This is part 3 in a series about the gifts of emotions when parenting consciously.
I am walking this path of conscious parenting with all of you. As I have traveled this journey of conscious parenting, I have come to learn many things and have gained insight about myself. In learning these aspects and gaining this insight I realized that I was the one impacting my children. I also learned that it is up to me to take ownership of my emotional baggage and not expect others to change for me. I must heal myself and allow my children the room to become who they came here to be. It is up to all of us, as parents, to give our children the space to be who they truly are. Here are two more gifts you get to receive when parenting from a conscious place.
8. The only one you can change is yourself
This is the gift you give yourself.
We may not like this, but it is true. You actually have no power over another person. We cannot make another heal, grow, change, see it our way, do it our way unless they want to. This is also true for your child.
There is a belief that as parents we can “make” our kids change because we want them to. We are the parent and therefore in a more powerful position. We hold the false belief that we can force them to be, do, become someone or something they are not. As a parent you may wind up fighting with your child to do it your way, which may be against who they intrinsically are. This just sets you up for a power struggle of wills which will end in resentment on both of your parts.
This struggle may also lead to your child lying to you. They lie because they know they cannot tell the truth; they know it is against your way. So instead of getting in trouble, they lie, tell you what you want to hear, and you wind up with a very inauthentic relationship. If you are resistant to who your children are, they may show up with defiant behaviors. If you are unable to see things from their perspective and are rigid in your thinking or what you allow then you may see lying. All of this leads to disconnection, and the goal is to have opportunities for connection. You may not like the truth and you may not like the choices another is making but that is your issue and not theirs.
It is up to you to look inside and find out why their truth and decisions are bothersome or upsetting to you.
What can you do? You can provide support, education, acceptance and unconditional love. Let your child see that you do support them but you are also inviting them to try things out another way. Again, this does not apply to red flag issues where there is a danger to health or safety. At those times immediate and decisive action is needed.
We must release the other of the expectations you have for them to change and accept the is-ness of the now, the situation, the relationship. Only we can change, we must release the other. In releasing of the other we begin to raise our self and allow our child the space to be who they need and want to be.
If we cannot release them from our conditions, and health or safety is not the issue, then the truth is the issue is you. It is up to you to take an objective and a close look at you and see where your attachments to wanting to control your child are coming from. Begin to ask yourself some questions:
– What is my unmet need?
– Is this coming from a place of lack in me?
– Do I want my child to achieve something so I can feel better about me?
– Am I gaining my sense of worth through my child’s accomplishments?
– If I am, when and where did I give up on myself?
The answer to these questions, and others, lie within you. Your very own inner child is in pain and is the one acting out. The real question to ask is, “Do I want to parent from a place of my wounded inner child or do I want to parent from a place of my whole adult self?” I know, for me, I want to parent from a place of my whole adult self. In order to do this, we must tend to our own emotions. The change starts with you!
9. Detach from the past
It is our longing to hold onto the stories of the past that keeps us stuck there.
The past is not in the present, those events are long gone. Problems show up when we hold onto the past. We believe that we have a right to those old feelings and we apply them in the present moment. We believe that somehow those old patterns, emotions, reactions are relevant in the now. The truth is they are not. All that is relevant in the now is the present moment. Do not let the stories of the past tarnish the now. This is where inner work and reflection come in.
It is a time to ask yourself, what is my need in this moment? Where is this need coming from? Is it happening in the now, or is it some old story I am holding onto and applying to my now?
Do you know your child in the present? Are all of the decisions you make, reactions and feelings you have about them connected to yesterday, one year ago or five years ago? It is up to you as a conscious parent to see your child with present moment awareness.
When you have a reaction, is it based on who you believe your child to be or who they are now? Maybe your child always had a tantrum when you had to transition from one activity to another, but now two years later they no longer do that but you still hold the fear that they will. Have you changed the way you approach transition or do you project fear onto your child and approach them with the expectation of the old behavior?
Acting from a place of expectation based on the past is not being present.
You are bringing old patterns and energy with you to the now. All that will do is give you what you are expecting and you may get behaviors from your child and will continue to view them from an old lens.
