I am a person who is uncomfortable sitting with an emotion in myself or another for a long period of time, especially if it is one of the more “negative” emotions – sadness, fear, frustration, etc. Sometimes I can hunker down with anger, but hanging out there can be destructive to myself and others. I understand that anger is actually a secondary emotion so I am using it to cover a more painful feeling when I get stuck there. Other times anxiety overtakes, I am no longer present or able to meet the needs of my children in that space.
As a parent, this struggle to tolerate my own feelings spills over into becoming a challenge to be with and in support of my children when they are expressing their emotions. It is a temptation for me to be more about “shutting it down” and making it stop rather than supporting them through it. This week I am getting a lot of practice in that uncomfortable space – I am trying to see it as a chance to learn and grow rather than a hassle and bother. One of our girls is overthinking and really struggling to do a task that is important for her to accomplish. Something that usually takes about 1-2 minutes to accomplish is literally taking hours. It is taking an emotional toll on her and me. But in reality, this is a great time for me to practice being in the uncomfortable place – pushing past my comfort level and learning to tolerate both my own and her emotions through this process. And also a great time for a child who tends to stuff and deny feelings to practice expressing them.
I am learning that the more mindful and honest we are with ourselves and our feelings, the more we can give the same gift to our children. The desire to dismiss emotions and say “you’ll be fine” too quickly teaches our children that feelings are not ok. A rush to reassure someone sends a message that we can’t tolerate whatever is being expressed. Repeating this over and over will lead to children who become adults that deny, repress, shove aside….and there is plenty of information and research out there on the toll this takes on the mind and body.
So this week, I am working to be grateful for this specific challenge in the life of my daughter. I am trying to sit well past my comfort zone in the strong emotions that are being expressed – both internally and by my child. Even though there are times when I feel like I might jump out of my skin, I can hang in there. I don’t have to shut it down. I think this will be a growing and connecting time. And as we sit side by side in discomfort, it may even help both of us to expand our comfort zones.