I’m broken. I’m breaking. I’m falling apart. I’m being forced to change and its painful.
Have you ever felt these things?
I know I have, several times, with each child. It is SO painful. And I always hate being there initially…it takes a bit of healing to come into gratitude for the breaking of you into your next evolution – the glow stick right?
Our kids push our buttons, but its bigger than that – they are our mirror for growth and change and our catalyst to directly accessing the pain/childhood memory or trauma we have stored – you can’t heal what you can’t feel, remember?
I’ll break this down:
They are each our perfect mirror, reflecting back to us whatever we have stuffed down or hidden away – they will each extract change, healing and growth from us in a different way, by displaying a behaviour or trait which drives us crazy! The “driving us crazy” part, is us having a huge ‘triggered’ response to this behaviour – we experience a massive increase or surge in emotion:
- Your baby might hit the ‘sweet spot’ of anger/frustration/fear/anxiety with crying and emotion.
- Your toddler might hit the ‘sweet spot’ of anger or rage when they exert their own will.
- Your child might hit the ‘sweet spot’ of fear when they are asking for more freedom.
- Your tween might hit the ‘sweet spot’ of your body image issues, when they are developing or eating continuously.
- Your teenager might hit the ‘sweet spot’ of shame or guilt when they are discovering their own sexuality.
When our children display behaviours and traits that trigger us into having a big emotional, irrational reaction to, they are mirroring us in some way. It won’t be a conscious memory, but it will be a little flash back to an unhealed aspect of yourself. This unhealed aspect will have its roots back in your childhood, it is a wounded aspect of yourself which has never been fully resolved, left unhealed, disowned or shamed. By burying it down, that story will be running us in some way, in our current adult life, with a belief or behaviour we revert back to.
The second part to this is the trigger; the rush of emotion that feels overwhelming and has you ‘leaving’ your body or mind and has you reverting back to your parents, on autopilot – even though you swore you never would.
This emotion is our key. It provides a virtual ‘replay’ of what took place in one ‘wounding’ moment in our lives – we get to see, hear and feel what our parents did, how they felt and how we felt – it’s the perfect role play of parent and child, you get to feel and identify with both perpetrator and victim. You get direct body-felt access to what ‘went down’ when you were….2, 8, 12, 17…behaving like…….?
So the tricky part is what to do next. You know how this story ends when you dive right into that overwhelming triggered feeling, you’ve lived it as a child. The question is – “Do you want your kids to live it too?”.
I am totally aware of how difficult this is to draw ourselves out of our hurt inner child ‘moment’. That inner child of ours wants healing and he/she will rear up looking for the panacea of the wounding moment – they’ve already been the victim, it doesn’t’ feel good…they also learnt in that moment that to feel the opposite of the victim – strong, powerful, in control – they need to be the opposite of the victim – the perpetrator. Our inner child is begging to be set free through repeating the actions that were done to us, we desperately want to be our parents in this moment. Our inner child wants desperately to heal and feel better, not live in the victim, wounded state anymore.
So when I’m asking you to step away from these overwhelming feelings, I am fully aware it is one of the most difficult thing’s I am asking you to do. There is an edge of pleasure here. In a rational sense of course it make no sense, but we’re not in the realm of the rational – we’re in the subconscious world; we’retriggered and plugged in and unleashing our ‘beast’, whatever version that is for you, feels so tempting and delicious there is a strong part of you that just wants to let go, release into and feel freedom instead of constraint. Our inner child might feel appeased in that moment, but afterwards the crushing ramifications of this in our rational, conscious self can be catastrophic.
When we really begin to ‘get’ what the mirror is in our lives, it can feel overwhelming. But here’s the thing – when we are conscious enough to recognise it, it is so immensely healing – we begin to function authentically, not running off of old stories.
Steps to consider when you have become aware of the mirror in your children:
Do I need to walk away? Is it safer right now not to be near my children? How can I calm myself down and find my way back to balance?
I come from an attachment parenting background, so I get that isolation seems more damaging than offering connection in their darkest moments. However, if you are triggered and on the verge unleashing your beast, you need to remove yourself from the ‘trigger’ so you can shift out of your unconscious and back into your rational/conscious self – not run by emotion.
You will be far more ‘useful’ to your children if you leave and come back calm and present.
Observe this scene with interest – like a historian – this is your history, this was you at some point – what are you displaying as a child? What are you feeling as a parent? What do you want to do to stop it? Was this what your parents did?
Observing a scene with interest and dissecting its individual aspects can not only be healing, but it takes you out of the raw emotion of it all. You have a very physical experience here of both child and parent – you can see what you did as a child, you can see how your parents ‘handled’ you. The real questions are –do you feel compassion for each? Does it shift the way you view your parents behavior when you can feel the way they were? Does it release some of the blame or shame you have held for years?
Have compassion for yourself. When we treat ourselves with kindness we are allowing all aspects of ourselves to be present. When we feel shameful and want to disown our anger, our fear, our violence, we will always come up against ‘road blocks’ to force us to face it and own it as an aspect within ourselves – and until we do we will continue to be ‘triggered’ by the mirrors around us. The path to wholeness is never through disowning, it is through claiming the totality of who you are.
