Our 4 year old was having a reaction to not being able to fasten her seatbelt in her car seat.  One of the boys asked me why does she have to get so loud and so frustrated by little things.  He also asked why she gets so mad when we try to help.  It reminded me of a time when I made those sounds and seemed like I was at the same level of frustration.  I explained that it seems to me that she really wants competence.  Doing things all by herself is a really big deal to her.  Even though it is much easier for us to rush in and help her, she doesn't always, or even sometimes, want our help.
I have been coming up against these issues a lot lately.
Happiness seems like an inside job. If we can figure out what we want or need, find out how we can get it, figure out how to ask for it, and be willing to accept that we may never get it, then we can be happy.  So what causes all the frustration?
I believe that when we are in an area of developmental growth we are aware enough to know that our usual ways of being and doing are no longer working for us.  We may even figure out what we need, but our strategies have not yet developed at the same rate of our awareness.  This can make us feel stuck.
When I heard our daughter screaming and grunting in an almost animal like way, I was sent back to a memory of my last motorcycle race .  I was seven I think.  It had rained for hours that weekend.  The track was like chocolate pudding.  I was about 3'6", about half of that covered up in big leather motorcycle boots.  On my first lap (others might have been almost finished with their race) I made it all the way to the far end of the track when my little minibike was consumed in thick dark mud.  I remember looking at the knobby tires and sprocket covered about half way up in the stuff.  Then I looked down to see that my boots were completely covered.  I tried to pull my boots out of the mud and they wouldn't budge.  I grabbed my thigh with both hands and pulled and nothing.  I looked through the woods to the parking lot at all the people.  I wondered how long it would take before someone would notice that I never came back.   I tried to get my feet out of the boots so I could try to walk back.  They were on so tight, I couldn't get my feet out.  I couldn't get to the metal clasps.  I started to panic.  I screamed.  I cried.  Then I started to weep.  Frustration gave way to sadness and exhaustion. I felt so small, so helpless. I felt like a complete failure.  I was trapped.  I could not find a way out alone.  It seemed like forever, but it was probably only minutes later, my dad came walking up smiling and ready to rescue me.
When I went through my breaking point in 2007, I felt exactly the same way.  It felt like everything about my being was stuck.  I didn't want to accept that I may need someone else's help.  At the moment I was prepared to give up, I had a spiritual awakening.  The still small voice rescued me that day.  Soon after that, I found wisdom in meeting with a Jungian analyst, studying the Enneagram, and learning about Nonviolent Communication.
I am so grateful for the language and concepts offered in Nonviolent Communication.  When I begin to feel stuck, I can pause and look at what is the need behind this feeling?  What is it I am longing for?  What are some different strategies that I can try?  Can I work with my needs for autonomy and competence to allow new strategies that also engage connection, mutuality, and interdependence that will open the door for accepting the help I might need?
We can also get spiritually stuck.  One of the things I am really enjoying is the exploration of how the concepts of NVC provide a great framework for putting spiritual principles into daily practice.  More on that in an upcoming post.
It can be very frustrating to feel small, helpless, and without working strategies.  I think it can hit us at various times throughout our lives.  I think this memory can serve to help me empathize with others and myself the next time I feel stuck.  The practice of NVC allows us to connect with another without rushing in, without assuming what they need.  It gives us the tools to find out how we can meet them where they are, and help them with the source of their frustration.   Even if all they need from us is our acceptance.  The best part is, they don't have to know the language of NVC to help us help them.

Grace in, peace out,