Wednesday, June 27, 2018

From a Family Therapy Session with the Runaway Bunny and His Mom

I read The Runaway Bunny recently, and I have some concerns about the family dynamics.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

As the session begins, Timmy, a lanky adolescent albino rabbit slouches sullenly in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest. Timmy's body language is extremely hostile to his mother rabbit, Donna, who sits in the chair beside him. She offers him a carrot from her purse, which he refuses without making eye contact.

Therapist: Last week we talked about using "I" statements to communicate with each other. How did that go?

Timmy: (shrugs)

Donna: I don't know what I'm doing wrong. He won't even talk to me.

Timmy: Why should I? She never listens.

Donna: Of course I do! I listen to you all the time!

Timmy: (rolls eyes)

Donna: I listen, but all you say is "I'll turn into a sailboat and sail away from you, I'll join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze..." (dabs a Kleenex at her pink eyes) It's awful.

Therapist: Donna, let's try rephrasing that. Tell Timmy "I feel hurt when you..."

Donna: I feel hurt when all you do is think of bizarre ways to run away. Most of your plans don't even make sense. Rabbits can't just turn into sailboats and rocks and birds.

Therapist: That's a good point, Donna, but it sounds like the real issue here is that Timmy doesn't feel like he's being heard. Timmy, what do you want your mom to understand about you?

Timmy: (twitches his whiskers) Well, talking to her is like talking to a brick wall. If I say I'm going to run away, she one-ups me. It makes me want to hide in a cave and never come out

Donna: If you hid in a cave, then I would become a spelunker and

Therapist: (holds up a hand) Wait, Donna. Let's focus on how Timmy has just opened up to you. This is where you need to validate those feelings.

Donna: What?

Therapist: Thank Timmy for sharing and, in your own words, restate the things you heard him say.

Donna: Okay. (exhales deeply.) Timmy, I... I... I brought carrots! Let's have one. (starts rummaging in her purse)

Timmy: Mom, I'm not a little bunny anymore! You can't distract me with carrots every time I say something you don't want to hear. (wrinkles his pink nose in disgust) Besides, I'm not even an herbivore anymore. You know that.

Donna: (slams the carrot back in her purse) You're just saying that because all your friends are experimenting with omnivore lifestyles.

Timmy: Whatever. You can keep your dumb carrots.

Donna: Excuse me? Dumb carrots? I've been busting my fuzzy tail to put these "dumb carrots" on the table for you ever since your father's accident in Mr. MacGregor's vegetable garden!

Timmy: Oh, that's my fault, too? Well, SHUCKS!

Donna: Don't use that kind of language with me, Timmy. (turns to therapist) It's like I don't even know him anymore. He leaves the burrow under the tree stump whenever he feels like it, breaks curfew, skips school. His jackrabbit friends are complete juvenile delinquents

Timmy: You don't even know them!

Donna: He came home last night with a tattoo. A TATTOO. We are respectable rabbits, I don't know what he was thinking!

Therapist: Let's talk about your tattoo, Timmy. Can you tell me about it?

Timmy: (smugly pulls down the collar of his shirt) It's a fish in a trout stream.

Donna: (in hysterics) That's right, a neck tattoo! Who gets a neck tattoo? HOW IS HE SUPPOSED TO GET A JOB?!

Therapist: (ignoring Donna) Hmm, that must be very significant to you. Can you tell me more?

Timmy: You wouldn't get it.

Donna: (sighs heavily, making finger quotes in the air) It's because he wants to "become a fish in a trout stream so he can swim away from me." He's been threatening to do that ever since he was little.

Timmy: (muttering) The day I turn 18 I'm taking the first train out of this stupid one-stump town.

Donna: Then I will become the conductor and drive you back home.

Timmy: Then I will hop across the border and start a new life renting jet skis in Cozumel.

Donna: Then I'll become a dolphin and swim to where you are.

Timmy: (getting angry) Then I'll be a hermit in the woods living off the grid!

Donna: Then I'll

Therapist: Hold on, do either of you notice a pattern here?

(both sit silently, crickets literally chirp)

Therapist: Well, it sounds like evening is coming on so let's talk about our assignments for next week. (giving a notebook to Timmy) Timmy, I want you to remember that how a person runs away isn't as important as why they run away. When you start making impractical schemes, try exploring those feelings in this notebook and bring them to our next session. (turns to Donna) Donna, I want you to work on validating Timmy's feelings. For instance, take Timmy's tattoo of the fish in the trout stream. You could

Donna: I know, I'll get my own neck tattoo. It will be a fisherman!

Therapist: (chuckles uncomfortably)

Donna: What's so funny?

Timmy: (groans and slouches backward in his chair) Is there any way we can come sooner than next week?

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