Let's see how it works between parents and children. Here is Rhea, fourteen, pinned to the TV, entranced with the glamorous heroines she is secretly studying to emulate. Then comes:
Scene as it was before Mother knew better
The time is after supper when Father wants to watch the wrestling matches. Rhea protests.
"Come on, now, Rhea," father growls, "it's my turn to have the show."
"You mean to hog the show," counters Rhea with an ugly leer.
"Here! Here, girl. Who's calling who what?"
"You said it," from nine-year-old Bud gleefully. "She's the pig."
"You scrub," mutters Rhea. "You just stay out of it . . ." And to Father, turning on her best wheedling, "Please, Dad, can't I have just a little more time?"
"Sorry," says Father, changing the channel as if Rome depended on it.
"You!" Rhea bursts out. "You! You old hypocrite. You're not really sorry at all."
"Why, Rhea." Mother scowls reproachfully while Father settles himself on the davenport. Bud wriggles down blissfully cherubic beside him, sucking at his bottle of Coke through a straw.
Rhea flounces out with looks that would kill if they could. She goes into the kitchen and starts stirring up some hot chocolate as a kind of soothing potion.
Mother just sits, knitting for dear life and gritting her teeth, when suddenly she hears a piercing shriek.
In the kitchen, Rhea is sobbing. She has spilled the boiling water from the kettle and has burned her leg.
That night there is no more wrestling match for Father and no more triumphant companionship for Bud.
Now let's turn the calendar forward and meet the family once more.
Scene sometime later after Mother had learned
Once more Rhea is watching her glamorous heroines. Once more Bud and Father come onto the scene.
"Okay, now, Rhea, now it's my time," from Father.
"But please, please, Daddy. Can't I ever have anything that I want?"
"Look, Rhea, it's my turn," from Father, decidedly.
And once again Rhea flounces out.
But this time, Mother rises and follows her down the hall.
"Come on into my room, Rhea. It's no fun, I know, feeling left out."
Rhea flops down on her mother's bed, her underlip curling, the tears welling up in her eyes. "Gee, Mom, I hate that goatfaced drag . . ."
Said Rhea's mother when she later related the incident, "I had it on the tip of my tongue to flare up, 'I won't have you talk about your father like that.' But I held my horses knowing the worst had to come out some way to reduce the pressure. And Rhea went on.
"'That's all that Bud is. I can't stand his grin. What right has he to be so triumphant? He gets everything his way in this house . . .'
"My, was I glad I'd decided to listen. So here they were, Rhea's real feelings--anger at Bud for having her father. I remembered in a quick flash how I'd felt, the very same way only years and years back!
"I looked right at Rhea and, strangely, I didn't feel angry. I didn't feel like a stern taskmaster being called on to put her straight on the line. I felt with her, poor child! I realized she'd acted badly, but I realized, also, how important it was to pay attention to her feelings first. So I listened while she stormed. And she certainly did. Over and over: She hated Bud. She hated her father. I let her spill on and on. And then, all at once, with a great sob she gulped brokenhearted, 'They've got all those boy things to hold them together. Isn't Dad interested in girl things at all?'
"'I know, dear,' I nodded, mirroring her feelings. 'You'd like Dad to have a little time just for you.'
"With that the sobs eased. 'Oh, Mom, you're so darling,' between moppings and sniffles. 'How did you ever get to understand?'"
So much for the moment. Rhea's mother knew there would be repetitions. There were bound to be. Meanwhile in this last scene several things had happened:
Rhea's resentment had spilled out.
It had been met with sympathetic understanding. Rhea's mother had communicated this to her daughter by putting what she sensed Rhea felt into words that mirrored her feelings. Rhea then knew she had a friend who didn't desert her out of believing as Rhea did about herself, that she was unworthy and greedy, unlikable and "bad."
Furthermore, having learned by listening how Rhea felt about her needs in relation to her father, Rhea's mother was in a position to tell him about this. As a result, some worthwhile steps could be taken to decrease Rhea's emotional hunger which not only was unnecessary but would also make resentment grow.
However, even before Rhea's mother had a chance to talk with Father, Rhea showed that her feelings were already somewhat changed. "How did you magic her?" he asked later that evening after Rhea had spilled. "When she kissed me good night she was actually sweet."
Her mother knew though that it wasn't magic. After the outflow of the "bad" feelings and the sympathetic acceptance she had accorded them, good feelings came in.
After this, too, Rhea was more often willing to listen to reason she had always discarded before.
"Father works all day. At night he should have first choice of the TV! He needs to be considered, you know."
At times Rhea assented. Since her feelings had been considered she was more willing to consider someone else's and comply in her acts.
At times she still protested. But with grievances coming repeatedly into the open, the fights over TV grew less intense. The flurries were over more quickly and the bitterness in them slackened.
Rhea had found she could share and bring out what she felt and have these feelings accepted. Although hanging onto the television could not be sanctioned, her feelings had not been condemned nor shut off.
Rhea's mother had MIRRORED them simply. And then she'd given them plenty of chance to SPILL OUT.
You can do the same.