It’s one thing to know how you should communicate with your children. There are hundreds of books out there with great advice, and I am guessing you have probably read a few yourself.
I have, and have found some of them very good.
And yet- until recently I had still been making the same mistakes over and over. I knew consciously how I should have been responding to my children, but what I hadn’t fully realised was how my responses were coming from behavioural patterns which were deeply ingrained in my subconscious.
My biggest cause for anxiety was saying no to my children. If they made a request that I didnt feel comfortable about I would immedietely feel that tightness in my stomach. I would then either react with a ‘no’ that came out in a passive-aggressive way (for example I might let out a loud sigh, my voice would sound harsh and irritated and I could sometimes lay on a guilt trip on my kids for even asking), or else I would say yes, and then regret it and give my kids a hard time for putting me in that position. For years I was blind to the fact that I even did this. It was my ‘normal’ way of being, and the knot of anxiety that I felt was such a constant companion to me that I didnt know there was another way to be.
This anxiety was not just limited to my children either. I would feel anxious in the company of many people, but the anxiety just ticked away in the background in such a way that I could just get on with things and try to ignore it. It was just who I was- or so I thought.
But recently, I have had an epiphany as to why I was like that, and with this realisation I have felt the knot unwind, and I am finally freeing myself from the fear.
So what was this realisation?
It was this: I had learned from very early childhood to become a people-pleaser. It was a coping mechanism I had developed, initially in response to my family, and later in response to the society I lived in. Unconsciously, I had made the decision that if I am nice and sweet all the time, if I bend over backwards to please people, then people would like me and I would be spared from anger, criticism or rejection. That decision that I made in very early childhood shaped the way that I opperated in the world for over forty years.
Until I became conscious of it.
The epiphany that I had was that when I am feeling anxious, or when I am reacting in a way that is passive-aggressive, I am operating from my ‘wounded-child‘ place, and this comes from fear. Realising this (I mean fully realising, not just intellectualising it) has made me able to let go of that fear, embrace my adult self and operate from love istead. And I can tell you -it feels great! I feel calmer, and able to say no without the suffering. One of my children even pointed out to me that he much prefers it when I say ‘no’ calmly with no drama, even more than saying yes with the guilt trip. If I can’t decide on the spot whether to say yes or no I just tell them that I need time to think about it.
I have learned that I am not responsible for other people’s anger or harshness. People who react to the world with aggression are also acting out of fear. They, too, are acting from their wounded- child place, but rather than trying to please like I was, their coping mechanism is to try to control by force. It is a very lonely place to be, because they need love but they push people away.
My own experiences as a parent have provided me with valuable insights and helped me in my journey to becoming a parent mentor. As a mentor, It is my job to sit with the parent, and to provide unconditional acceptance and all the space they need to uncover their own unconscious fears and behaviours so that they can bring them to the light, and discover how good it feels to heal their wounded child, and parent their children (and themselves) from their adult self.
I can say from experience, it is a journey well worth taking!