Family Life

Time to defrost those frozen narratives

What could make the needle jump the groove? – Aimee Mann

So we went to see the family therapist guy the other day.

My wife and I. My second time, A’s third.

After the soothing voice clicked us in from the street, and as we ascended into the instant ambience of soft lighting, scented candles (aroma-therapy!) and waiting rooms that make you whisper, I imagined my Dad going to see someone about myself and my sibs back in the day.

Aromatherapy (1) (1).jpgNot!

Are ya mad, he’d be thinking.

Anyway, this time around was particularly revealing.

We’ve just had a pretty decent period at home with our two teenagers.

We had booked this session weeks ago after a particularly trying time, so now we were just going along now to see what would come up. .

See, when you’re right in the middle of a ****storm of domestic tension and conflict, it’s easy enough to go along to Mr Family Therapist Guy and just unload.

You know … let fly, then calm down, talk it out, and maybe emerge a little wiser and ready to go again.

But today we had no agendas.

Just open-minded – or so we fancied.

I will share a really interesting insight which, when I have fully absorbed the simple profundity of it, I believe will make a huge difference to my relationships with both my son and my daughter.

And with my lovely wife.

And might give you something to ponder too.

A and I started talking about our two kids.

Giving our standard, well-practised takes on the pair of them, what they said and did, or didn’t. And how we reacted … yada yada.

Oh how the anecdotes and the irritations, the frustrations and the self-criticisms flowed out of us, and the good moments and the funny observations too, with barely a breath drawn.

And our man mainly listened.

Man, it was pouring out of us.

Out of me.

So familiar, almost rehearsed even.

And then the therapist started probing.

Stopped me mid-spake, to make an observation.

He noted, first of all, that as myself and A talked about our daughter K, we seemed to be coming at her from two distinct positions.

I was essentially critical, whereas A was more constructive, admitting her frustrations at dealing with our girl, who is, how can I put this, challenging, but trying hard to see things from our girl’s perspective, and working on that perspective.

It’s not that I wasn’t trying to do the same, or thought I was anyway, but I was coming from a more obviously critical position.

There was more.

The therapist asked me what was it about my daughter that I really objected to, what made it so easy for me to be angry with her.

This question flummoxed me.

Stumped me.

My ultimately comfortable narrative of difficult daughter and my frustrations, and then my criticism of myself, shame, even, at my failure to reach her, was blown right open.

What was it about her that made it so easy for me to be angry with her?

And her with me.

This brought up all sorts of stuff for me.

Like I was 14 when my Mom died, almost the exact age K is now.

What seemed to emerge is some kind of parallel between my annoyance with K and my annoyance with my own Mom at that age.

I felt my mom did not just love me for the way I was, was always wanting to change me.

Here the therapist talked about the notion of the Frozen Narrative.

The idea of myself and K repeating and repeating the same narrative between ourselves.


Aimee (1)

I observe a behaviour in her that I find unacceptable, I respond to it and act out of that negative interpretation; she responds from her negative take on my adopted position,

And around and around we go, like a stuck record.

So when a narrative is frozen we must find a way to unfreeze it, or as Aimee Mann says in her brilliant song, That’s Just What You Are, try to find out “what could make the needle jump the groove”.

In order to thaw out our frozen relationship, and get the river flowing again.

ice river (1)Have it resume its journey, with everything that feeds and nourishes the river released again into the swell and flow of current and season.

Have it resume its journey, with everything that feeds and nourishes the river released again into the swell and flow of current and season.

river-of-life (1).jpgFrozen narratives, they are everywhere in our lives.

Frozen narratives, they are everywhere in our lives.

They are there in how we relate to our parents and our partners, our brothers and our sisters, our friends, and our perceived enemies.

Even in the people we encounter at work and in the local supermarket.

Frozen narratives.


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Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

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66 comments on “Time to defrost those frozen narratives

  1. Powerful and true. As I read this post, I thought of some frozen narratives in my own life, especially when dealing with my youngest son and his wife. I will have to consider these and try to get some of them unstuck. Your therapist is great. He even helped me, and I never even talked to him!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this powerful post, Enda! Frozen narratives. So bloody real. Isn’t it interesting that the coin seller saw this? I expect we are all in this loop. Good luck with your family therapy. #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a major revelation and one I feel will help me in the relationship with my mum. Thanks for sharing xx #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting idea about frozen narratives. I’m not sure about it but I am sure teenagers are tricky. I have 5 and one just through at 20. They are wonderful, exhausting, testing and challenging all at once. My husband and I try to agree our approach to them which helps so much. #GlobalBlogging


