Once in a while I find myself in a space of righteous indignation. I believe I am RIGHT and keep trying to explain my view so that I feel heard and my worldview will be justified. Then, I believe, I will be ‘safe’.
When the other party doesn’t accept or understand what I am saying I feel a renewed fervour to MAKE them understand – because of course, I am right. This of course applies strongly to my children. I sure do like to be right. Unfortunately (or maybe I should more accurately say, fortunately) for me, so do they.
A while back I posted something on a facebook group and was strongly called out on it. People did not agree with my posting and they told me so quite clearly. I ‘listened’ to their comments and responded rationally and intelligently and then explained why I was right. This went on and on and at some point they threatened to kick me off the group. I was so distressed. I couldn’t understand why they were getting so upset and hostile. I didn’t mean any harm after all – in fact I thought my post was supportive of their cause. But I wasn’t actually listening, Throughout the conversation I was staying firmly within my own worldview. In that conversation I represented a person in the position of privilege; therefore I was in fact being a bully. I think I might do this rather a lot to my children too.
After that FB experience I had a dawning of consciousness – so that was great for me, but it came at someone’s ‘cost’. I hurt people with my fear.
Why do I say fear? Because to really listen means to have the courage to step into the unknown. It means putting your worldview on hold and saying, “Tell me what it’s like to be you.” And then listening. Listening in a way that allows what you hear to change you somehow.
That scares us. There is a quiet – often hidden – internal dialogue while we are listening to something which makes us uncomfortable which urges, “If I let go of what I know, everything I believe is open to question. Then my world could fall apart. I will be lost. I won’t be able to protect myself. I can’t listen to this. I must hold onto what I know. That way I will be safe.”
That’s not real safety though, that is just being imprisoned by fear.
To embrace diversity is to be open to different points of view. It is actually to welcome more of ourselves because listening requires us to be less afraid of the unknown within us; to allow ourselves to be changed and to grow from what we hear. This applies when we speak to our child as much as when we talk to someone from a different culture, socio-economic circumstance, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or family circumstance than our own.
My child has his own worldview and when I don’t really listen, I become a bully. This is because I hold a great position of power as a parent. Even though we may have more life experience than our child, it doesn’t mean our child’s worldview is less good or less right than ours.If you use your position of privilege or power to invalidate another’s worldview because you are afraid of change, everyone loses out.
Here’s a tip: If your child is not listening to you, there is a likelihood that you are also not listening to him or her.
If you really think about it, we only feel scared of something we think we might not handle. So if we are afraid of hearing something that will change us, we are showing a real lack of trust in our lovely selves. Now that’s not self-loving is it? When you speak to anyone, try to do it with an attitude of, “Tell me what it’s like to be you.”
Know that when you learn from the other, you learn about yourself. If you say no to that…well I think that’s just plain mean to yourself. Have some faith in yourself! Take your own hand and lovingly support yourself in listening, REALLY listening to your child’s worldview (or anyone else’s).
If you get stuck or scared – or you feel an indignant need to be ‘right’ – just ask yourself, “If I loved myself and I trusted myself to handle whatever comes, what would I choose to do now?”
Hi all. My posts are once a month at the moment instead of once a week because I am working hard on a new book and need to put my writing time towards that. I am enjoying it hugely but I’m actually missing you all! I will let you know more soon. Now heeeeeere’s this month’s article:
We are so good at avoiding our feelings. Feelings are not the same as emotions, you know? Emotions are the ways that our feelings express through us. Feelings are the deep experience inside us – in our heart and body. Emotions are more externally focused – they are expressing outwards. Feelings are an internal inwards experience. They invite a stillness and focus within. We avoid that.
It’s a pity because this is how we humans heal and connect with our heart and soul. The most amazing transformations and healing occur when you let yourself feel your feelings.
I have observed recently just how much I avoid this and how cleverly too. I try to trick myself. “I already know about that, I don’t need to experience it” I’ll tell myself. Or emotion such as anger or fear will sweep me conveniently away from my feelings and I will focus on whatever I think caused me my discomfort.
The thing is, while I have emotional intelligence and I am in touch with my emotions, I am less practiced at just sitting with my real inner feelings. It is quite a new thing for me to hold a loving non-judgemental space for whatever is there within me to just flower and fade as it needs to. I mean doing this without judging it and trying to change or ‘fix’ it.
