Mama Bear Attacks Mama Bear, Anger As A Trigger For Compassion

I took Dr. Kristen Neff’s Lifeclass course with Brené Brown on Self Compassion. Kristen has written books on compassion, and part of Kristen’s deep well of self compassion springs from raising her son who has autism.
One of Kristen’s stories that stuck with me was her going to the zoo with her son. They were watching a presentation and a mother seated in front of them kept turning around and shushing her son because part of his autism behaviors are not being able to sit still. So this woman doesn’t know he has autism and she just thinks Kristen is a lousy mother who can’t make her son behave. Finally this woman turns around and gives Kristen the stink eye, and Kristen stands up and this woman stands up, and they start yelling and going at each other like two Mama bears. The woman is yelling “Why don’t you control your son!” And Kristen is yelling back “Why don’t you mind your own business!” They go at each other for a while, then Kristen says “I’m so angry!” And as soon as she says this Kristen starts laughing. The woman is baffled and asks “Why are you laughing?”
And their fighting stopped immediately. Kristen says just being able to name what she was feeling gave her a brief moment of insight. Recognizing her emotion allowed her the chance to pause and choose how to respond. Kristen was angry because she couldn’t just go to the zoo and have a “normal” time with her son. She was angry because all his life her son will be faced with people who don’t understand him or his needs, and she knows she won’t be able to stop this. When we recognize our thoughts as Sharon says we have a chance to respond differently.