Monday, August 20, 2018

You Are Talking To A Scared Five-Year-Old

They fuck you up, your mum and dad./ They may not mean to, but they do./ They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn/ By fools in old-style hats and coats,/ Who half the time were soppy-stern/ And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man. /It deepens like a coastal shelf. /Get out as early as you can, /And don’t have any kids yourself. - Philip Larkin, This Be The Verse
Today a colleague stopped by my office.

"I see you're letting the gray grow out," she said. "It looks good."

"Oh no," I replied, laughing. "Time to get the Clairol Number Five, I guess."

On the outside our bodies age. On the inside, we rarely feel as old as we look. Sometimes it's 30, maybe 15.

In times of stress, I think it could well be younger than 5.

Why is that?

Because when we have conflict with other people, and they react with the kind of criticism we may have gotten from our parents, a part of us simply regresses. That's a fact.

I remember one time, around preschool age, that my father took us to a company picnic. We set up one of those temporary barbecues outside, and after the hamburgers and hot dogs were finished, my dad dumped out the coals to die out.

Being curious as I always am, I remember walking up to the glowing red coals and wrapping my little fingers around one of them. Oh! The pain!

Nobody actually yelled at me for that -- I think they were too scared out of their wits -- but I think of it when I screw up royally. When others point out how I have screwed up...I shrink back inside my head to "that stupid little girl."

Come to think of it, it wasn't often that I had an open conflict with my parents. But I always knew that I had gotten into trouble, because the silence in the home was so loud. One way or another we'd resolve it, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought...this truce is only good until the next time.

It is mathematically impossible to get through a single day without any conflict in your life. Maybe on the job, or with a close friend, or even with a random stranger in the coffee shop whose drink you picked up by mistake. (People get really, really, really pissed about that.)

The point is, when you're dealing with another human being, maybe think about the fact that they might be feeling like a child inside, the more tense the interchange gets.

Have a little empathy.

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released by the author into the public domain. Creative Commons photo by Counselling via Pixabay.