Reflections #22. Melting into safety.  💌

 

Reflections
Reflecting on my parenting journey, may you see yourself reflected.

Melting into safety
Issue #22, December 2016

To be the parents we want to be with our outer children, we need to learn to parent that way our inner child.

Welcome

Today I share one of those typical examples where I was trying to change my daughter’s behaviour by giving her information (or reminding her over and over) of what I wanted her to do, and that was obviously not helpful because it was not addressing the root cause of her behaviour. I also ponder on how it is that we may know the theory of Inspired or Aware Parenting so well and still find it difficult to apply sometimes.

I want to welcome our new subscribers, many of whom added their name to my mailing list after Marion’s workshops at the beginning of the month. I realised afterward that I wasn’t clear enough about the fact that I have two monthly newsletters: one lists the local Aware Parenting events, and the other is this one, called Reflections, in which I reflect on my parenting journey.

I have added you all to both, but please unsubscribe yourselves if you do not wish to receive this one. I talk about life with my kids, who are 9 and 10, and often the situations might not resonate if you have younger children. But I do believe the principles apply across the board to all ages (adults included!), so I do hope you still see yourself reflected.

Best wishes, Maira

P.S. You will find a definition to all terms in capitals and italics in the Glossary section at the bottom of the newsletter.

A little window into my life

 

My kids tend to be aggressive when angry, I guess because of my confusion around limits and permissiveness due to my own childhood history (for more on that, read my newsletter “Reflections #18, from permissiveness to Loving Limits). But eventually I have managed to attain a level of awareness that allowed me to see their suffering beyond their aggression and stay compassionate and connected to them in spite of their actions.

Learning processes often come in spirals, though, and at times we might feel we are back at a place where we have been before. I find it useful, then, to remind myself that I am not necessarily going backwards, but gaining a deeper understanding of the same issue. This is what I believe it is happening with aggression for me at the moment.

My daughter is 10 and we have been noticing for months a change in the attitude and tone of voice she uses when communicating. It has been relatively easy for me to navigate that up until the last few weeks when, without me even noticing, I went from compassionately responding to her anger, to resisting it.

I began “reasoning” with her and telling her it was not necessary to talk to us like that, that we were not against her but with her, and could she please trust that a win-win solution could be found. I would say all those things with kindness and patience but, really, part of me was judging her outbursts. And of course, it wasn’t serving her, because I was addressing the surface behaviour while ignoring the underlying cause. So after weeks of reasoning and not seeing any change in her, I run out of patience.

Then, for about five days, every time she said or did anything unkind, I felt like I had just been slapped in the face. Even I was surprised by how emotionally loaded where my reactions. I heard my Inner Girl shout over and over “it is not OK; I do not want to be talked to like that!” There was a huge layer of anger on top, but even though I stayed with it, it didn’t bring resolution. In the end, by staying very present, I managed to drop a layer deeper and find the real hurt: “I want to feel safe at home”.

That took me back to when I was 10, the hardest year of my childhood. Sexually abused by dad at home and ostracized at my new school, I was emotionally alone with it because my mum was going through the worst depression in her life. I had nowhere to turn, no one to talk to. And during my Listening Partnership I connected with that 10 year old who yearned for a soft lap to sit on, warm arms wrapped around her, a voice full of tenderness saying: “I know it is hard for you at the moment. I hear you, I understand. I am here, I am with you; we will go through it together”.

The theory behind the practice

There are two interesting things for me in the process I have just described: one, the fact that addressing my daughter’s angry behaviour was as useless as sitting with my own anger, and nothing shifted until I managed to access the deeper layer of needing safety.

The other interesting thing was something I keep coming back to in my Inspired Parenting journey: that, in a difficult situation, often what our children need is exactly the same thing we need; and that if we struggle to meet that need for our little ones, it is possibly because we are not managing to provide that very thing for ourselves.

I’d like to talk about those two things for a moment.

  1. Nothing shifts until we access the Sweet Spot.

I could tell my daughter till the cows come home that ‘this is not an acceptable way of talking to people’, and nothing would change because her need is not to be reminded. She already knows that! Her need is for me to hold that hurt part inside her with loving compassion and very clean boundaries. The “clean boundary” thing, or Loving Limit, is very tricky. However kind and patient we are when talking to children, telling them that they should behave in a different way always carries a judgement and, therefore, is heard as ‘I am not good enough’.

On the other hand, whenever I manage to connect with her inner pain, my heart instantly melts, I am filled with compassion, her behaviour becomes the least of my concerns and her suffering my focus. I might say something like: ‘Oh, dear! What is it?’ My Inspired Parenting antennae fully stretched, I am carefully scanning her face, her body language, really curious as to what is going on inside, wanting to see how I can help… a much better place to address the root of her behaviour.