If you instead approach them with a clean slate, no expectations of a poor outcome, then you will have a different interaction and find connections. When you do not stay present you are doing a disservice to yourself and your child. You are robbing both of you of the now.
It is up to you, as a conscious parent, to be in the present moment with your child. Being mindful, connected, aware, and in tune with what is coming up for you and within you. When you are with your child in the now you are training the muscle, you are using. When you go to the gym and do bicep curls you are training your biceps. When you stay in the present moment you are building your muscles of consciousness and mindfulness and can then parent from a place of inner awareness.
To stay present you pause, take a breath, check in with yourself, ask yourself the questions from above, and allow a few minutes for the feelings to pass. When you stay present you are giving yourself a gift. The gift of now.
This is the final piece in my series about how emotions are the unexpected gift when you parent from a conscious place.
10. Healing yourself
Step into the awareness knowing of yourself and your truth, this empowers you.
Others in your family may not “get” you and that is ok. The only one who really needs to understand you is you. When you stand in alignment with yourself and honor yourself you are affecting the family system.
When you embody conscious parenting, practice it, and apply it you will create energetic changes in your home. That shift will be felt by others, they may not even have words to express what they are experiencing but they will be experiencing it. This happens because you now approach them and respond to them in a new way. You will be creating a ripple effect, just like the ripple created when a pebble is thrown into a pond. The outermost ripple does not know what started the change, it does not know it was only a small pebble, but there was no avoiding the impact of the energy that pebble sent out.
You are the pebble! You are creating energetic shifts in you and in the home. Your family members may not like this change and it will take time for them to adjust. The key is your consistency, holding your boundaries and embodying your beliefs as a conscious parent.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary teaches that we always have 3 choices when faced with any situation. These choices are; accept it, change it or leave it. As parents we need to learn these three choices and have them in the forefront of our minds when dealing with challenging situations with our children. In those moments we are not powerless, out of control or reactive instead we tap into the wisdom of this choice which resides within us at all times.
The beautiful thing about knowing that these choices are there for us is that we have the ability to teach them to our children. We do not own these freedoms of choice. Our kids get into sticky emotional situations too. It is a gift as a conscious parent to share this wisdom with them, at their young ages, so it can become part of who they are and a healthy coping skill for them to turn to when they are in the emotional throws of life.
We get to have the greatest impact in life, positive or negative, with our children. Once your child is old enough you can begin to teach them this philosophy. I believe a child as young as 4 can begin to understand there is always a choice when faced with something confusing and/or upsetting. Explaining these choices to your children is done with language appropriate for that age. You are not going to explain something to a 10-year-old with the same language you would to a 16-year-old. The first step is to keep your child’s age in mind.
Children, especially tweens and teens, go through so much heartache in their friendships. They experience hurt feelings, anger, grief, jealousy, pain, not worthy or good enough, feeling left out and not important. They often wonder, “What is wrong with me?”
If your child comes to you with this deep pain, we must first take that breath and pause. Next we must remember this is not our problem to solve, even though our mama or papa bear instincts want to kick in to rescue them. It is in these moments we are being called upon to understand that these are their problems. We cannot minimize what they are sharing because in that moment what they are sharing is of the utmost importance to them.
– Minimize their feelings by saying things like, “all kids go through something like this at your age.”
-Attempt to get them to move on from their emotions because you may be feeling quite uncomfortable hearing their pain.
-Make a joke, change the subject, offer food or ice cream so that they feel better. If we do that, we are telling them two things; your feelings don’t matter and it is better to bury or avoid your feelings rather than to experience them.
We are being called upon, as conscious parents, to listen with an open heart and bear witness to their pain.
We must create a safe space for them to have and share their feelings. It is at this point that we can offer them support and teach them about the three choices.
Start by explaining that in every life situation we always have a choice as to how we are going to respond. Go through the three choices of accept it, change it or leave it. Speak to them about it with age appropriate language. Speak with your child with empathy and understanding and let them know they get to choose. Let them know that no one can take their sense of self away or their ability to make their own choices in life.