So talk to your fear, your rage, your violence – talk to your inner child. “Hello anger, I see you are here because you are feeling …… and you have learnt from years of wounding to be here to protect me, but its ok, I’ve got this, I’m safe to be vulnerable and connect with my heart”…or whatever version feels calming for you.
Show your children how to come back to balance – experience is the greatest teacher; say to them “mummy is feeling really triggered right now, I need to calm down”. Get yourself back in your body and connected to your heart – dance, run on the spot, yell and scream into a pillow, go for a walk (if you can), write, draw, cook, cry….until you no longer feel fun by the overwhelming emotion…now you are ready to come back to your child. Now your ‘stuff’ is not clouding this scene, it is safe for you to meet your child in their needs and hold their space through it.
Step 4 – Get really honest.
If you shame and bury a reaction you let go into, it is not healing anything. Get real with yourself about what’s really going on….and then share it with one really important person in your life. Be careful who you select, they need to be a true friend and confidant.
When we are snapping regularly and not able to control our fuse, usually it is a symptom of us being out of balance within our day-to-day life – not living as authentically as we would deeply like to. So what are you honouring or dishonouring? What do you need? Are you overwhelmed and need help or change, but haven’t yet asked for it? Does the way your life functions need to change? Do you need more rest or time out? Do you need to get less-busy? Slow life and its demands down? Add something in?….
I know for me that it is always a call for me to be more present to the child I am reacting to – they are calling me in, by getting my attention in a very intense way. If I get really honest with myself in these times, it is usually because I have avoided intensive connection or play time, or our lives are so busy I feel stressed about the logistics of getting everyone everywhere and there are no ‘pockets of connection’.
To be more present, for me, I need to feel more spaciousness within my body. When I feel spaciousness within my body I am physically and emotionally more open and available – I smile more, I enjoy the small moments, I enjoy my life and I am definitely more relaxed.
So, I get really honest with myself that ‘its’ not working, I get honest with my husband that ‘its’ not working and I just say out loud “Things have to change – I need to slow down, I need to let go of time pressures and my daily list and I need his help to do this”. Help refers to ringing him in a moment I’m feeling overwhelmed with what’s not getting done (like the house) and telling him how I’m feeling – knowing his response is to remind me about what’s important and what I can let go, no guilt, no pressure, he doesn’t care, etc…otherwise my perfectionist kicks in and I’m back to feeling constricted and stressed…no spaciousness there.
I then make specific pockets of time to connect with my child – ask your child “What do you think you need?” – they are very likely to have the answer.
With my older kids, it might be playing a sport with them – one on one basketball, cricket, racing round the block, sparring with boxing gloves and pads, wrestling, or just being close, available and around when they’re home from school, cooking food to eat together, laying around, doing their nails (yes, my son loves a nail file and buff!), playing a board game, hanging out in bed for cuddles, or specifically going out for an activity together. With my toddler its getting back into attachment play – make-believe play specifically around the things or themes they are scared of or emotional about, we can literally help them heal with laughter – we’ll be interviewing Marion Rose on this in the podcast soon…
Then the most miraculous thing happens – they become significantly less ‘painful’, their behavior shifts because there is no longer a need for it to be there and my ‘golden’ child comes back again…and, I begin loving motherhood again!
Step 5 – My healing
Your inner child
After the ‘event’ ask yourself – “when I was this, what happened?” Nothing? Something? Your reaction is the pain of your inner… 12 year old, not getting what she needed. Listen to her, connect with that pain and then talk to her “I know you didn’t get what you needed, I see your pain”….or whatever version feels soothing and comforting for you.
A note on slowness – you can’t heal whilst still running around as per usual – you need the quiet spots for contemplation, the freedom to process as your mind unravels and the spaciousness for your body to heal and let go. Let go of what you can – create time. When there is not the time pressure demanding we be somewhere, we find more moments to connect within and reset our body. Treat yourself as you would someone healing from surgery or a newborn – lots of rest, fluids, nourishing food. If you are processing an old programming or belief system, healing an old wound, you are likely to feel very tired. Listen to your body – rest, sleep and go slow.
Reframe and Gratitude
Revisit this ‘memory’ and see where in your life this played out, how it played out and how it served you. Until you come into grace for your parents and the choices they made and into gratitude for how holding onto that hurt, or ‘learnings’ out of the hurt, have served you, you can’t own it for yourself.
Did it make you more resilient? Did it create a drive within you to be self sufficient? Did it drive you to create connections with others around you? Did it create a story that lead on to you doing/studying/achieving something or choosing the partners you have chosen? etc
Keep listing the benefits of this memory, until you feel a wash of gratitude for the ‘sacrifice’ of this wounding, because of where it has lead you to who you are now – would you be without this?
We don’t grow through the happy remember? We enjoy it, we wish we could stay there…but we don’t leave this comfort zone, we don’t create change in our behaviour or lives unless we are forced to…unless there is an element of pain; which forces us to find the pleasure.
Our children have chosen us because we are the best possible parents for them – whatever they are here to learn, discover, create and share – you are an integral part of that – the parts you think you fuck up and the parts you think you nail, either way they are getting learnings and gifts from it. Until we stop judging ourselves, based on what we perceive to be right and wrong, we can’t really be present to the perfection that lies in our parenting journey. They are always together, always present in every moment – pleasure and pain, it is part of being human.