Recently it has come to our attention that our 7 year old daughter is struggling with anxiety. Mainly at nighttime, which has made for many nights of being woken up by her sneaking into our bed in order to not be alone in her own bed. A couple of weeks ago however, we discovered she was also afraid of one of the skylights in our house that is placed right outside her playroom, which was making it impossible for her to go in and out of her playroom without going under it, so she had been avoiding it altogether.
We attempted to reason with her about both her fear of the dark and her fear of the skylight. We asked questions, tried to remain curious and open to her emotional experience. We shared our own stories of fears as small children and made suggestions about how she might face her fears. All to no avail. She requested that we “roof over” the skylight repeatedly, letting us know in no uncertain terms that she wanted it removed and that would solve the problem. Clearly she had thought this through, and as my husband pointed out, she was not wrong. Removing the skylight would solve the problem. But what would that teach her? What might be next?
A week ago my husband had the idea and went upstairs and invited her to sit with him under the skylight and talk about what she was afraid of and encouraged her to talk it through together. It sounded silly to me and like another fruitless endeavor to reason with a very emotional child. The next night however, when I came home from work my daughter mentioned to me that she had been spending time with the skylight and she sat underneath it and told it stories and talked with it, per daddy’s suggestion. And the following day she informed me that she had made friends with the skylight. She didn’t have to be afraid of it anymore, because they were friends. Just like that. She had faced it, befriended it, and shifted gears.
So as I sat with a client yesterday discussing what was causing the greatest amount of distress that he was feeling in his body, which he was able to identify as loneliness, I found myself repeatedly thinking about the skylight. Face it. Befriend it. I laughed in my mind at the notion of sharing this skylight story with my client and how it might sound trivial and contrite to his real struggle. So I avoided that analogy and just used the take away point, noting that perhaps he needed to lean into his loneliness and make friends with it so that he can better understand his fear of it.
Today i’m acknowledging that we all have a skylight or two in our lives. No shame in owning that. And while I can’t name your skylight, what it might look like or be, I am certain that often the things we want to run and hide from are the things that can teach us the most about ourselves and about our needs.
So in this brief moment, I’m challenging us to face our skylight, sit with it, under it or beside it, get curious and make friends with it.