Surely they can control it….

Surely they can control it….

Share to your social

I’m constantly reminded that we need to change our whole way of thinking when living or working with vulnerable children. Those with insecure attachment difficulties can not help the behaviours they do. Often they are acting from the reptilian part of the brain, no cause and effect thinking, no idea of the impact they have on others and certainly not in control of their reactions if in fight, flight, freeze survival mode.

I know this. I teach this. I live this and yet sometimes I forget it.

This last weekend I was struggling with my own stuff, my own insecurities and anxieties and I just wanted someone in my house to give me a break. To be able to see I needed some empathy and compassion. They try, I’m not saying they don’t and sometimes it is there. However often it’s not – and it’s not their fault! They have not been shown empathy early in their lives, they haven’t learnt to self regulate and so control their urges and they are living in survival mode. When I, as their secure adult, don’t seem to be able to cope it sends them into a spin. It doesn’t send them into an empathetic state where they can all of a sudden put their needs aside and cater to my needs.

Why does this still surprise me?

I think it’s to do with our engrained belief that surely they can help it. Surely when the chips are down they can stop attention seeking and do what I need them to do. THEY CAN’T. And even more so if they are frightened that the big, strong adults in their life can’t cope. What happens then? Where do they go to then? Who will protect them then?

To make it even more confusing and frustrating sometimes they seem to be able to control or change their behaviour. What’s that about? That’s when it totally reinforces our belief that really they can control it – they can change when we ask them to, or more importantly when it seems to suit them. I do think that sometimes they can and I think this is part of the healing process. If they can show empathy or at least have learnt what empathy looks like – i.e. I can’t really tell Mum that I care but I’ll make her a cup of tea. Actually I think that’s better because as they grow showing empathy and connection to others is better than using empathetic words that don’t really mean anything.

Another question I have and I hear on our courses is – when is the cut off point? They’ve had a difficult start but what happens when they go the High School, College, get a job – they’ll have to learn then. If we just pander to their needs now surely they won’t learn that life isn’t like that. They have to learn to ‘behave’ in the real world!

When’s the point where we have to take responsibility for our actions? I’m sure like me you know many adults who can’t take responsibility for their actions – who still blame their past or others for how their life has turned out. My worry is that my children will be those adults. Lifes victims who, yes did have a bad start, but somehow never got past that or worked through the healing process in order to function in life.

On reflection the sign of the cut off point for me is not an age or a milestone like leaving school but it’s whether they have working through that healing process and are now able to feel guilt and remorse for what they may have done to others. If they are constantly stuck in that shame feeling of ‘I am bad” they can never move into guilt and be able to repair properly with others.

It goes back to the missing blocks, missing elements of early experience that would have given them the tools to take responsibility and to be resilient. We have to fill in those blocks again. Hopefully then at some point they will be able to heal and to function and connect with others.

So the message is keep going with what you’re doing – filling those blocks, concentrating on their stage not age and celebrate the times they do show empathy, say sorry and mean it – that means healing is taking place, it is a process that will go long into adulthood I’m sure. But the sooner we start the better.

Get Our Book:
Attachment & Trauma Issues In Educational Settings

Stay Connected

Get Our Book:
A Teacher's Introduction to Attachment