The first choice is to accept. Accepting means that we fully accept the reality of the situation, the as-is, that is in front of us. Not only to accept it externally but we must accept it internally as well. This means we must look at it as something that is not happening to us, because then we are a victim of circumstance. Instead see it as something that is happening for us in our life. That does not mean they have to like it or even agree with it but they must accept it.
When we do not accept the reality of the present moment, we cause our own pain. That pain is, “I wish it were another way.” But it is not, it is this way. Help them be in reality, in the as-is, of it.
Empower them to understand no one is doing anything to them, it is just something that has happened and this has happened for them. By helping them accept the as-is we can help them not make up a story in their head about why this happened. When we get stuck in the merry-go-round of that story we spin around and around and this only causes more anxiety and upset.
The second choice is to change. Now it is not possible to change the other (see part 3). Only the other person can make this choice for themselves. The change that they need to make is within them. They get to choose to change how they interact with this person, how they talk with them, whether or not they will talk with them. You see, like us, our kids have been reacting in one way with the others in their lives. If your child keeps getting hurt, it is up to us, as conscious parents, to shine light on the situation with them and help them see what aspects of their life they would like to change to help them with this situation. Maybe they decide to change friend groups or join more activities to make new friends so they are not as dependent on the old ones. Maybe they stop reaching out as much. There is always a choice to change. This choice is theirs and that is empowering for them to know and feel.
The third choice is to stay. That means nothing changes. They continue to go along in the relationship as is without looking at their own stuff, still in the same dynamics and continue on the ride. And this is ok too. Eventually they will want to change but until then you can still support them and provide the safe ear of listening and the hug to reassure them that no matter what they are loved for who they are. That they are seen, worthy, important and that they matter.
This brings us back to where we started, emotions: the unexpected gift of being a conscious parent. Parenting brings up emotions and brings up the most painful and uncomfortable ones. In my opinion, being in and experiencing these emotions within ourselves is one of the hardest parts of parenting. You must tolerate your own discomfort and resist the urge to fix your child so you can feel better.
In doing our own self-care we are able to:
– Bear witness to their emotional storm
– Honor their unfolding spirit
– Allow your child to teach you
– Grow into your own self awareness
– Understand mistakes are learning opportunities
– Relinquish control
– Be present and connect
– Change yourself
– Detach from the past
– Heal yourself
– Become empowered.
Our children will keep showing us our patterns, pain, fear and emotions. What is your choice? How will you best take care of you? Do you choose to grow and change?
The choice is yours. The gifts are here, wrapped up and ready to be opened. Let’s start opening them embracing each one and embracing each child who was generous enough and gifted enough to bring them to you.
Janet is available for in person and remote sessions. Janet is also available to come speak at your events. If you want to talk to her send an email to Janet@JanetPhilbin.com for a free 30 minute consultation. The ability to heal and grow is in each one of us.
How many times have you heard the phrase, waiting for the other shoe to drop?
I know I have said it many times.
That phrase has its origins in the tenements of New York City. The story goes that at the turn of the century, apartments were built with bedrooms on top of one another. It was common to hear your upstairs neighbor take off a shoe, drop it, and then repeat the action. In other words, waiting for the sound of the other shoe to hit the floor. It became known as an anticipation for something you knew was coming.
This has now become synonymous with anxiety, specifically anticipatory anxiety. According to psychology today, about 85 percent of things that people worry about never happen. Think about that 85 percent of us are lost in thought, which creates an emotional experience of worry, anxiety or fear about something that will never happen. That uses a lot of emotional and physical energy. It can leave you feeling exhausted, sad, confused, unable to take action steps to move forward in your life and feeling disconnected from the things that can bring you joy. It may even create the need to turn away from feelings because they are so painful, which can lead to all types of addiction and distractions.
What I have come to understand through working with my clients, is that this type of anticipatory fear is actually held in our cellular memory. That means that the painful memory from a past event is so strong that the energy and the physical feeling you experienced from that event, actually gets lodged in your body. When a memory is lodged in the body the result may be that every time you feel, experience, go through, or anticipate an event that is similar to the original painful memory your body reacts with the same response. The fear you hold onto rises to the top and you get stuck in the cycle of fear and anxiety.
