When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel.
We use (emotions) to make everything secure and predictable and real again, to fool ourselves about what’s really there.
~Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
My childhood home was an unsafe place to be. My stepfather was violent and abusive and an alcoholic. Hence I had early training in dysfunction and its resultant numbing to the reality of one’s existence.
When children are loud or wild or disruptive I begin to feel a rising panic. In my childhood home loud children were hit, hurt, shamed. I learned well my role of placating the abuser and simultaneously quelling the chaos.
When my children are wild and noisy my reflex is still to panic and quell and placate.
I have observed this dynamic during all of my 11+ years as a parent. I have noodled about its origins and fretted over how to undo the damage. But until I read the Pema Chodron book quoted above, I didn’t have the resources to begin to unravel this issue.
When I walk into the living room and find toys, food, discarded miscellany and squabbling children I feel panic building. I have a choice at that moment. If I give in to the panic I start barking orders and fussing and (I’m sorry to say) shaming the children.
But my other choice is to Breathe and Be.
This option allows me to sit for a moment and survey the ‘damage.’ It allows me to be watchful and see that no one is coming to hurt the children. It allows me a moment to feel what I am feeling and when I have settled into that, put together a plan of action.
This works. Stopping and observing and calming is healing and far more functional.
If I can stop and ask what it is I’m avoiding, what emotion I don’t want to feel, what fear I don’t want to face, I can defeat the panic.
If I can resolve to move neither left nor right but to stay right in that moment, right in that uncomfortable feeling, I can be a healthier, more peaceful person. And a better parent.