically  into words.

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