This morning I went on Facebook to write my status update and I saw something really scary.
One of the principles of Son-rise (the home-program we do to help our son recover from autism) is celebration. We celebrate Cal when he talks to us, looks at us, or plays with us. Celebrating our son helps us to feel grateful for his interactions and also helps to motivate Cal to interact with us more. In a Son-rise blog, they suggested we celebrate ourselves each day on our Facebook status to practice celebrating.
This morning, I did yoga and afterwards I felt calm and peaceful and wanted to celebrate myself. I started to write a quick phrase about it on my Facebook status but I got distracted. I saw all these old pictures of my friends from high school on Facebook. I was scared. As I clicked open each picture to make them bigger, I thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to have nightmares tonight!” I didn’t have a Carrie-like high school experience. Nothing really bad happened to me in high school. I had friends. So how come when I looked at old high school pictures this morning, I felt scared?
This week I’ve done an amazing job of playing with my eleven and a half year-old son. The other day we were in the backyard and for the second time that afternoon he charged at me and tried to scratch my face. My husband has a big scratch mark on his face. A young beautiful woman who plays with Cal also has a long red mark on her cheek. When Cal tried to scratch me, I handled it beautifully. After talking to him calmly, it came out that he was just trying to communicate with me. Right before Cal attacked me, he tried to tell me to turn off the fan. (The noise was hard for him.) Instead, of saying turn it off, the words came out, “Leave the fan on.” After Cal tried to scratch me, I played the happy detective and after talking we discovered that he really wanted the fan off.
Yesterday, I touched Cal affectionately at breakfast. Cal touched my face and pushed it slightly. Instead of me flinching and freaking out, I said sweetly, “Cal, I noticed you pushed my face a little, I don’t know what that means. If you tell me what you want, I can help you. What do you want?” Cal said calmly and clearly, “Stop.” So I stopped touching him and got really excited that he used his words. I jumped up and down and did several pelvic thrust dance moves and sang about how cool it was that Cal said, “Stop.”
How can I be fearless about my autistic son scratching me but I give myself nightmares after looking at old high school pictures on facebook?
One of the answers is that I’ve done lots of dialogues about Cal scratching me. I’ve paid for many consultations with doctors and other professionals who have helped me explore my feelings about my fears about my son. I’ve also done many dialogues and consultations with the people who work for me and play with my son at our home. I’ve helped these wonderful young people explore their feelings and fears about Cal attacking them. However, I’ve never done any personal exploration about my fear of high school facebook pictures. Until now.
Here is the dialogue with myself:
When I looked at pictures of my friends from high school this morning, why did I scare myself? (One good dialogue question I ask a lot of people who play with my son is, “What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t scared of Cal scratching you?”)
So what am I afraid would happen if I wasn’t scared of high school pictures on facebook?
I’m afraid I would write nice comments to people about the pictures.
Why am I afraid of writing nice comments to my high school friends about their pictures?
Because I’m afraid I’ll get close to them and I’ll get hurt.
Why am I afraid of “getting hurt” by my high school friends?
I spend a lot of time teaching this concept to the people who play with my son. The concept is that you can’t make someone feel a certain way. Everyone is responsible for their own feelings. So my friends from high school could do something that may inspire me to feel “hurt” but it’s my own choice and responsibility whether I feel hurt or not. The thing is, I don’t know if I’m ready to take on that responsibility of being in charge of my own feelings. I feel vulnerable that way. I’d rather believe my high school friends are bad if I feel hurt. (I laughed.)
Why am I laughing?
Because they’re not bad. But it makes me feel better to believe they are bad if they aren’t including me in their friendships and activities. When I believe my friends from high school are bad, I don’t feel as bad that they don’t want me.
How do you feeling saying that?
Good, I’m feeling a little tearful like I probably do this a lot where I judge other people for being stupid or shallow or “bad” because I don’t want to get hurt.
So what are the tears about?
(As I’m crying) I don’t want to do it anymore. I believe I can still take care of myself and not hurt myself even if I’m open to loving everyone and not judging them. But I’m actually a little fearful saying that. I’m picturing someone I know who was raped and when she told me I comforted myself by thinking that that wouldn’t have happened to me because I would have known that that man was “bad” and not trusted him.
(Now, I’m crossing my arms and closing up again. I laugh.) Why am I laughing?
Because I just noticed that I stopped myself from crying fully and crossed my arms and closed myself up so I wouldn’t let go of the belief that “I need to believe certain people are bad or stupid in order to protect myself from getting hurt.” Then I gave myself this worst case scenerio –”If I were OK with looking at my friends facebook pictures, I would be raped.” It sounds so ridiculous. But I am a little afraid of letting go of those judgments because they keep me safe. Which is bullshit. I could be loving and happy and clear and peaceful and not put myself in potentially dangerous situations. I actually believe that when I’m happy and loving, I’m more clear and can take better care of myself. When I was in Mexico and this taxi driver tried to molest me, I had spent the whole time talking to him in a way that was desperate and lonely. It wasn’t like I was being open, vulnerable, loving, clear and happy. If I was feeling more comfortable, my guess is I would have been more clear about my boundaries and I may have better protected myself. (Not that it was my fault.) I don’t believe that if I were more open, loving and fearless about looking at high school facebook pictures, I would be more likely to be raped by a taxi driver.
What I realize now is that when I’m open, happy, loving and less fearful of people, I am stronger. So physically, I’m less likely to get hurt because I’m more comfortable expressing what I want and setting boundaries. Emotionally, I am safer because I am putting the control of my feelings in myself, not other people. And I can make myself feel happy and safe in a moment. It’s actually less scary that way because I am in control of my feelings and not other people. I can easily make myself feel however I want.
I just realized that I was happy, loving, open and clear with Cal this week and I didn’t get scratched once. It’s safe to be open, loving and accepting to people.