A very young Aaron, perhaps in year R or year 1, has parents who argue and make up frequently.

The arguments are serious and he does not feel safe when he witnesses them.

Because his parents are absorbed in the conflict they are unable to attend to Aaron’s safety. He has long understood that he must avoid them when they fight. When he responded to his feelings, as an infant, and asked them to stop shouting in order that he might lose his anxiety and fear, his mother told him to go to his room. She believed she was protecting him.

Aaron initially experienced anxiety and fear in the way we all should. These feelings caused him pain and he called out to his primary carers as he wanted their help to stop the pain.

When he was asked to leave them alone to their fighting his feelings of anxiety and fear became unhelpful and made him feel uncomfortable, in fact they caused him more pain because they went un-soothed.

So, as a strategy to address these uncomfortable feelings, he began to ignore these feelings by depressing them-he became numb.

 On their way to school, his mother sometimes tells him that he and she will be leaving his father and that he must prepare for this. Aaron has already learnt that to feel anxious or fearful is unhelpful and painful and his depressing strategy helps him to deal with this. 

However, when Aaron gets to school and his mother leaves his depressed, quiet, state compromises his safety as it has the potential to make him pass unseen through the school, prey to the mob and invisible to the adults who have the potential to offer him protection.

Aaron might start to “fix” his emotionally depressed state (a state he got into so he might not feel anxious of fearful) by using challenging behaviour in school in order to raise his mood by using adrenalin. Adrenalin is a good way to raise your spirits, ask any extreme sports person and Aaron uses it to control his arousal state to make school more manageable.

Whatever intervention I offer in my work this week, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Mindfulness, Psychodrama, Person Centered Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Solution Focused Therapy, Integrative Therapy or Family Therapy, the next time I meet a young person with challenging behavior I will understand that this young person is probably unhappy and misunderstood and probably lost in a world where they have become a problem for those they love and those who have influence in their life.