I do this quite comfortably in my work spaces and I’m getting better at it when I’m on my own too. But at home with my family, I notice I still rely heavily on using emotional expression to distract me from what is happening inside me. So I get angry with my kids for not listening and for fighting, I get annoyed that I have to keep chasing after them tidying up, I feel victimised by not being appreciated… All of these emotions – anger, annoyance, fear – are things I focus on to avoid just connecting with my heart and seeing what feelings have been stirred. I make it not-about-me.
Sometimes I do this by making it all-about-me. “Oh poor me. Nobody listens to me. No one appreciates me.” These are the lamentations of someone who is trying not to see that they have big feelings inside.
I’ve decided I want to become more practiced in feeling my feelings. Nowhere else do my feelings get more triggered than with my family. This is easily confirmed by how much emotional expression happens for me when I’m with them. So this is where my most beneficial practice lies.
What does it look like to feel my feelings when I’m with my family?
Basically this means that whenever I am triggered and become angry or neurotic or controlling, my task is to:
- notice I am externalising through emotions,
- hold off on the emotional expressing
- and turn inwards lovingly to allow myself to really feel what has been stirred inside me
- accept myself and tell my feelings “You belong”
In other words, stop blaming other people and trying to control the outside world and just feel my feelings instead.
I look forward to the healing and transformation that will come from this practice.
How are you at feeling your feelings? I’d love to hear from you 🙂 As I said, I’m kind of missing you guys!
I’m planning my son’s birthday party. It’s such a cute thing to do.
We like to keep parties simple in my family. We don’t hire in and we try to keep the list short. I’ve noticed children have more fun that way. When there are too many people the birthday child is either overwhelmed or plays with one or two friends while the others do their own thing. I don’t see how that is a birthday party for a specific someone. In my view a birthday party is a chance to celebrate the person who was born into our lives. I guess, as in discipline and life choices, my preference is connect first, everything else second. I see a birthday party as an opportunity to deepen connection.
Anyway so the friends have been invited and each one means something to my little guy. As each friend informs us he or she can make it my boy grins and settles a little more into the joyful anticipation of having them there at his special day.
Now it’s time to decide what games and activities we play. He knows what he wants and my job is to organize it into a workable format. Big brother wants to help manage the party so he is My Helper. This should be interesting – we both like to be in control. I’m reminding myself now as I write that I need to settle into working WITH him rather than be his boss. I hope I remember that otherwise he will just get frustrated and sulk. As would anybody who understands they are a partner in a project only to find they are merely a powerless lackey.
Anyway back to the planning. Someone spoke to me about how the game Pass The Parcel has changed. “In the Old Days”, they said (ie the hardcore 80s), “there was a parcel with layers which was passed around a circle. When the music stopped whoever was holding the parcel ripped off one layer. Slowly the parcel became smaller and smaller and the anticipation built to see who would be holding the parcel for the final layer because that person could keep the prize in the center”.
I remember this as fun. I don’t remember times I won or lost, I just remember the excitement. “Nowadays”, this person continued, “we are so afraid of our children’s disappointment that we put a prize in each layer and make sure everyone has had a turn.” Maybe our parents also sneaked a peek to make sure the music stopped on the child who hadn’t yet had a turn, but I don’t remember tantrums and tears and screams of “It’s not fair!” I know I have seen that nowadays.
I also know that last year I found myself packing a parcel chockablock with little surprises in every layer and feeling concerned that it would work out unfairly. I wondered about the idea that we don’t give our children practice in dealing with disappointment.
By the way, my solution worked really well. I only put gifts in some layers and each surprise that was uncovered was put by the children into a bowl that sat in the center. They were informed the contents would be shared out fairly at the end so they sat there and were excited by each thing that was added to the bowl for them as a group. It was fun. No fears of unfairness and disappointment for them or me.
This year my boy wants to play The Chocolate Game. It’s a super fun game for those who may not know it. A large bar of chocolate sits on a bread board in the center of the circle along with a fork, knife and some articles of clothing – a hat, scarf, large jacket. It’s great fun if the clothing is large or floppy or interferes with dexterity in some way. The children pass a die around and when someone rolls a six he or she jumps up, puts on the clothing and sits down to eat the chocolate with a knife and fork only. No fingers allowed. They sit there eating chocolate until someone else throws a six at which point they must immediately stop and pass the clothing onto the next person. Sometimes it takes time before the next six is thrown and sometimes it is immediate… There is a lot of fun and hilarity.
