I’m watching a psychology lecture unfold in my own household.
Harriet Lerner in her amazing book The Dance of Anger
describes the move-countermove dance. Briefly, if you take a step to change your life, the ones you love will be made uncomfortable by this because it’s not familiar. You’re changing, and this creates a cognitive discord in them, so they unconsciously put pressure on you not to change. This happens whether it’s a good change or a bad one. For example, this might be why a man starts bringing home McDonalds and yummy desserts when his wife starts a diet, or why a woman tells her daughter to clean the home better but then stands behind her and criticizes everything she does, discouraging her.
Two weeks ago, Kiddo#1 began taking prozac, and although they say it takes six weeks to kick in, he claimed he felt the effects the next day. More than that, he would point out to me when he’d gone past a meltdown trigger without melting down. I’m not sure whether it’s placebo effect or medical effect, but you know what? I don’t care. We’re two weeks meltdown-free and I couldn’t be happier!
Kiddo#2 and Kiddo#3 got the brunt of Kiddo#1’s anger when he’d be melting down, and he’d scream and threaten them. You’d think that wouldn’t be fun for anyone. Kiddo#3 would go and provoke these meltdowns, though, and as an amateur psychologist I think it’s because there’s a sense of insane power in making someone do something. He looks up to his brother as competent and heroic, and therefore *making* him scream and throw things was giving Kiddo#3 a lot of power over his brother.
Last night, after a day where Kiddo#3 was being positively horrendous the whole day, I realized he’s countermoving Kiddo#1.
The overall bulk of his misbehavior was all directed at his older brother. He went into his room and took things. He broke one of his brother’s toys. He scattered pieces of his brother’s game. He chewed up his brother’s library card. (If you can come up with a good reason for that, let me know.) And through the entire thing, Kiddo#1 got angry but never melted down (although to be fair, I did have to break up a fist fight at one point.)
Kiddo#3 misses his brother the way he was. And without the words to explain that “change is stressful, even good change,” he’s unconsciously going about putting his brother back the way he was.
Which, overall, tells me the prozac must really be working. It’s not just wishful thinking on my part or wanting to see change where there is none. If Kiddo#3 is making a countermove, that means a move was made for real.