Wynn Helms, M.A.

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Elephant in the Room

I’m right there in the room, and no one even acknowledges me.”

I’m right there in the room, and no one even acknowledges me.”

It’s a funny image and the phrase “the elephant in the room” is commonly used to describe unspoken negative feelings that don’t seem to be attached to a thing or event because the people in the room are not talking about the thing or event. The image of this discomfort doesn’t necessarily take the form of an elephant. For me the symbol is a low-hanging, dense, haze that hangs in the room occupied by people in which there is no talking. There’s absolutely no sound…there’s no nothing except unspoken, toxic negativity. It’s bad enough for adults to subject themselves to this; the real misfortune is that children are the innocent victims of this toxicity. They don’t have the words to explain their feelings.  What they feel is shame, guilt and probably anger and sadness. Why? Because if children can’t see what the problem is, they often assume that they are the problem. Keep the elephant out of your room by getting some support or therapy to learn how to model good communication between yourselves and with your children. If children are present during the discomfort, let it be known that there are adult problems that don’t concern children. Tell them that they are not in trouble, that they have done nothing wrong and that this time, the issue is only for adults. Be honest with them without disclosing the specifics of the issue if it doesn’t concern them. Remember that it is scary for children to sense a problem without knowing what the problem is. What does your elephant look like? Would you recognize it in the room?

 

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