Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mad/Sad/Glad Game

My son has autism. People with autism have difficulty with feelings. They don't pick up cues about what other people are feeling. They sometimes don't know what they are feeling themselves.

When my son was a little boy, we would play the mad/sad/glad game. He would say mad or sad or glad. Then I would act out the feeling. If he said sad, I would make a very sad face and act like I was crying. I would say, "Oh, I feel so sad." Then he would name another feeling and I would act it out with all the exaggerated drama I could muster. Then we would switch – I would name the feeling and he would act it out. We only used those three. It was simple and he liked words that rhymed. He loved the game and we would play it over and over. I hoped that he would learn about his own feelings. I hoped that he would develop empathy for other people.

I look back at those years and I realize that as I was trying so hard to help him understand feelings, I was denying mine. I felt so desperate. So alone. So terrified. Inadequate. Overwhelmed. Devastated. Ashamed. And angry. But I didn't acknowledge any of these feelings. They were so big and so dark and so scary. It was like having demons locked in your basement. I kept them at bay by trying to "fix" my son. How ironic. And futile. On both counts. My son is still autistic and the demons broke out long ago. I made my peace with them and they moved on, although they sometimes come for tea. And I think I still hear a few little ones scurrying around in the dark corners of the basement.

revised from archives


  1. Here is a video of some of the kids I taught last year...One of them actually wrote the song.
    Hope the link works. Some of the children in the video have autism.
    Love and hugs,
    Katy xx

  2. Galen: Demons never stop. We all have them. Don't let them in! Ever! It is your choice.

    On a personal note, I have been following you for some time now and I say with all sincerity that I cannot envision a better mom. You and your son are very fortunate to have one another to share life. Be well.

  3. I agree with JJ, you are an amazing lady and what a gift for both of you to have one another. We live, we learn, we love, we laugh and we cry. These are all things I take for granted now that I've learned how to own my own feelings, I forget some moments how to appreciate how much I am blessed with. It's people just like you who inspire the heck right out of me, thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with us.

  4. Hi Galen,

    We all have to wrestle with our own demons from time to time. What matters is that we bring them out into the open by writing them down on paper or acknowledging them in some other way. When we allow the feelings to hide in the corners of our minds, they grow strong in darkness. It is when we force them into the light of day that they lose their power and hold over us. Once we see them for what they truly are, we can devise strategies to manage them.

    At the end of the day, acceptance is important in life. We have to change what we can and accept what we can't. It is all a matter of timing and reading the signs of the times.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! It is an inspiration to us all! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  5. Katy--The link isn't working but I can copy the link and watch it, which I will do in a minute. Thank you for sending it!

    JJ--The demons never stop but we can stop being afraid of them. James and his autism are where my demons live. You have no idea what your kinds words meant to me. Thank you.

    darlin--Learning how to own our own feelings. That's the key, isn't it? You inspire me, too. Thank you for your comment.

    Irving--It took me so long to learn about bringing my demons into the light. I love your description. With your permission, I would like to quote you when I write more about facing our demons. As always, thank you for your insight.

  6. Thank you Galen. I'd say yes a large part of it is learning how to feel our feelings, that puts the key in the door but in order to turn that key I have to express my true feelings once I'm attached to them. I do this in various healthy ways most of the time, I can journal, dance, laugh, cry, be angry if I choose to be, I can also call a dear friend, put my feelings out here on blogger or I can pray if I'm allowing something to my cage. Prayer and meditation does wonders for me, something which I feel I haven't been doing enough of lately. I've gotten myself into the too busy mode, tonight it's time to breathe and relax. Huge hugs sent your way from across the miles. Nite.

  7. "I made my peace with them and they moved on, although they sometimes come for tea." That is both an amazing sentence and a statement that rings true.

    Sharing such a personal story is what makes your blog special.

  8. I have difficulties with feelings too, but mine's fixable with time and love. Some kinds aren't fixable, but you can't determine to what degree except through these acts of care giving. And nothing's futile if the struggle brings you closer to hard-won understanding. Your son returned your care by being who he is, still your child, a person no less because he operates from within a transmitter/receiver that doesn't pick up all the channels.