  5. frozen narratives – very good – thankyou for sharing this #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  6. love this one, enda – i never have given any thought to my annoyances with my kids — but i’m thinking now – there’s a definite pattern of pushed buttons between me and one of my daughters — and it’s worth looking into it – thanks for pointing this out to me through your beautiful prose . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello. I imagine that many people who are in therapy never achieve the kind of breakthrough that you had. You’re fortunate to have found a good therapist. And your openness to looking at yourself is very commendable.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really love this post. I like to say ‘We have to be very careful not to bring our own baggage to the table’. All our emotions are so close under the surface, ready to pounce out and we project meaning on to what other people say and our baggage vomits out anger etc. When maybe there were saying something completely different. I’ve had a few moments were my teen has pointed out a completely different version of events, just by projecting motives on to me (that were not there at all). When I realised and pointed it out, there was silence as the penny dropped. May I recommend (not on teens specifically but a good insight into how humans work) Augusten Burroughs, This is how (get the audio, he reads it and he’s brilliant). And for that insight, I’m loving How not to be a boy but (Mark?) Webb. I just found it by accident and am loving it. His insight into his own workings from his own life is great. (He wasn’t a very big deal here but he’s so funny).
    Lastly, I once had a rant about something and literally 5 days later some one wrote almost word for word what I had said on a FB page and I read it and thought “Man, you’re completely crazy”. I think it’s very easy to see these things when we don’t have emotions running rampant and clouding our thoughts.
    Great post, and it sounds like you have a great relationship with your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lydia … I agree with a lot of what you are saying, and I must check out those recommendations. But I have to add one caveat: teenage kids are fantastically sophisticated at pointing out our faults, and naming our shit, but then regress to a much younger perspective when it comes to assessing their own faults and errors of judgement. In other words, without always realising it, they are bloody manipulative, and are particularly adept at laying guilt trips on us! Sometimes it’s easy enough to separate the BS from the reality, but not always!! Haha


  9. Wow! Your therapist asked a brilliant but difficult question. Thars an excellent article. As a parent I’m the one who is quick to jump on the negative and be more confrontational one whereas my husband is fantastic at opening dialogue calmly.
    I’m dreading the teenage years.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Karen Dennis

    I was once offered therapy after suffering a stroke and everyone thought I was depressed, I turned the councilling down and 11 years later, I have accepted what has happened by myself and help from family and friends #triamphanttales,@ karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I guess we have to find the answers that resonate with us … thanks for commenting Karen, and I can only imagine what you went through to reach that place of acceptance. Best wishes


  11. A very insightful post Enda, I think most of us can be guilty of frozen narratives at some point in our lives, it’s easy to get stuck into a groove. Good luck on defrosting those channels of communication, I hope you have your sand bags ready.


  12. This is a really honest and interesting post. (And I love your humourous writing style too!!) I love the analogy of a “frozen narrative” being a river that needs thawing and how we can apply this to every relationship and situation. You’ve definitely given me food for thought here! #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Food for thought indeed so thanks so much for sharing a concept I had not heard of before. And all the very best to you and yours. You care so you will be OK or OK enough which is all any of us can really hope for #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Very thought-provoking. I wonder how many of our relationships in life are in a similar stale-mate when you stop to really think about it properly. Sounds like you got a great insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hannah …I do think it can apply to lots of relationships, or interactional stuff. useful way of looking at things … hopeful


  15. Well Enda, who said therapy doesn’t achieve anything? fascinating to hear your take on this and hear your experiences. Clearly it’s been insightful for you. I hope over time it leads to a better relationship with your entire family, especailly daughter.


    • It has John … all I have to do now is act on the new information and perspective!!! Here’s hoping! Thanks for your comment John


  16. Reading this reminded me of my brother and what he has been going through with his daughter. It’s been a stressful six months for him and he’s at his wits end. The frozen narrative is a good reminder that we do sometimes compare our kids to ourselves at their age and we expect the same behaviors and responses that we once had. Most of the time we don’t realize we are doing it. Until a therapist points it out, which mine often does. #AnythingGoes


    • Hi Michelle. Sometimes we miss the obvious things and it’s good to have that pointed out in a way we can hear. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I feel for your brother!!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This is brilliant. Something we all experience to an extent, especially as parents, but you’ve put a name to it as well as a solution. Love this post so much; so relatable and so positive. Thanks so much for sharing it with the #itsok linky.


  18. That is very insightful! Frozen narratives – I can see them in my relationship with my mom. I’m going to think a little more on this one and see how I can unfreeze it!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. emptynestmummy

    I’m really taken by this idea of the frozen narrative. And hoping your next blog post will be ways of defrosting it!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. thesingleswan

    You have a great therapist, very perceptive and insightful. I hope that the frozen narrative insight will help to understand your’s and your daughter’s relationship going forward. I look forward to reading about it. Pen x #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It’s certainly easy to say you love someone, but it is so hard to do actually LIKE them when you’re stuck in a repetitive cycle. Good for you for seeking outside help to improve the dynamic. And so nice of you to acknowledge your own failings as a parent who is being overly critical – that’s not easy to do. I hope the tensions continue to ease and the dynamic shifts until it is one that you all deserve! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true what you say Heather … liking someone can be SO hard!! There has been some shifting recently … my daughter loves to write and has been reading me some of her pieces recently. She told me she has been reading my blog and said some of it was good!!! Quelle change!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow!!! That is a high compliment for a teenager to like something their parent is doing. I hope you guys can continue to find things to bond over so you have something to connect you on a level other than parent and child.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Wow, that is a great way to see things. How amazing it is to have someone outside of your situation to gain an insight and give you food for thought. Sometimes a stranger can give more valuable suggestions than a friend or family member.
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Enda, thank you for sharing this experience with us all – your frozen narrative may be getting as unstuck all over the globe! That is one good therapist. Now, to figure out what my Little and I are frozen over… all on your dime too! Many thanks, friend! #mixitup xo

