Changing Emotional Habits – Part 2 of 3
I have a tendency to over-react with anger when my kids don’t listen. I don’t want to do that anymore. I spent the last two weeks exploring the reasons for my anger. I must admit that this week felt like a walk in the valley of darkness. I was mining through memories from my childhood that were painful and heartbreaking. Thankfully, as I worked through the truth of my experiences, I emerged from the dark with a renewed sense of lightness and awareness. I sincerely hope, that by sharing some of the traumatic parts of my journey, I help you feel less alone on your journey.
We learn what we live
I grew up in a household where I wasn’t heard. There was a lot of stress and fighting between my parents. There was no space for other voices. After my parents’ divorce, my mom was overwhelmed with feelings of shame and guilt. She had no capacity for the emotions of others. Although my basic needs were being met, my social and emotional needs were being neglected. When I wanted to talk with my mom about things that were happening with friends or at school, I was told to “get over it” or “tell someone who cares”. The door was closed to my feelings and, as a result, I grew up with the belief that my feelings don’t matter.
Even after my mom’s diagnosis of clinical depression, my compassion was mistaken for pity and she would say, “you don’t know how it feels”… Eventually, I stopped speaking to her about my feelings altogether.
What I didn’t know then is that I was surpressing a lot of anger and resentment toward my mom for years of disrespect.
Identifying my emotional habit to get angry
I identified my anger response when my first child was a toddler. My daughter would throw tantrums as toddlers do when they are learning to communicate their feelings. I would get frustrated and angry when she didn’t listen. I often responded from my inner child’s fixed habit of thought: “My feelings don’t matter.” Instead of responding to her need with a calm and comforting voice, I would raise my voice and demand to be heard. Essentially, I was putting my need to be heard over her need to communicate.
The same thing happens now when my kids resist and defy the rules. I understand that their behaviour is normal given their ages (11 and 13); however, when they don’t listen, I often find myself going back to that place of feeling unheard. I get angry and I put my need to be heard over their need to express themselves.
A new narrative
I realize that going back isn’t helping anyone to move forward so it is time for me to change my emotional habit. I want to create an environment where everyone feels seen and heard. Moving forward, when a listening issue arises, I will think “our feelings matter.” This is my new mantra, my solid belief, and my new approach to emotional situations. I am choosing to respond with words and actions that are helpful for me and my kids. Here are some clear reminders that I keep posted around my house:
- Be clear about what you want (everyone feels seen and heard) and dialogue with your mind (“our feelings matter”)
- Don’t give power and voice to the negative idea/thought
At times, the path leads to a fork in the road where you have an opportunity to choose a new direction and form a new habit. How do you want to respond in triggering situations? With more patience? With more grace? With more compassion? Choose the path of greater purpose. This is the path to authenticity and well-being.
PS. I have an emotional habit of fearing the worst when my kids get sick. Next time, I’ll share with you the root cause of the fear and how I am changing the habit. Whewwww. Excavation is hard work. Thank you for helping me to clear the path.
Let’s journey together.