When Entertainment is the Trigger

When I was little, my parents watched what they wanted to watch on tv. They consumed a lot of news, they watched a lot of violent movies/shows. ..I was able to find the porn collection pretty early. When I didn’t want to watch something, I could isolate myself and still hear it, or I could just watch it. And deal with the images on my own because nobody ever took the time to explain anything to me…and if I was scared, it was never dealt with gently.

In my 20’s – I would watch these movies on my own but I developed eating as a coping mechanism to get through them. I would binge watch Law & Order: SVU and fall asleep to it. My husband never understood that.

And then I started my recovery and my toleration to violence is changing. I can’t sit through Prime-Time tv anymore. I don’t watch movies anymore and when I have the news on, I put it on mute. There is a part of me that feels that I need to keep in touch with the World’s Suffering- but everything violently fictitious, I have an immediate panic response to.

And it’s effecting my son. And his love of video games.

Here is the thing with only/first children. I’m Always going to be a first-time mom with this kid. It is always going to be harder because he is going to always grow me in ways that I can’t prepare for. Everything is trial and error.

But his voice is important. And I start there.

The voice looooooooves violent video games though. Loves shooting, blowing things up, blah blah Game Stuff, Blah blah. I don’t get *Any* of it. My husband plays. I respect that and I think it will be a good bonding thing for him and our son. In the meantime, I have to watch my son display more and more behaviors that are triggering me directly and that I can only wonder where they are coming from. He started wanting to “punish” characters and he gets irrationally upset over people disagreeing with him in real life. He would express his anger through one of the characters in his game-

Red flags all over the place, for me.

So I look to my behavior. Because I can’t stand video games, I don’t give them a lot of attention. I try to appreciate what he does constructively, but I can’t sit there and watch it because I get triggered by simply not wanting to sit there and watch it. I am still moving myself from punitive parenting and honestly, when he feels punished, the computer is at the center of it.  Other pretend plays trigger me, too, and without the understanding I have now, I wasn’t able to communicate that very gently either. So as a result, he doesn’t really ask me to play anymore. Which is why he turned so heavily to the video games–either way, he is in a position where his very being triggers me.

It’s torture being aware of it, but it must have been even more so for him when I wasn’t.

Yesterday, I had a breakthrough with him. After witnessing some troubling behavior from him, I wanted him to get off of the game so we could talk about it. He didn’t want to, got panicked, upset and was ready for a fight. I am not interested in over-powering my son anymore, so I walked away and started doing some projects of my own. I would invite him over to help me or create something with me and he would say “I’m not falling for your tricks of spending time with you!” (another flag) so I let him go. Eventually, he finished playing on his own, and came to sit with me and drew pictures of characters he knows I don’t like. But I didn’t focus on that, I wanted to focus on doing something together we could connect with.

We had a pretty good rest of the day until that night when he had a melt-down over wanting a mod installed on his game specifically designed for more violence. My husband and I were firm but really gentle because I had expressed my concerns with my husband before this came up. So even when my son started yelling and insisting he was ready, we didn’t yell. He got upset with me for being in the room at one point and screamed at me to give him space. I started to say (gently) that I could sit there…but I stopped. What good would it bring to argue my point that I could sit there if I wanted to. So I gave him space. After about 10 minutes when we started talking about the game again and he was getting upset it occurred to me to try something because we weren’t getting anywhere new. We made our decision and he wanted to convince us otherwise. I suggested we take a break. Get something to drink, watch a funny show, laugh and love for awhile.

He wasn’t having it. So I said “We love you. We understand you are hurt. I understand that you like the game..” He started to get really emotional when I started connecting in that way. And then I said “I don’t think you’re a bad person for wanting to play that game…do you know that? Do you know that I don’t think you’re a bad person for wanting to play that game?”

“You’re lying!”

Boom. There it was. Because of my reactions to violence, my distaste for it, my vocal expressions of how wrong it is for people to make money off of it (while watching the news, of course), and my hands-off approach to his most valued interest, all meant one thing to him.

I really didn’t find value in what he was doing and if I didn’t like *those* people who commit and make violence then I obviously didn’t like him very much, either.

I told him again that I knew he was a good person. A loving person. I knew his big heart. He finally let me hug him and he cried in my arms. He didn’t ask for the game again that night. We finished up our night watching a funny show and he spent some time with dad before he fell asleep.

As I’m recovering from my traumas, I am reminded again and again that I can’t push them onto him because he’s available. That I need to work harder in some areas (like pretend playing) so that he doesn’t need to overcompensate in other areas, like expressing his anger through a video game.

I’m also reminded that I am his open door for trauma if I am not consciously aware of it. We are responsible for what we bring into our homes be it through the television, the computer or our very own demeanor after being out in the world all day.

We are the ones who let it in.

I’m still undecided about the role of violent content throughout our media and entertainment industry. But my feelings are my own. They aren’t anybody else’s.

They certainly are not my son’s responsibility to fix.
This one’s on me.

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