So my two boys were discussing this and said, “We must leave some chocolate aside so that if someone doesn’t get a chance at all then at the end they get given some chocolate.”
I found myself having an old-school reaction to this. “What? Toughen up, life isn’t fair, que sera sera, you need to learn to cope…” Luckily I shut up. I simply observed myself. It’s true that life can seem very unfair and they’ll learn this, but is a children’s party really the moment to force them to engage with this? Anyway, where did this tough attitude get us? Maybe it’s this very attitude that has caused the problems in our world today? Who is to say a softer approach won’t create a kinder world? If we aren’t all hardening ourselves against the ‘harsh reality’ and ‘unfairness’ we could concentrate more on connecting and having fun.
Back when children were seen and not heard young folk didn’t get much of a say in how games went: parents said and we did. Nowadays children get to say so much and we – having not enjoyed the experience of being silenced – listen to them.
It was a small but meaningful moment for me as I relinquished the decision making to the children. They wanted to make the game fair. A socially trained part of me wanted to stop them. For what? To maintain the skewed power dynamics in our world that we have been taught are ‘right’? The very same power dynamics populations around the world are rising up in great masses to rebel against? Funny how our children reveal our imbalances and indoctrinations in the oddest places – we’re talking about the Chocolate Game fer goodness sake!
So, to help make the world right again in little and big ways, I will keep some chocolate aside so if there are some who don’t get during the game, they will get after the game is done.
World peace and fairness will prevail in our Chocolate Game.
A while ago in a play park I witnessed a seemingly mild incident that left me feeling deeply disturbed. A little girl of around two or three years old was being ‘walked’ by her father on one of those harness things, like a dog’s leash for children. The girl was screaming and clearly didn’t want to leave the park and her father was pulling her and saying “Come, come!” as one would to a dog. She was determined, literally digging her heels into the ground and was putting all her weight into staying put.
(This is not going to be a rant against those contraptions. In my opinion a tool is a tool and its use or misuse depends on the user. While I personally prefer the method of talking and holding a child, there might be a place for them with those magnificent children who have the most remarkable ability to disappear in seconds and scare their parents to death on a regular basis. Such a harness could maybe be used lovingly to help a child understand the concept of staying close. It would be discussed and explained to the child without frightening them or forcing the experience onto them. And it would be ended as soon as possible once the understanding has been gained. That is my opinion.)
I was left wondering why this incident disturbed me so much. Like all of us, I’ve often seen uncomfortable examples of parents in play parks urging or forcing children to do things they don’t want to do. And what was so bad really? Children often don’t want to leave the park and have to be cajoled or dragged away by their caretakers. I checked in with myself about what parts of this incident were triggering my personal wounding and cleared them. But even after this, my discomfort remained and I began to have rescue fantasies of how I would educate these parents who, other than this incident, actually seemed quite obviously loving and caring. They just didn’t seem to realize the effect of the incident on their beloved daughter. I knew they would want to know and desperately wished to help them see this. Of course I shut up and stayed put. They were not asking for help or advice and I’m not suicidal.
(Again I feel I must add, that if I witnessed parental behaviour that made me fear for the child’s safety I would put on my bomb vest and head in there!)
In this case I merely
At a certain point in my therapeutic journey I was confronted with numerous self-beliefs that were stopping me from allowing myself to live fully, experience fully and achieve to my full potential (real or imagined). Often, I was surprised to uncover these ‘road block’ beliefs – such as not being good enough or feeling guilty for having life when others have death (I include these because they are such common hidden beliefs). Some were not that surprising, like things you know you have but haven’t ever looked at them closely. But others were shocking. There were a few things I uncovered that not only was I not aware I believed, but also were things that felt contrary to who I knew myself to be. “What’s that doing there?” I wondered, “I don’t believe that! I believe the other thing.”
It’s very disconcerting to find beliefs lurking around in your psyche that you feel aren’t really yours, yet there they are activated and causing havoc in there. Like random meteors. I had to accept that they were there and that they were mine, because there they were, yet these discoveries really rocked my self-understanding. I remember thinking, “They feel like mine and yet foreign at the same time – as though they were superimposed onto me”. It was a bit weird and I didn’t know what to do with it.