    Liked by 1 person

  24. mackenzieglanville

    Another great piece of writing. This parenting gig is so hard especially when we have our own things that we can project onto them. I have found it hard with my teen daughter particularly because of my own experiences at that time and I can find myself trying to stop her making the mistakes that I made, and yet this is her life to live. In many ways one of my biggest fears is having my children turn out like me, just because of the suffering I have been through, but really I am OK and I have to remember if they turn out like me maybe it is not a bad thing? Anyway I am left pondering, thank you for the insight! Good luck with your daughter one thing for sure is you can tell how much you love her! Thanks for sharing this post with us for #AbloggingGoodTime


  25. Hi Mackenzie. It really is hard, and it can seem even harder when we open ourselves up to trying to help them with perceived issues, trying to get into their heads, as it were, as oftentimes it is hard to separate out our own motivations and issues in the process. As you say, our kids are different people to us, so our perspective, however valuable, should not cloud our judgment. Thanks for your kind words and always valuable insights


  26. Such an interesting notion. My sister and I went through a similar discovery. We were stuck in a pattern of irritating one another and both of us were stuck in our positions. She was having therapy and through that learnt about the concept of changing behaviour. She changed one thing in the way she interacts with me and suddenly I could see where she was coming from and how my behaviour might be received by her – we understood one another and as if by magic our relationship returned to normal. Thanks so much for sharing with the #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kirsty. Anything that helps has to be good in these situations. And I find this notion of frozen narratives really helpful, and the corresponding idea of reopening communication channels that might otherwise remain frozen, or cut off.


  27. #thesatsesh I think we get frozen as humans all the time, not just the narrative / relationship but the food we eat, tv we watch…the best way I’ve ever found to unstick it is to not speak…to listen and not react, it can be excruciating but also profound. Hilarious how solutions are usually so simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True!!! Mind you, I’ve never found it easy to remain silent. To paraphrase a dastardly Irish politician from not so long ago: I keep missing great opportunities to keep my mouth shut!


  28. So much of how we see the world and how we act comes from our childhood and we dont’ even realize we are seeing the world and reacting with these beliefs that are there. I enjoyed reading this and how you describe frozen narratives. Thanks for joining us at #BloggerClubUK

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I am here agian, and having #abloggingoodtime xoxo


  30. Pingback: Blogger Club UK Linky 146 - My Random Musings

  31. Lucy At Home

    A frozen narrative – what an interesting thought, and so relatable – I think we all develop lenses over time and eventually every behaviour and word that comes from that person is seen through the lense we have constructed until we are eventually trapped in this frozen narrative. Thank you for sharing this interesting concept #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I love how therapists are brilliant at getting straight to the point – like an arrow to the heart! It’s interesting how he turned the tables and drew attention to the way you are reacting – it’s so good to go to therapy as we often need help to see ourselves – I was reading about this very concept just a bit earlier this morning in a totally different context! I’m sure this process will eqip you wih the tools you need to forge strong and beautiful relationships within your family. Good on you for taking these steps! #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Liberty it was a showstopper right enough and an interestt way at looking at our close relationships, especially when there are issues. We often need to have the obvious pointed out in a way we can hear, and so work on. Thanks for your insights


  33. Blimey this is a big post – I hope this notion of the frozen narrative really helps you and your daughter. The session obviously brought up intense feeliings and memories for you. It must be very tough losinig your mum so young and this will undoubtedly have repercussions on you and other relationships. I can relate to lots you write here. Take care and good luck breaking free of the frozen narrarive. #thesatsesh


  34. Firstly I have to say well done for embracing the therapy route and following a tense period of arguments in our house over the last couple of weeks I can see the benefits! The thing about parenting teens that I notice the most is the endless hamster wheel conversations we have as a family and their ie the teens complete inability to listen and adapt. Then today I noticed that as my husband “helped” our eldest with job applications with imminent deadlines that he had ignored for weeks if not months that we fall into exactly the same trap as parents. Repeating the same nagging comments and occasional expletives and to what end? I would love for someone with zero emotional attachment to parachute in and sort us out for sure – why don’t I, why don’t all of us? Because we are scared to hear what they have to say probably. Wonderful that you are being so brave Enda and totally love the analogy too – we all just get so stuck in our ways and need a jolt to get us out! Brilliant on many levels as always. #TweensTeensBeyond

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for that fantastic endorsement Jo. It was an eye opener … but which is obvious to a disinterested observer. But we havevto start somewhere!


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