“Don’t You DARE Say That”

By: Deborah A. Novo

Dontyoudaresaythat2I love my dog. She is an 11 year old, white Schnauzer who exudes such love. My husband and I had just returned from our usual, evening walk with Sadie. We were standing in the kitchen, laughing and drinking iced tea when a storm came upon us.

“Why don’t you pick up your ****** cell phones, our 19 year old son screams as his hulking six foot frame charges through the door. I looked at him and did a quick assessment ruling out issues with breathing and bleeding. I calmly asked what was wrong.

“If you picked up your ****** cell phone you would know, “ he says. He continued with, “why do you even have a *****cell phone if you are not going to answer when I call.” In a firm voice, I ask , “are you having an emergency?” His answer does not match the magnitude of the uproar he is creating. “My car is making a weird noise again, and you are never there when I need you and you people abandoned me”, he yells.

“Don’t you DARE say that,” I silently scream in my head. I imagine myself as a fire breathing dragon ready to unleash my fury at that blatant lie. But I also have the blessing of logical thinking and move intentionally to another room. I choose a yoga pose while taking deep breaths trying to quell my internal dragon. I know from experience anger will only fuel his reaction.

I hear my husband tell our son to take a deep breath and speak respectfully. His response is , “ I ‘m out of here and sleeping at a friend’s.” The door slams as he roars out of the house. I walk into the kitchen and give my husband a hug. From the kitchen we can see our son sitting in his car. After a few minutes we see, through the windshield, his face start to soften and tears start to swell. My husband and I walk into the garage and get into the car with him. Our son tells us that his car was making noises and it made him feel afraid and alone and he doesn’t know why. He explains when those feelings begin he feels like he is in danger.

What I want to tell people, including mental health professionals, that do not understand the neurobiology of attachment is that healing is an active process that adheres to no time line. Even after 16 years of unrelenting nurture and structure, an unexpected car noise can trigger these primal feelings. It is also a family process as evidenced by two parents guiding their son to breathe and repeat…

I am safe
I am strong
I am loved

All while sitting in a car… in the garage….

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