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Posted on 20 Jan, 2014 | 13 comments

Will I Let My Child Help Me Heal?

In a soft moment a while back my child told me, “You’re scary because you shout at me.”

Ouch!

I tearfully told a loved one what my son had said and she generously replied:

“Oh well done! My kids are too scared of me to tell me I’m scary.”

And we laughed until the tears came.

Because it hurts. It hurts like crazy when I see I’m causing my precious, vulnerable child harm in any way. And I remember being small and very, VERY scared of my own shouty parent. In those awful moments of being shouted at I was either wide-eyed, frozen with fear, body tight and tense waiting for what might come or I was burning with shame from the angry humiliating words that were lashing me.

shouty

And now I do the same to my own child?

Owowowowoww!

It really hurts to see it and I need courage to look at it in the face.

I already know about my shoutiness. I promise you I don’t do it all the time but those times when I ‘lose it’… that’s what comes out. I’ve been working on it because there’s never an excuse to ‘lose it’ – no matter how much I feel justified in the moment. So my child’s comment came as a surprise precisely because I’ve been working so hard not to shout. And I thought I was doing ok… although maybe that’s why he felt safe enough to tell me.

That would be a soothing interpretation…

It’s so incredibly difficult to unlearn what you learned as a child, isn’t it? But it IS possible.

This is what I learned as a child from my adult’s behaviour:

When a child does something that makes an adult aware of their own personal pain, the adult punishes the child – in order to make their own pain stop.

Isn’t that just screwed up?

But it’s what most of us were wordlessly taught.

The unconsciousness of that, is why I write what I do.

When my child told me he’s scared because I’m shouty, it would have been SO easy for me to minimise it and tell him, “Oh don’t be silly. I’m not that bad. Look we’re loving now aren’t we?” It would have been SO much less disturbing for me to push aside that painful piece of knowledge he was offering me and get on with life.

Why?

Because it makes me feel pain. It reminds me of being small and scared in the face of shouting when I was a child. It reminds me of feeling powerless in the face of shouting – both when I was shouted at back then and also when I shout now. So ironically, shouting caused me to feel pain and powerlessness when I was a child and now I use it if I feel pain and powerlessness in the face of my child’s behaviour. So it’s become both the cause and effect of my pain and powerlessness.

Even with my consciousness work.

Sigh.

If I want to stop shouting – which I really, really do – I need to break that association. My reaction shows me that I still hold within me the terror of being a powerless child in pain. To heal I must feel it and release it.

So instead of shouting at my child to protect myself from those old feelings of mine, I could allow him to help me with my healing by OPENING to the feelings he raises in me at those most difficult moments.

Figures 1

This is how I will empower us both.

I hope I can remember…

But what am I saying? He will keep reminding me until I learn.

͠         ͠

In my next few posts I’ll be sticking with this theme of anger and how to open to the feelings and do that all-important inner healing work. This is the stuff that can help us feel better – as people and as a result, as parents.

If you know others who might be interested pass this on to them. Let’s spread the healing far and wide. Give frazzled parents hope…

13 Comments

  1. Hey Eilat
    really enjoying this reading, and so identify, having come from a home with one VERY shouty parent, and finding myself doing the same and then being amazed at how much it hurts ME when I give in to these feelings and unleash on my sweet, gentle little girls. What I’m wondering – and forgive me if this has all been dealt with in earlier posts – is WHY we do the shouting thing. I know you touched on feeling small/in pain ourselves in that situation, but could you say a little more? I’m totally going to try and no shouting diet. Thank you, and thanks for this important work you’re doing!!
    much love xx

    • Hi Susan. Thanks.

      I write about the causes all the time and will continue to do so. This week’s post “Learning To Be Kind To Self” talks a bit more about why we shout too.

      In short when we get triggered by our child in any way we are regressed to our child state for a moment or longer. It’s like a flashback to whatever emotional or psychological bruise the interaction with our child touches. So depending on who you are and what happened to you in your life, you respond in the way that you – in your child state – thinks will make you feel better.

      Shouting, for example, is a biological tool that we are given to warn of danger, protect ourselves or communicate over long distances. It comes with adrenalin – you’ll notice your voice gets loud when we get a fright for example. If we feel threatened we may use shouting to release that adrenalin rush.

      In truth though, most of the time when we shout – especially in anger at our children – we are in no danger at all. HOWEVER, our small child self, who remembers the pain of the past very well, feels VERY much in danger. So we are pushed to respond to our regressed perception of danger and we respond in a way that makes a small child feel better. We shout, scream, stamp our feets and cry. Yup, a tantrum.

      We also do what we learn, so if we had a parent who would use shouting to release their pain, we learn that’s how it’s done. It takes quite a bit of conscious choice to do otherwise – especially when in the heat of the moment a part of you thinks she is about to die!

