Helen Rosner on Twitter: "One thing I’ve learned in therapy is that in times when the world around us feels terrifyingly beyond our control, we turn to small expressions of control over our thoughts, our bodies, and our time."
One thing I’ve learned in therapy is that in times when the world around us feels terrifyingly beyond our control, we turn to small expressions of control over our thoughts, our bodies, and our time.
Two big ways that desire to regain a sense of autonomy & control can manifest is spending money, and physically going places. If your aging parents (for example) insist on going to the grocery store unnecessarily, it’s possible they’re doing it to (unconsciously) soothe anxiety!
If a person needs to spend money and/or leave their house to feel a sense of control over themselves, telling them not to do it is a direct threat to this assertion of autonomy. Of course they’re going to push back, of course they’re not going to “listen to reason.”
So much of being the adult child of aging parents is the art of benevolent manipulation. (Sorry Mom & Dad, if you’re reading this.) Instead of telling them not to go to the grocery store, full stop, redirect their impulses — buy a cozy sweater online, take a walk through a park
There are ways to both spend money and leave the house that don’t put you or others at risk!
Sometimes people ignore good & urgent advice because they’re assholes or idiots! More often, they’re just scared, and don’t necessarily realize they’re scared, and don’t necessarily realize they’re making their choices in an attempt to calm their fear.
NB grocery shopping can also be soothing because (if the person doesn’t live alone) it’s not just spending, it’s spending *to care for loved ones*. Buying a sweater online doesn’t scratch that itch—in that case maybe the move is buying books or games as gifts for friends/family
This is especially ~a thing~ with many older women, who can have a hard time centering themselves when soothing their own anxieties. (“I’m cold, go put on a sweater!”)
I don’t want to make this all about older generations though! Those beautiful young idiots still packing into bars and restaurants are asserting autonomy. I usually hate leaving the house and lately all I want to do is take the dog for a walk, or go for long drives.
Our brains are always running background programs to rebalance and recalibrate. The best thing you can do is learn how to see it in your loved ones (and yourself! but that’s um many many years of therapy) and gently help them fulfill those self-soothing needs in less harmful ways