In hypnotherapy the therapist might ask the client whether the feelings or thoughts in a situation are coming from the inside or the outside. In other words, are they actually yours or are you as a child perceiving the emotions of those around you and understanding those perceived feelings to be your own. Disturbingly often, on exploration the client can distinguish that the feelings that led to detrimental self-beliefs are in fact emanating from those around them.
Likewise with my own process, many of the negative understandings I had of myself were not mine to begin with. That’s why they felt both mine and foreign. I had taken them on, assuming that what I could feel at the time were my own feelings. Confusing? Let me put it another way. As a child, if you can feel something, you assume it’s yours. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Except that it’s not always true. Children are perceptive beings, especially when it comes to strong feelings their parents are having, so sometimes, even though they can feel something, it is not theirs.
What finally brought it home for me was a conversation with my mother. I had been trying to process some very painful feelings about being alive and it was hard to get my head around them because one of the things I think I know about myself is that I love being alive and this stuff felt so different. Unnatural to who I am in essence. I tentatively disclosed to her some elements of what I was struggling with because it had to do with the time of my birth – I was nervous raising it with her but hoping to gain some clarity. The conversation took an amazing turn when my mother took up the topic and shared that around my birth and early infancy times she had been feeling all of the things I was describing.
That in itself is interesting but the jawdropper for me was that, as she described how she had been feeling at the time, I got a very weird feeling of déjà vu because she was saying all the things I had been saying in therapy. She was using the exact same words! As I sat quietly, listening in wonder and she told me her story it all made so much more sense to me. All those feelings and thoughts were hers, not mine. I had just absorbed it all like a sponge. That was why it had seemed like mine yet contrary to how I know my inner nature to be.
A deep sense of relief came over me when I understood these feelings were hers all along. After that things shifted for me on those issues. She hadn’t known I had taken the feelings on and built my self around them – and she wouldn’t have wanted me to carry that stuff. I too didn’t know it had happened or why. All I knew was that I felt that stuff so it must be me.
This experience also validated again for me the relief that happens when a parent owns and takes responsibility for their own stuff. It left me free to live my own life – with excitement – the way I know I innately do. Owning your own feelings is the most powerful thing you can do for your child and for yourself – from pregnancy onwards.
Precious readers, I am working on a writing project at the moment which I look forward to telling you about but for now, writing the blog weekly is taking writing time that I need for that. So I will be posting once a month instead of weekly for the next little while and hopefully I will soon have a completed project under my belt. For now here is a reminder in the form of a longer than usual post to tide you over.
You can also pop by the blog every Monday (or anytime) and read some previous posts. There are a lots to choose from. Browse away.
A while ago I woke up grumpy and looked in the mirror and said, “I do not like waking up to being in service first thing in the morning.” Right from the get-go as I wake up I need to cater, referee, feed, clothe, brush, chase, cajole without regard for what I might prefer to be doing right now.
This reluctance is familiar to many of us – at work, or in our family, or with ourselves. “Oh I don’t FEEL like doing this. Why do I have to do all this stuff? Where is the freedom of which I dream…” If you whine about it though, most people will tell you to just grow up and get on with it; life’s hard and all that. And yet I have never really accepted that “Life is hard” crap we get fed if we question why there is so much suffering in the world. I have always flinched when I hear the sects of religions that begin with, “You are a sinner and you must suffer for your sins”. I just don’t believe that we are inherently bad in any way. I may be an idiot but I really believe in people. Seeing as I find myself regularly surrounded by humans, this belief makes me, more or less, a happy idiot. I think humans are a quirky species and their spirits are jaw-droppingly, magnificently, miraculously amazing and beautiful. I am astounded and awed daily by the human spirit.
So that morning I said to
When he was four my child had a phase where he would feel deep hurt and frustration if anyone questioned his opinion or knowledge or authority. If someone asked him, “Are you allowed to do that?” or “Go ask your mother if that’s ok” he would get very hurt. Not upset, hurt.
If anyone even misrepresented him in someway he would be quick to correct them. I was chatting to someone once and laughingly told her how he had dropped a whole lot of glitter on the floor. He was standing nearby listening to my story and he angrily interrupted me and tearfully stated, ‘NO Mama! I didn’t drop it or let it fall when I opened it. I shook it while it was open and that’s how it fell out!” It was very important to him that his exact experience of his world was validated.
It happened quite a bit for a while so, wondering what this was about and wanting to best help him through this I