- Written by Jo-Ann Pawliw
Tired Of Losing It...With Your Kids; Your Partner; Yourself?
Perhaps you have found yourself yelling at the kids when you know they don’t deserve it. Maybe you can’t stop crying while reading a news article or watching a movie. Perhaps you find yourself raging to yourself, partner or spouse for no reason. We can feel confused by our reactions when they seem big and inexplicable. Conversely, we can become depressed when we under react and tolerate hurtful behavior.
Recent studies show that emotions drive behavior. The physiology of the brain allows for this. In earlier times, we needed to quickly decide whether we were going to eat or ‘be eaten.’ We didn’t have time for our analytical brain to asses a situation; we had to go by learned instinct.
Today, our learned instinct is what we learned as a child. Most of us have lost sight of how we really feel because we have been taught early on that emotions need to be controlled. So if we have suppressed, restricted or denied our emotions, how do we know how we really feel about anything? If we have been told by our parents and society how to think and how to feel, how could we not move away from our authentic selves and become what others expect of us?
What has all this got to do with losing it with our kids; our partners; ourselves? When we keep a lid on our true feelings and bury them deep inside of us, we become disconnected from them. As a child, some of us were often told:
“That didn’t hurt. You’re fine. Stop crying, you’re all right!”
“It’s not that bad. You’re crying for no reason.”
“Get over it!”
But our perception as children was that it wasn’t all right. To be told that what we were feeling was wrong, or not warranted, was to be told we didn’t really know ourselves very well. We quickly learned to bottle it all up because no one was going to understand us anyway.
So when we never had a chance to feel through our emotions fully and they got put away somewhere within us, they come out at the most inopportune times! Like when we are stressed, when we are sad, or any other time that we feel we are out of control.
What will help us with this? Becoming conscious of what is going on inside of us when we start to feel out of control or sad, works well. This means, when we are trying to get the kids out the door (usually in a hurry because we will be late) and we feel the tension rising, it’s a good idea to stop, take a breath and see what it is that is making us start to yell at the kids. Perhaps it’s because we didn’t leave enough time for the transition, and we are frustrated with ourselves. Maybe it’s because we will be late and not look as ‘together’ at the other end to whomever we are meeting. Whatever the reason, when we can acknowledge what it is, we can deal more effectively in the situation. Our behaviors will not be controlled by our emotions.
This holds true when relating with anyone. When we start getting angry at our partner, is it because of what is really going on in that moment; or is it because we are feeling hurt from something else in our lives? Feeling unheard, invisible or not good enough when we were younger can cause us to get defensive when responding to current situations. We aren’t really hearing what the other person is saying; we are assuming what they mean. This could be because we are still hurt from other experiences that we were never before given a chance to work through. Perhaps we make a big story up in our head that a co-worker/boss/friend is upset with us or doesn’t like us from a casual comment or because they haven’t called us back in a timely fashion. Do we have all the information needed to make that assumption? Often, it’s our old insecurities creeping up because of emotions not dealt with.
Being conscious of what is going on inside of us gives us a choice when handling situations. Understanding our emotions enables us to be better equipped to choose our behaviors; behaviors which match the context we find ourselves in. Although we cannot control how we were responded to long ago, we can control how we respond now. As parents, acknowledging the feelings our children are having and helping them work through and understand them could be one of the greatest gifts we could ever give them.
As adults, taking responsibility for our emotional fitness will lead to more satisfying relationships with others and with ourselves.
Jo-Ann is an Emotional Fitness Coach in Calgary, helping clients understand and manage their emotions more successfully. For more information contact 462-3348.