I had a difficult weekend last week. After our final assessment interview before Approval Panel I felt incredibly helpless and nervous. My old, crippling Anxiety started to creep back, filling my mind and my body. Then on Sunday we had some news of a family leaving our church. This brought all the usual feelings of grief – sadness, loss, anger, betrayal. By Sunday lunchtime I was filled to bursting with Big Feelings. I felt like a can of Pepsi Max that had been shaken and shaken and was just waiting to be opened.
Before I was diagnosed with Anxiety, these Big Feelings would build up in me until there wasn’t room for anything else. Then they’d keep growing until they didn’t fit anymore and they’d burst out of me. My poor husband often bore the brunt of it. Sometimes we know these Big Feelings are inside us, but we don’t know what they are and so we can’t explain them. Either we try to reach out for help by expressing them, or they just burst out of us. Either way they can result in destructive behaviour – shouting, screaming, aggression, etc.
If we have destructive Big Feelings inside, we need to get them outside of our minds and bodies.
But we need to learn to do this in a safe way. When I worked as a martial arts instructor I saw many children channelling Big Feelings through punching and kicking a punch bag. It was a great way to express destructive Big Feelings in a safe way and I am going to use this technique with our children when they arrive.
Sometimes just writing down our Big Feelings and then destroying the piece of paper can help. Anything that gets them outside of our bodies, without hurting anyone.
On Sunday I took a sledge hammer and crowbar and starting removing the paving slabs in our yard and smashing up the gravelly concrete underneath. It was therapeutic. Suddenly those Big Feelings that were eating away inside of me were instead eating away at the ugly concrete.
This was Constructive Destruction.
Constructive because it relieved me of those destructive Big Feelings, and because it was a job that needed doing! It was like opening the can of Pepsi Max.
The children we adopt will have their own Big Feelings. They may have experienced loss, neglect or abuse. They might feel hurt, or broken, or even destroyed. And they may bring with them lots of destructive behaviours – violence, anger, lying, stealing. Sometimes we will never understand why they do something. But sometimes they, and we, just need to know that something that was broken can be fixed.
Sometimes we need to see if something that was destroyed can be healed.
As I smashed up my ugly concrete garden, I knew that from this rubble would eventually come a beautiful, grassy garden. And in the sadness and anger of grief, I knew that our little church family would heal. That though it hurts now, it won’t always. I knew I didn’t need to let those Big Feelings of Anxiety destroy me. I made room for other feelings. I filled two tubs with the rubble. One for my Anxiety. One for my grief. The destruction was healing.
And as a Christian I can look to The Ultimate Destruction for my Ultimate Healing. The destruction of the Son of God on the cross brought about the eternal healing of my sinful heart. Praise God!
Parents, how do you help your kids channel their Big Feelings? Have you found a way for Constructive Destruction? Do comment, I’d love to know your experiences!