"Wouldn't it be great to have a super power!" I said, as playfully as I could muster. "If you could have any super power, what would you choose?"
"Angry power," replied OB, in a tense growl. "And fire would shoot out from my fists."
It was nearly 11pm and we were having, shall we say, a tricky bedtime. Hoping to diffuse things a little, I had tried out a 'flight of fancy' distraction technique I read in a book recently.
I suppose it sort of worked. He stopped jumping around and quietened enough to give me hope that Birdy wouldn't be woken up just yet. But as he spoke, he was half standing, half crouching on the bed with his arms tense at his sides and his fists of fire clenched so tightly that the knuckles were white. Poised to pounce.
We are all familiar with that rush of adrenaline that accompanies real or imagined danger. For people who have experienced trauma, it can come unbidden and unwelcome at unexpected moments. For some children whose early lives have been marked by trauma and loss it can seem like an almost constant state, triggering the fight/fright/freeze response time after time.
OB experiences all three of these responses depending on the situation. When we're out and about around lots of people, I know that what could easily be interpreted as timidity or even stubbornness is actually 'freeze' in action as he makes himself smaller and smaller, and more and more invisible.
Yesterday in the park, 'flight' took hold as OB's nemesis - a small dog - presented an unbearable threat by running around in our vicinity. Wonderfully, OB actually ran straight to me on that occasion, literally jumping off the ground as he reached me and trying to climb up me, legs wrapped around mine. On other occasions, he has run in any and all directions, towards me, away from me, into people, into obstacles, into the road. Cats, birds, loud and sudden noises and many other things have the same effect.
And of course, there's our old friend, 'fight'. Angry-man the Superhero with Fists of Fire. I know what to do with freeze and flight - lots of reassurance, calm talking, gentle demeanour, empathy, presence and so on. I know that Angry-man needs the same. He pops up at the most inappropriate times, and behaves in surprising ways but, right now, he is some sort of dystopian super hero, there to protect OB against an enemy or enemies unseen, a foe long left behind. He's a throwback.
This is the final paragraph. I'm struggling to write it because I'd like to round this off with a neat solution or a pearl of wisdom or a smart analogy and my mind is blank. The thing is, I like a neat ending. Sometimes there isn't one.