You’d been doing so well, holding it together, keeping your anger at bay. School is out, kids are bored, and you’ve been a veritable supermom, calmly handling all of the flashes of attitude, the “I’m booooooored,” and the non stop fights between siblings. You have totally held it together, smiled for them, hid your own frustration so that they wouldn’t feed off of it. What a mensch you've been!
Except...well...the ugly truth is that you’ve been biting your tongue so hard it’s calloused. In fact, you’re lucky you have any tongue left at all. And this morning, you lost it. Maybe it was over a complaint about having to go to camp? Or the bathing suit that was left at the pool yesterday, for the millionth time? Or a meltdown over who gets the last popsicle (by the way, it should be you, you should totally have that last popsicle). It doesn’t matter what it was, exactly. The result is that you let it all loose, unleashed your frustration through a raised voice and an unbitten tongue, and basically lost control completely.
Now, your charming, delightful child has stormed off in in a hurricane of tears and shouts, slammed her door and closed you out.
In a moment like this, you may be feeling a whole lot of feels: anger, resentment, disappointment, fear. You might be thinking a whole lot of thinks: she is never going to learn anything, I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent, I just turned into my own mother…
This is your moment. Right now, this is the time you can scurry back to the control panel of your own mind and start to take some action.
Read on to learn how you can tap into your own mental potential to gracefully work through emotionally charged moments like these. And, for a list of tips that you can quickly access in the moment, along with some other tools to gain control of your emotions, click here to subscribe and I’ll send it your way!
Let’s talk about what’s going on inside your mind in this moment. Often, the brain is on automatic. It just fires off thoughts and stories that create emotions, and it happens so dang fast that you don’t see it happening at all. Instead, the only thing you notice is that you’re yelling, and your child is crying. It may seem like you went straight from Point A (the lost bathing suit) to Point B (the yelling). But in fact, there are many points in between, where your brain briefly stops to create thoughts. Then, the thoughts inform the feelings, and only then do you get the action. But because the brain is such an incredibly fast super computer, these stops between A and B are nearly invisible.
Key word: NEARLY invisible. With the right tools, you can find those thoughts. And that is a powerful way to start taking some control over your actions.
To do this, set a five minute timer. Close your eyes. Sit down, maybe (who wants to just stand there for 5 minutes, amirite?). So sit down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Now, imagine a movie screen in your minds eye. On it, you’re watching the thoughts that are going on in your brain right now. They may take the form of images, or words, maybe some full sentences. If you’re new at this, the movie version of your thoughts may appear as though there are multiple projectors on at once, overlapping on the screen. It may be chaotic. That’s ok, just watch, as an audience member.
Within these five minutes, some of the thoughts on the screen might pull you away from being an audience member and invite you to become an actor on the screen. In other words, you detach from the present moment and get completely lost in the (very engaging) story line on screen. When that happens, just notice it and put your butt back in the theater seat. Keep watching. See what you notice. That’s all. And do it again. And again.
After the timer goes off, you may or may not actually feel better. Whatever you feel, that’s what you feel. The point of the exercise is to begin to understand some of that automatic programming. For example, you may have noticed that one thought that keeps showing up is “I’m a terrible parent,” maybe partnered with a memory of being yelled at by your own parent. Once you can see that thought clearly, you are empowered to question it. You can begin to call to mind times that you weren’t a terrible parent at all, you can start to ask yourself what standards you’re holding yourself to as a parent in the first place, you can zero in on feelings of shame or fear that come up.
Only after you have done this internal examination can you effectively change your actions. You have learned why you yelled. It wasn’t because your child left her bathing suit behind at the pool, not really. It was because you felt deep fear or shame or confusion that triggered a big response. Now that you’ve uncovered this, you don’t have to bite your tongue bloody for months, because you have decreased the intensity of the emotion that created the desire to yell.
The best way to make this practice effective is to do it daily, no matter how you’re feeling. That way, when you are emotionally triggered, you can more easily change gears to this mindful exploration, because you’ve been practicing.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to tap in to your brain’s power for change, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a curated package of tips and tools that you can use in the moment.