a reply to: yourmaker
So essentially become stoic no matter whats occurs. And try to throw happy thoughts at him no matter what.
Not necessarily. You'd be surprised at the degree of latitude we have in negotiating with 'difficult' situations or emotions.
The idea is, at least in my own experience and from what I understand about the mind and the brain (based on enactive cognitive science and relational
psychoanlysis) is that we essentially do have the power to influence the realities we engage with.
Your situation, granted, is especially difficult. But there's also similar situations with infants and particularly with unruly children - those aged
3 to 7 - who have various "disorders" - ADD, ASD, ODD etc - and our leeway is impressive. My sister works as an ECE and is tasked with children with
major development delays - some that are on the "autistic spectrum' and others that are likely trauma-related. Unlike you, she can't control what
happens outside her sphere of influence i.e. what they're parents do. Even then, she's found a lot of success; and it's not easy; it taxes your
patience. And it sometimes makes her question why she's chosen this career. So I try to support her by telling her not to lose focus: when the
"environment" stresses us, we lose awareness of those very things which vitalize our relations: the meaning. Meaning is the "emergent" phenomenon
of self-other engagement. You find it by being attuned to your environment and living in the 'now' of it; for her, the meaning which vitalizes her
relations is the knowledge that what she does can influence a childs developmental trajectory: such a fact is powerful and for her, when she's lost
courage and feels dejected, taking a minute away and reminding herself of what her job MEANS changes how she interacts with the children she works
with; and ultimately the effects of her interactions.
Emotions are contagious. When you work with someone who "drains you" - it's probably because you're not reminding yourself again and again of the
meaning of why you're with him. And yes - it does imply some transcendental acrobatics. You do need to think beyond your mundane day to day life; and
think beyond the now - to the ultimate fact: our mortality.
Yes, there is a definite stoic aspect. But it's stoic only partially; ideally you want to "push" the system - or the non-linear dynamics of the
relationship - towards a "positive attractor". Stoic only in that you train yourself to tolerate 'negative affect'. But ultimately its positive -
in that you posit meaning and discover within that interaction, you and your grandfather, and all that that can mean - the vitality to be with him,
positively, so that you can help him in this final stage of his life.
I know it's easy - super easy, in fact - to be cynical and reduce what I've wrote to just "happy" talk. But it's true. We create our realities -
create how our brains and bodies learn to 'metabolize' our subjectivity. We can either recognize this existential situation - and make the most of
it; or, we can take the easy, convenient, and destructive route, and do what requires less effort on our parts.
It can frustrate me like nothing else to try and have a conversation, where he's hard of hearing and I have to speak up, and then he thinks i'm
yelling at him, then I try to explain what i'm saying and he thinks i'm yelling at him more about something else and it cycles into both of us
feeling like crap, at the same time his voice starts to really fade so I can barely hear him as he mumbles and I have to continually say to repeat
things which probably annoys him
Aye, as a therapist I know this situation. People with a lot of dissociative tendencies can really, really push you into that cycle you speak of;
where you unconsciously, not deliberately, but sort of "introjectively" take in the other persons dissociated affect, and all of a sudden you're
speaking out of malice - not because you want to, but because you feel - in retrospect - like the situation between the both of you put you there.
And this is precisely why I am trying to lend a helping hand; or give you some ideas for how to get out of this wicked non-linear feedback loop.
Again, I know you care otherwise you wouldn't do it. And I know anything I say probably wont change the fact of how you feel about your grandfather
(i presume you love him). But I can give you some suggestions for what psychoanalysis has discovered about 'how to get out' of these sorts of
positive feedbacks with pathologically disturbed people.
First, I think, your grandfather wants to be seen. The thing about all of us - senile or not - is that we want to feel good; and feeling bad can
become painful. When you respond - or fail to recognize - that someone is feeling bad (such as in the therapeutic dyad) and you don't speak about it
in a metacogntive way, for example, to say something like "I'm feeling this way, and I think that's happening because you're feeling this way" -
it gives words to what is being ignored; makes explicit what has been implicit.
I know, I might be naive in saying this, because maybe your grandfather has lost too much executive function to recognize. But it's worth a try: it
works analytically with people with major dissociative disorders; and I think, if I take the work of a neuroscientist like Jaak Panksepp (Or antonio
damsio) if higher level brain areas are catalyzed by lower level brain processes (subcortically), that means a gentle, emotional, and loving manner of
relating will be picked up by lower area brain modalities (the vagus and hypothalamus/nucleus accumbens) which would generate an affect and ultimately
a better and more constructive way of relating.
Anyways, just trying to give you an idea of what you could do to improve your relationship with your grandfathr - and ultimately to make this more
meaningful for you, and more tolerable for your grandpa.