    Speaking from my own failure to even be able to raise my only (bi-polar) child, I think you've done something of great significance. Writing about it simply and directly also made it more real for me to read and connect with.

  9. darlin--Hugs to you, too! I have been establishing a more regular meditation practice in the mornings. A nice way to start the day.

    Bob--Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

    Mikey--I laughed at your description of autism. That's great. My heart went out to you when you said you failed to be able to raise your daughter. I don't know what you mean by that, but I have struggled a lot with that concept of failure. Writing about step 4, feeling our feelings, brings up a lot of this for me even now. Thank you for sharing something about your own family.


  10. I love the idea of the mad sad glad game. Human beings [regardless of their individual challenges] could definitely learn a thing or two by playing it! [grin] Galen... you are a brave and courageous woman and "who you are now" is the sum of the challenges you have faced. Without them you would not be here now helping others... so maybe this is your destiny. We [mothers especially] need to cut ourselves some slack and accept that we have done [and continue to do] our best. Lovely honest post. Thank you so much :-)

  11. Demons lurk and often we never know of our neighbors demons. You learned to play creative games with hi.

  12. Jean--I do sometimes wonder what my destiny is! And yes, we mothers do need to be forgiving with ourselves. I read a book once titled "The Good Enough Mother." Thanks for your comment.

    Manzanita--Creative games with hi! I love that! Thanks for commenting.

  13. To acknowledge and deal with past feelings is a daily battle. They often replay in our mind like a broken record. We must turn to the great Physician Jesus for help. He alone is the way to have true peace of mind.

    Have a nice weekend :-)

  14. Wanted to comment here too.....I'm a fairly new follower...but I have to tell you I love it that you are so honest in your writing. To me....the Buddhists have said it best "Pain in inevitable......suffering is optional." Feel and identify the feeling....truly FEEL IT, however necessary.....then find a way to let it in the present moment....where ALL IS WELL.

    Hugs gentle lady,


  15. Awww, we all have our demons to battle Galen. You sound like such an amazing mother; I think your son is blessed to be given to such a divine woman like yourself. I pray God will continue to heal you of those hurts; those demons will come less and less for teas as the years goes by:) Xoxo

  16. Ron--Welcome and thanks for following. I know what you mean about that broken record. And yes, there is help from our sacred source.

    Jo--Glad you are following, too! I love that Buddhist saying about pain and suffering. So true!

    Toyin--I am not that amazing, as a mother or in any other way. Really. But I am indeed blessed. Thank you for your comment.

  17. Once again Galen Pearl... Your Blog is a rare "pearl", indeed. Could you add a"Share" button? I know a few folks who would be very moved and may relate well to your kind and incisive look at your son's autism. God Bless You. :D

  18. Lisa--Glad you stopped by. I have no idea what a share button is, but I'll find out! In the meantime, feel free to send the blog link to anyone you know who might be interested. Thanks!

  19. Galen,

    This is gorgeous. I've been contemplating demons of late too! So many of us spend so much time try to hide the demons, when what we need to do is acknowledge them just like you and your son learned about his feelings. Thank you for your wisdom once again.

  20. A lovely post Galen. I can only imagine the pain you felt coping with the autism diagnosis. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Thanks for sharing this. Don't be so hard on yourself. We all did the best we could at the time and when we knew better we did better.

  22. Sandra--My mother told me when I was young that it seemed sometimes that I was being chased by demons. She had no idea! Thanks for you comment.

    PAMO--What is interesting is that I didn't feel the pain at the time. I wouldn't allow myself. I might have fared much better if I had. Thanks for commenting.

    Tess--Thanks. I do have to say to myslef sometimes that I did the best I could. Hope that's still true!

  23. Hey sweet friend! I also had noticed that we both have used a picture of a dragonfly on our profile, we probably do have some similarities.;) Thanks for sharing this beautiful post.


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.