Scary witches at your door, jack-o-lanterns smiling bright, and ghoulish ghosts on a fiendish glee. Can Halloween get much better?!
I absolutely love Halloween. I think that there is a child in every one of us who is looking for that brightly-lit front porch and to possibly get a little fright. Halloween is a chance to let that inner child out. Dress up in your most ridiculous costume, decorate your yard to look ghastly, eat all the chocolate that you can, and be a kid again!
I also see Halloween as an opportunity for us to remember to look under the mask. To see past the initial fright you might feel and acknowledge the monster you might see at your door. The monster, or villain that we see probably has a story underneath it all that sheds light on why they might be that way.
Michael Myers is the ultimate Halloween villain. A classic slasher who, in the majority of the films, is presumed to be attempting to kill family members and anyone who gets in his way. As the sequels progress there seems to be an underlying foundation to explain his need for killing. Michael experienced an extreme array of family dysfunction throughout his childhood and overtime began to dissociate. As a result, he became aggressive and violent.
Here's my theory. Doesn't it appear to be that he is acting out because he was hurting? What might have happened if someone hugged Michael?
Disclaimer: I won't go to be as naive to believe that a hug can fix all the evil in the world. Hence, I will not recommend actually trying to hug someone that is trying to hurt you. And I also believe that children can be incredibly resilient. Therefore, not all children (in fact very few if any) would become mass serial killers because of family disarray and lack of hugs.
Michael Myers is an EXTREME case but he does leave me to question how we tend to automatically think worst-case scenario. Rather we need to find a way to look past the mask of the villain.
Look at your own child. When you see them having a tantrum and you might feel like they are actively trying to kill you deep in your soul, could it be that they are really hurting inside and just need a hug? It's easier said than done to look past the mask. But it's important to remember that in those moments your kid is just using a mask to get their point across.
I get a lot of parents express their frustrations that their child is having constant tantrums and they believe it's for manipulative purposes. As a parent, it internally may feel like your child is doing something to intentionally make you angry. But research shows that the development of the brain structure that allows one to manipulate is not formed until later in life, and not fully developed until your mid-20s!
Therefore, it's important to consider your child's brain development when seeing past their mask. There are often many other factors that are at hand to have caused your child to be throwing that tantrum in the middle of Walmart. But I promise you that it's not to embarrass you. And it's also not the worst-case scenario.
A tantrum is often a child's way of communicating with you that they are hurting. Communication and managing our emotions is something that is learned over time. When we, as the adult, internalize their tantrum into something that they are doing to try to hurt us, we are then preventing an opportunity for the child to learn how to communicate appropriately.
Through the therapeutic process, we can work together to explore the factors that may be underlying your child's tantrums and find a way to help eliminate them. Even more so, we can work together to help you and your child improve communication. But no matter what, I bet that both you and your child would greatly benefit from a hug when you can see past that mask.
FUN FAMILY ACTIVITY
Print or draw a copy of a pumpkin for each person. Take turns decorating your pumpkin with your eyes closed (no peeking!). Bonus points if you can decorate your pumpkin using your opposite hand. See who can make the funniest, scariest, and most obnoxious pumpkin!
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(24), 9315-9320.