      And then of course, like I keep saying, anytime we are stirred up emotionally, we are being shown where we believe a lie, such as, I’m not important, I’m not good enough, I’m not worth much. Rubbish and nonsense!

      Whew. That’s in short can you imagine…

  2. I love this and I love all the sharing here! Thank you all of you for being such amazing parents and people.

    • Thank you right back Maria 🙂

  3. Very beautiful honest article, for which much thanks. It takes great courage to admit that we act in this way and want to change.

    In my own case, as well as having a shouty parent, I know the shouting from me often signifies that I am feeling intense anxiety and overwhelm.

    I am slowly slowly learning to listen to the signals from my body FIRST before using the shouting as an unconscious strategy to express anxiety/make it go away.

    I am also grateful that my sons tell me when I am shouting and that that is enough to stop me in my tracks and regulate, if I have not already done so. And I will always, always acknowledge where I have acted in this way and make amends.

    I can only progress one step at a time. I am doing the best I can to change. In the meantime, I know that, at the end of the day, It Is All OK. Yes, all of it. I know that seems counter-intuitive to these efforts to change parenting paradigms and change and heal. But when I look at my own life, I see how my own parents’ parenting of me and other things caused me to go on this tremendous journey of spiritual and emotional inquiry that has ultimately been so rich. I would not change it for the world, even if I would not have said that during my actual childhood.

    It is this paradox of parenting; on the one hand we try and work to change. On the other hand, real change can come about when we stop trying to grasp and attach so strongly to what we deem the “good” and see all of it as moments.

    • Olivia what a beautiful comment. Thank you so much.

      Carl Jung is quoted as having said something to the effect of, “We can only change something by first accepting it”. Talk about counter-intuitive!

      I think in essence the healing journey for each of us IS to know that it is all ok. That there is nothing wrong with us. We are pure light and designed for joy. Everything other than that is simply an illusion – but an illusion that we really buy into.

      I truly think our children come to guide us back to our essential light being. It’s WHY they drive us nuts, bring us to anger, stir our anxiety and raise such joy and love in us – so we can gain access to and dissipate the illusion.

      Thank you for bringing us there with what you wrote and I’m delighted for your family and for the world that you are already seeing the illusion of ‘not good enough’.

  4. Oy vey. Such a hard thing. My kids have been doing this ‘ignoring mom’ thing which DRIVES ME UP THE FRIGGIN’ WALL. I cringe at the thought of having to hear myself on a recording, were anyone play myself back to me. Then again, sometimes, when the kids are role-playing I get to hear a good impersonation of me, Not much pride in that, no siree.

    • Oh I loved your comment! Sometimes I hear my two saying things to each other in this snappy, harsh tone and I want to say, “Oy, don’t talk to him like that!” but then my darn self-awareness kicks in and says, “Hey honey, doesn’t this sound just a little bit familiar to you…?”

      Ugh!

  5. This is a toughy. My youngest says she’s never going to shout at her children because she doesn’t like it when I shout. She asks if my mom ever shouted at me and how it felt and then she proceeds to ask something like “if you didn’t like it and you know that it didn’t feel nice then why do you do it to us?!”. Aai, the shame, depending on how defensive I’m feeling! For some reason this post makes me think of unpicking knitting – finding a dropped stitch, or an wrong pattern calculation….and sorting it – painful! – its always SO tempting to just pretend the problem isn’t really there, but the further you knit the messier it gets and the more unravelling you have to do to find the problem, or the harder you have to pretend that the really skew creation you spent hours on is perfectly fine, has more character or whatever helps with the avoidance. And this is supposed to be a LOT easier than “stopping the shouting”. I’ve discovered another factor in this journey of “stopping the shouting” – a sense of entitlement as a parent to shout cos children are supposed to do….or be…… It’s all so messy. Thank you for writing about these messy messy things so openly and bravely and creating a space for sharing the human-ness, the I just don’t know what to ‘do-ness’! and the courage and healing of parenting.

    • You brought tears to my eyes. I’m so relieved at the human-ness response. I was taking a deep breath and being real and raw and willing to face up to the judgement about my imperfect behaviour. I mean I know so many of us shout but then again, so many of us pretend we don’t…

      Your knitting metaphor is so visual, I can really picture the woolly imperfection. I feel very fond of it. 🙂 Thanks Eva.

  6. Wonderful, thank you for this – I am practicing the same with my children. They feel safe enough to let me know when I am shouting or making them tense. It is a hard one for me but slowly it starts to work. Practice, practice, practice being good and kind (as I say to my children – and me☺)

    • It is hard when they tell you isn’t it? I was talking to someone now about choice and thinking, it’s about taking responsibility for our behaviour, having the courage to be open to feedback and making the choice of how to behave following that. I’m so glad you added being good and kind to you. May we all remember that one!

      Thanks so much for your encouraging comment.

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