One of the most profound areas of torture for many people is in the realm of parenting.
One of my favorite graduate school psychology professors said “the key to being successful in parenting is being willing to be hated”.
This morning a thoughtful and brilliant client came to our session having written down all her judgments about her two daughters hitting each other, ages six and eight. There they were at the kitchen table, and one of them lunges at the other, who then punches the first in the face.
The mother, my client, then screamed.
Sometimes it may feel like the biggest emotional moments are right in the presence of our children. That has been the case for me, just like this dear client.
It’s really quite funny LATER, to look back at the scene. And looking back is a very necessary step, frame by frame, for the inquiry process. Getting curious about what bugged me most of all, why I “lost it” in that moment, why I “couldn’t take it anymore”.
Once when my children were much younger than they are now, early in inquiry, they were bickering in the back seat of the car while I was driving. I could feel the geyser of anger coming from the center of my stomach….oh no, here it is!
What are the painful thoughts in that moment? You don’t even have to be a parent really to identify these kinds of thoughts. Imagine yourself in a situation where children are yelling, fighting, hitting, calling each other names….maybe you’ve even seen that in a movie.
(Yes, I know, adults appear to do these things too).
- They should not yell
- It is too noisy
- They should treat each other with respect
- This noise has to STOP
- There is nothing I can do
- Here is an example of the selfishness of human nature
- I could get hurt if I intervene
- I’m a terrible mother/father!
- I need to know what to do!!!!!
To work with this moment as if it has something incredible to offer, an understanding, rather than just wanting to get away from those loud, mean children, or make them stop, is an entirely different experience of this moment.
“See if you can catch yourself complaining in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness”. ~Eckhart Tolle
Instead of feeling like a victim of these people who are fighting in my presence, I write down my beliefs. They are ones that have been passed along from generation to generation before me, what children should or should not do, how they should or should not be, and what it means that these children, who are apparently MINE (question this) are behaving this way.
What is the most frightening thing that could happen if they keep fighting?
My client answered immediately: they will hate each other always, they will refuse to return home for Thanksgiving, I will be a grandma without my daughters here together, they will not support each other when I’m gone.
Can we really know that it’s true that these hitting children are full of rage that will last for years? What if there is nothing to be afraid of? What if I am enough, I can do what needs to be done, even if I’m not sure what it is?
What if they should yell, it is not too noisy, they are naturally respectful, the noise does not have to stop. What if this is an example of the passion and love in human nature, and that I won’t get hurt if I intervene.
“In spite of the seven thousand books of expert advice, the right way to discipline a child is still a mystery to most fathers and… mothers. Only your grandmother and Ghengis Khan know how to do it”. ~Billy Cosby
All I can do when I feel upset with children is, go back and look again, after the emotion has passed. What do I believe about this scene, this situation? Inquire and learn. Either we believe our thoughts or we don’t. Believing them keeps the pattern running. Questioning takes the intensity right out of it.
You don’t need to know what to do. Just question your thinking.
With love, Grace
Turning Relationship Hell To Heaven In-person Workshop Saturday and Sunday
June 2-3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington