The Dance of Anger

By: Kristin Martineau | May 2, 2018

I’ve been reading The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, PhD. It’s written for a female audience, but can be helpful for anyone who wants to better understand anger and the role it plays in relationships.

One of the things that stood out to me was the idea of overfunctioning vs underfunctioning in relationships. I often see this dynamic play out with my clients in their relationships with their ADHD children. In many of these relationships the mothers assume the overfunctioning role. We think it’s our responsibility to rescue our children or fix their problems for them. We become emotionally reactive to every action or inaction they take. As a result, the child tends to distance themselves and disengage even more causing them to assume the underfunctioning role. We use this behavior as evidence that we need to overfunction or the child will fall apart, so we double our efforts, and they retreat even more. This relational dance reinforces itself.

This dynamic doesn’t serve the mother or the child. The mother often feels anger or despair because she can’t control what her child does. She’s also exhausted and resentful because she feels like her overfunctioning is necessary. The child is continually sent the message that he is inept and that he can’t function on his own. He believes it and as a result performs below his capacity.

If you feel like this dynamic is happening in your relationship with your child sign up for a free mini session. The good news is that it only takes one person to change the dynamic of the relationship. I help mothers lovingly support their children without overfunctioning. I’ll teach you how to operate from a place of peace that will also help your child function optimally in his own life.

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