You respond from a place of fear, a fear that was trapped in your body.
As a clinician and as a hypnotherapist I understand this with a unique perspective. First, through the lens of Polyvagal Theory and second through the lens of the subconscious mind. Polyvagal theory takes us through the experience of the autonomic nervous system and its three predictable pathways of response. These are: Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal.
Each pathway has unique adaptive responses to help us survive. We interpret these responses through neuroception. Neuroception is our ability to detect what is going on in our environment, this happens without conscious awareness, just like we are not consciously aware of how often we blink, it just happens. When we are detecting what is happening in our environment we are always assessing for cues of safety and cues of danger. Based on our interpretation of the cue, either safety or danger, we respond from one of the three pathways of the autonomic nervous system. When we are in Ventral Vagal, we are experiencing safety and connection. When we are in Sympathetic, we are in a mobilized fight-flight state. When we are in Dorsal Vagal, we are in a state of immobilization, conserving our energy and resources.
Keeping Polyvagal theory in mind lets move onto understanding why we are waiting for the other shoe to drop from the perspective of the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has no sense of time, it does not know the difference between real and imagination, and it reacts from old “programming” until those old programmed messages are healed. When it comes to the emotional experience of anxiety, this is something that is experienced when our Sympathetic system is activated.
Anxiety is an emotion.
We interpret a physical sensation we feel in the body and label it anxiety or maybe fear. We are activated in some way. If the sensation feels like a tightness in the chest we immediately interpret that as a cue of danger. This happens because we learned a long time ago, maybe as a child, that every time my parents fight, I get scared, my chest gets tight and I am anticipating something really bad may happen next. Now, it does not matter if something really bad happened or not, the body now has a cellular memory of a tight chest and this is connected to strong emotions. The Sympathetic system is activated, and you are in fight or flight. You learned to experience anticipatory anxiety every time you get this feeling of a tightness in the chest. Since the subconscious mind has no sense of time you respond to the event in front of you with the same or very similar coping skills you developed when you were young.
Now, as an adult, every time the Sympathetic system is active you experience this anticipatory anxiety. It is interpreted as a cue of danger. The shoe is about to drop. What if you were able to change this perception? What if you still felt that feeling in your chest but did not have to automatically jump into your imagination and go into all of the stories of a bad outcome. What if the feeling in your chest was just a message to you to pay attention to yourself for a moment or two? It is an invitation to tune into what you are internally experiencing, slow down, to carefully assess the situation. Imagine that the tight feeling did not mean something bad was going to happen but instead means you can have a positive outcome in this situation.
You can be in charge of how you respond.
It is possible what you are anticipating is a good thing and when you get that feeling in your chest it means to be excited about the next event and not scared. You have the power to change your response, you have the power to change your thoughts.
Here are a some steps to take on how to do this.
- When you feel that physical feeling in your body stop and pause.
- Take a breath in, let the exhale be longer than the inhale.
- Take a few of these breaths, being sure when you inhale you are taking deep abdominal breaths so you can feel your belly rise up each time you inhale.
- Notice how the physical feeling in the body begins to shift or become alleviated as you breathe this way.
- Become aware of your physical body. Feel your feet on the floor, your body in your chair, take note of the time, day, what clothes you are wearing. Reorient yourself to the present moment.
- Talk to yourself by asking questions like; what is the truth of the situation right now? What are the real possible outcomes? What is the best outcome? What is the worst?
- You are empowered to choose how you will approach the situation. Will you approach in from the perspective of the worst outcome or the best?
- You get to choose the way you respond. What emotional and physical energy do you want to bring to the situation?
- Take another breath and notice the shift within you.
- Now you can move forward and choose to interpret that feeling in your chest differently. Now it gets to mean to stop, pause, pay attention and choose you.
When you step into the empowered self by choosing you, you are letting yourself know you are safe. You are in charge of how you respond. You are here in this present moment, not five, ten or thirty years ago in the past. You no longer need to imagine bad outcomes with anticipatory anxiety of a shoe dropping. In fact, you get to move into a new space where you do not have to hear the shoe drop at all.