What fear can look like in those we love – How to see the person behind the behaviours through family isolation

by Gillian Campbell

26 Mar, 2020 at 3:29 pm

As I write the world is battling COVID-19.  My son is throwing a basketball at the outside of the house and every bang reverberates around the walls.  I’m spiky, unsettled, short tempered and exhausted.  It would be so easy to snap at him, allow my frustration at the world to be thrown at him for a moment.  Better still I could throw a spiked invitation of combat to my partner to ‘sort out the children!’, ‘Can’t you see I’m working!’

BUT I know my need to fight is not about them.  It’s about me.  My fear.  My powerlessness.  My overwhelm.  My inability to know what to do or when it will be over.

As I breathe, I can see my son is outside in the fresh air, not staring at a screen and he is healthy.  He is playing ball alone to manage his sadness and bewilderment.  He misses his friends; he’s bored because I am working and nothing in his life feels quite the same to him right now.  I can let the sound of the ball fade and see him and his needs.  Maybe I’ll play with him when I have finished writing, maybe my sense is to play now.

Because, that is the thing; fear and sadness don’t show up as a neatly identified package of tears or a need to talk.  They look like sulking, snappiness, arrogance.  Constant barbs, or attention seeking, even a banging ball.  A refusal to answer a question or a spiky rejection.  Our partner’s fear and sadness might look like withdrawal, apathy, critical coldness, sarcasm, or spotting only the things we miss or get wrong.  Trying to start an argument or even full-blown anger.

Being outward does not mean we accept these behaviours and negate our needs, but it can show us how we find a way through together and re-set some boundaries if required. Stop us falling into collusive patterns or combative behaviour.  Avoid venting our frustration, pain and fear at those we can objectify around us because momentarily the blaming makes us feels better.

So, in service of those we love, for our families, for us; we breathe, we pause, we seek the outward view, a place of understanding, love and re-connection to the person behind the behaviours that are driving us mad.

Ask; what are they afraid of?  What might be making them feel powerless, out of control, lost in uncertainty or just alone?

When you see the person you love behind the behaviours, your way of being with them will naturally follow.  Maybe you do, with compassion, re-set a boundary that you need.  It could be you have a sense to find a way of either being in a different physical space to them for a while or request a conversation about both of your fears.

Or maybe you just ask how they are feeling and listen.  Be there for them, now.

Together you can allow the emotion to pass and start to glimpse some hope again. Plan again or and I am British; make them a cup of tea.

We are all scared, none of us can fully know what to do and we are all facing loss to one degree or another. If we can hold the humanity of others in our hearts through that, we can even, if in only this one way, be at peace in moments through this.

Wishing you all good health.