That poor, traumatized child, for all intents and purposes, was afraid! RAD excitement made my daughter feel exactly the same as fear did.
Throw Away the Gift Wrapping Paper!
Sometimes we know what we need to do even when we don’t know why. We never have to understand the science to see the effects. People can believe in gravity or not. Scientists can understand the physics of acceleration and impact, but in at least one area it doesn’t make any difference. They see the same flattened-out car at the bottom of the cliff that I see. It isn’t the science of “F=M x A” (Force = Mass times Acceleration) that causes me to drive just a little bit more carefully on mountain roads. It’s the image of a flattened out car. I didn’t need anyone to explain to me the reasons that “R + E = M + G” (RAD plus Excitement equals Matches plus Gasoline) I had seen the mayhem. RAD Excitement = Bad.
Suddenly, though, for the first time, “RAD Excitement equals Matches plus Gasoline” made perfect sense to me.
Even so, the science can often be fascinating. I like to know why Pavlov’s dogs slobber. I like to try to comprehend why Schrodinger’s cat is neither dead nor alive. I am fascinated when science shows me that a baby monkey raised by a cold, hard monkey-mannequin becomes an abusive mother. Mabey that’s why my ears perked up when I heard Karyn Purvis say that excitement and fear trigger the same neuro-transmitters in our children from hard places. I wanted to grab the remote and skip back so I could write down exactly what she said, but I was attending an Empowered to Connect simulcast so I knew I would just need to paraphrase. Suddenly, though, for the first time, “RAD Excitement equals Matches plus Gasoline” made perfect sense to me.
The newness of birthdays only amplified the RAD excitement my daughter experienced with each one in our family. And with that excitement came sabotage, stress, and… catastrophes.
My mind flashed back to my daughter’s first birthday in our home. She was turning six. Sarah had become fascinated with birthdays since she witnessed the first one in our family, only weeks after her arrival. When she asked her new mother when her own birthday would be, six more months were counted off on a calendar for visual effect. Sarah demanded that she receive her own birthday sooner. But… birthdays are birthdays. Everyone knows why we celebrate them and desire doesn’t change the day you came into the world. Even so, no one had ever celebrated our daughter. In fact, before coming into our family, she had never seen a birthday celebration for anyone. The newness of birthdays only amplified the RAD excitement my daughter experienced with each one in our family. And with that RAD excitement came sabotage, stress, and… catastrophes. We thought she was jealous of the others but it turns out that wasn’t the problem.
She gasped and sobbed. Her body shook while her mother hugged her and asked her what was wrong. Sarah couldn’t explain her RAD excitement any more than I could.
When Sarah’s sixth birthday finally came, (if you are a RAD parent) you know what she did. She did what your kids do. She instigated fights. She broke things. She threw temper-tantrums. She refused to obey. Then we did (if you are RAD parents) what you did. We threatened to take away her birthday. Well, maybe not her birthday, but at least some of the presents. Believe me. That worked as well for us as it did for you. Finally (after accelerating the time-plan) to prevent additional pain (and perhaps homicides) it was time to open presents. One of the beautifully wrapped (though smaller and much less substantial) gifts was placed on Sarah’s lap. She smiled but her hands were trembling as she slowly though unceremoniously tore open the gift. As she pulled out the fun but relatively insignificant present, she burst into tears. She gasped and sobbed. Her body shook while her mother hugged her and asked her what was wrong. Sarah couldn’t explain her RAD excitement any more than I could. It wasn’t a sad cry. My daughter wasn’t shedding happy tears. It was almost like… But no. The thought was just weird. Nobody is afraid of birthday presents.
RAD excitement made my daughter feel exactly the same as fear did.
When I heard Dr. Purvis say that excitement and fear trigger the same neuro-transmitters, my mind flashed back nine years to a beautiful six-year-old girl opening the first birthday present she had ever received. I finally understood why she was so overwhelmed. That poor, traumatized child, for all intents and purposes, was afraid! RAD excitement made my daughter feel exactly the same as fear did.
We knew that “R + E = M + G.” Dr. Purvis simplified that equation for me to RAD Excitement = Fear.
I have written before about the emotional limitations with Reactive Attachment Disorder and long before we understood the science that Dr. Purvis explained, we had brilliantly divined from observation that Reactive Attachment Disorder and excitement didn’t mix. We had limited excitement in many areas including birthdays. Gifts had become fun items, but were nothing to get “excited” about. The same went for parties. We applied a reduction in excitement to most aspects of our home and family simply because we knew that “R + E = M + G.” Dr. Purvis simplified that equation for me to RAD Excitement = Fear. I appreciated the enhanced understanding that helped me to understand why our family found the need to change birthday and other traditions.
Sometimes, though, I think we forget how much our children experienced before they came into our lives. I also fear that we have forgotten how much they missed. Sarah was nearing her eleventh birthday when she approached my wife and asked her how you knew when your birthday was. She had been talking with a friend at school who was actually BORN on her OWN birthday! Imagine that.
Oh… we had some trouble with Facebook last week and last week’s blog article on RAD Narcissism didn’t get out to many people. If you missed it, here is the link. If you can help me get it out there, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you! RAD Narcissism
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Any methods or principles shared in this article are based on my interpretation of teachings, along with what I have learned from studying resources provided by Dr. Karyn Purvis and/or Texas Christian University. While I believe that this article conforms to principles that they have developed, neither Dr. Purvis nor Texas Christian University have approved or endorsed this article. I, alone take full responsibility for my writings. However, I am not a professional therapist. I am not a licensed social worker. I’m just a dad from a hard place, who likes to share with other parents from hard places. I believe that the best advice I can give you is to read the book The Connected Child and to use that along with the DVDs developed by Texas Christian University for working with Children from Hard Places. “Children from Hard Places” is a term that was coined by Dr. Purvis and it has been used extensively by Texas Christian University in describing their materials for helping children from traumatic histories. As a parent from a hard place, good luck in your journey. Please help me if you find me injured and lying along the path. I promise to do the same for you.