It was one of those weeks. My fifteen-year-old daughter, stressed beyond capacity, kept snapping at everyone. I reminded myself that anger is always a cover for other feelings and, in an attempt to help, as well as to move the rest of the family out of the crossfire, I asked her if she wanted a "session."
A session combines the tools of "emptying the balloon" and giving "the gift of listening." Rich and I use this technique with our families, with each other, and in the Challenge Day organization. In fact, giving and receiving sessions is a very important part of the training that each person goes through in order to become a Challenge Day leader.
At first my daughter just mumbled, "No," which I took to mean, I want to, but I'm really scared. Finally she released breaths of fire and reluctantly followed me into the most private room in our house.
My goal was to stay open and be ready for anything in order to support my child in her journey through the pain of her unfelt feelings and into the discovery of a new part of herself.
I stood approximately four feet away from her and looked into her eyes. This gave her plenty of space to breathe, feel, stomp her feet, and move her body like any child who naturally remembers how to collapse into a tantrum. I did my best not to look anxious or "weird." My highest chance for success was to be open with no agenda, and instead just listen and trust the natural process.
As she breathed deeply her face reddened and it seemed as if she was contemplating blowing me off. I imagined it took courage for her to trust me enough to go into her feelings instead of shutting down or numbing out. I guided her by suggesting, "Why don't you finish the sentence, 'I am angry that…'"
That did it. Tears began flooding her eyes and rage exploded through every vein as she yelled, "I am angry at you!"
I silently reassured myself. Okay, here we go, she is going to start with me. Don't get hooked, just listen.