Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Metaphor in Real Time

The other night my five year old refused to go to sleep.  I myself was exhausted.  I let her play some games on my laptop for awhile.  I could barely keep my eyes open and as the clock pressed on, I finally told her “lights out.”  Enter temper tantrum.

She started crying loudly.  I TRIED TO REASON WITH HER.  “Honey, you have to go to school in the morning, you have to go to sleep.”  She cried louder.  I DEMANDED SHE STOP. “You have to stop crying now!” Her crying began to include hiccups and snot bubbles.  I THREATENED HER. “You won’t play at your friends for a week.”  Her arms and legs joined in, kicking wildly.  This is the point where I lost my cool.  “CUT IT OUT. STOP CRYING. SHUT UP!” The crying reached fevered pitch with full out convulsions.  And that’s when it hit me.

I took a deep breath, pulled her close to me and said “go ahead and cry, I hear you.”  I stroked her back and gave her full out permission to express her emotions.  I imagine you can guess what happened next.  In a few short minutes she was asleep in my arms.

I had just experienced a metaphor, in real time.  A metaphor for how our own thoughts and emotions behave.  When we experience a negative thought or emotion our reactions are much the same as they were for me with my daughter.  We try to rationalize.  Trying to convince ourselves why we shouldn’t feel the way we do.  We try to reason with the voice that tells us we are not good enough.  We try to push the feeling and thoughts away- with shear force of will.  And then we reach our breaking point.  We can’t take it any longer.  We become willing to do whatever it is we need to do to quiet what’s inside, even when it’s self destructive and is out of alignment with who we know ourselves to be (for me this used to involve food, among other things.)  All of these methods ultimately fail.  The negative feelings and beliefs only seem stronger for all our efforts.

When I gave my daughter the permission to have her negative feelings, they seemed to magically subside. I have experienced the same thing happen when I have welcomed and acknowledged my own thoughts and emotions- instead of trying to bully or escape them.  It seems slightly counterintuitive at first- how can I welcome negativity? However it is simply noticing and allowing them to be, that seems takes away their power over us away.

The next time you notice a negative thought or emotion try something different.  Instead of getting ready for a fight or running away with self destruction, draw ‘what is’ closer.   Tell it you see it, you hear it…allow it to be.  Welcome it without prejudice.  Notice what happens when you do. 

2 comments:

Fresh and Feisty said...

Oh yeah. So hear you. Being a kind parent is so much like being kind to ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

a beautiful, thought provoking post, and a good tactic!