As many of you know I have a severely autistic son who can exhibit behaviors at times that challenge me and the many other helpful people who care for him. He does this out of great anxiety (he is frightened) not out of wishing to cause harm to himself or anyone else.

Yesterday I received such a phone call. After he had been doing well for a short period of time, another behavior surfaced yesterday creating a dilemma for one of his caregivers. This has been happening, not infrequently, over the past year and a half as we have sought to stabilize him with medication and changing the way we relate to him.

In the past these phone calls, and there have been many, have triggered my worst fears and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. More than anything else in my life they have had the power to take me instantly to my darkest, saddest places.

But not yesterday! Yesterday I decided that was not going to happen anymore. I was done with my automatic pattern of heading to hopelessness and powerlessness regarding my son. I was going to make a new choice about how I chose to think about these situations. I decided that whether or not I chose to feel upset, the outcome of the situation would not change. Whatever was going to happen as a result of his behavior would happen whether or not I decided to feel bad about it. My feeling bad or sad did not change anything, it just made me feel awful.

Yesterday I took my power back. I chose to think differently about it. I decided to focus on these thoughts; everyone in my son’s life that helps care for him is on his side and is concerned for his well-being. We are all a team dedicated to his best interests. As with the many times before dealing with difficult behaviors, we will figure this out too. That felt ever so much better. Then I was able to focus on what, if anything, I could contribute to finding a solution.

I know from past experience, that when I would change my thoughts or response to other situations that had less impact on me, that it will get easier each time I practice my new thoughts. It’s just like lifting weights. You start out with 1 pound, and pretty soon, over time, it gets easier and you are lifting 30 pounds or more easily. The same is true for your thoughts. At first it doesn’t feel natural or come easily, but then over time, as we practice it becomes our new automatic response.

Are there things in your life that automatically have the ability to take you to an uncomfortable or painful place? If so, can you imagine changing the way you think about or respond to that situation?  It is within your control. It is your choice to continue the way you have always responded or choose a new more positive, supportive and helpful response that leaves you feeling better instead of worse.
This can be the tiniest little step, like just changing a thought. As you do this, please remember to be kind, gentle and patient with yourself. You are worth being treated well by yourself and others.  How you feel matters!

With love, Jackie

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