  1. If we are not managing to meet our children’s needs, it might be useful to check how we are doing with our own.

So we know the theory and sometimes we manage so well, yet at others we are just totally incapable of applying it. What is it? Well, the same as with our children: some inner hurt is getting in the way. In those cases, we need to parent our inner child the way we aim to parent our outer children, and we need to do that either at the same time or, if that is not possible, we need to do the inner work before we attempt to address the outer situation. Otherwise, our inner hurt is likely to leak into the outer situation, making it worse rather than better.

This is what was happening with my daughter. By lecturing her every time, I was trying to placate the fear I felt as a 10 year old which surfaced when she spoke to me angrily; but the only thing I was achieving was making her feel like I felt at her age: overwhelmed with scary emotions and alone to deal with them.

As soon as I was able, during my session with my Listening Partner, to connect with that inner 10 year old Maira, I could see what she wanted: understanding, safety to feel scary emotions, support, a loving presence.

So after the session, whenever my daughter would become aggressive, I would imagine myself holding that little Maira tenderly and I would tell her: ‘I am here, you are safe. I am protecting you. Nothing will hurt you. I hear you, you wish she spoke to you with kindness. Yes, exactly like you do, I understand. It feels unfair, I know. Oh, darling! I am sorry about this. It is hard, I hear you. It so hurts, huh? You so want to be loved! I love you. I know; you do try so hard, you want her to make an effort, too,’ and so on.

Sometimes I had to take myself away so that little Maira could really hear the voice of my Big Loving Mamma. Others I didn’t manage at all, and I would find myself lecturing my daughter again, sounding like my dad and feeling disgusted at preaching respect in a disrespectful way.

Yet, at other times I could instantly melt into safety, fill with compassion and embody that same loving acceptance for my daughter. Then I could see the shift in her, her softening, her coming closer to me and looking into my eyes… without any prompting she would apologise, she would open up… connection restored. Yumm! This is the mother I want to be.


Let me know what you think!
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We can only be with feelings in our child that we can be with in ourselves.
Marion Rose

What’s happening

Aware Parenting Drop-in Support Circle

There is no Circle on the month of January, and from February onwards it changes to the 3rd Tuesday of the month. So the next one will be on the 21st of February 2017 at 10 am.

Remember you need to let us know by 8 am on the morning of that day if you are coming by texting or ringing our mobile numbers (Maira: 0427 088 096 and Shana: 0407 693 500)

Jing Cafe, Byron Bay industrial state
Tuesday 21st February 2017
$10 per session, first one free
Aware Parenting free introductory talks
These are free talks my colleague and friend Shana and I are offering to introduce parents to the basic concepts of Aware Parenting. This is a 45 minute overview of the basics, with lots of space afterwards for your questions, comments and even practice. 

The next talk is happening at
Murwillumbah Library
Thursday 30th March 10 am

Inspired Parenting Glossary

Inspired parenting:
The dictionary defines inspired as ‘aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something by or as if by supernatural or divine influence’. “Inspired parenting” is, for me, the type of parenting we do when we connect to something bigger than ourselves, when we become clear channels through which pours unconditional love.

I have learned (and continue learning!) to parent that way mostly with the help of the Aware Parenting philosophy, as developed by Dr. A. Solter, so the ideas underpinning my Parenting Coaching are based on it. But I also add everything else that has resonated in the past from years of training and personal growth, and that keeps coming my way. Inspired Parenting is the name I have given to my Parenting Coaching business.

Aware Parenting:
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing that has the potential to change the world. Developed by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter and based on current research in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, compassionate, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.

Sweet Spot:
Term created by Marion Rose to indicate the place where pent up emotions are stored up in our system.

Loving Limits:
A term created by Marion Rose to describe the pairing of gentle empathy with a clear limit, in a loving and connected manner. In both our behaviour and language, we communicate a combination of a deep sense of unconditional love and acceptance (with statements like: ‘I see that you’re upset, I see that you really want that, I’m here, I love you, I’m listening, I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help’) with a limit to a behaviour (for example: ‘I won’t let you have any more, I’m not willing for you to, I am not going to allow it right now, mummy says no’). For more on Loving Limits, read Marion Rose’s article http://www.marionrose.net/loving-limits/.

Big Loving Mamma:
An archetype sort of character I have created that encompasses and integrates two distinctive groups of qualities. On the one side, Big Loving Mamma is the nurturer of life, with big heart, big breasts, hips and lap. She loves listening and witnessing, and she does it so well that she makes troubles melt and joys multiply. The nurturer is tender, soft, delicious, comforting, warm, gentle and sweet. On the other side, Big Loving Mamma is the protector of life, with piercing eyes which see beyond the apparent and big arms that can protect from any harm. She can be counted upon, trusted to stay calm in the storm and to be a safe refuge from anything life throws at us. The protector is powerful, reliable, grounded, no-nonsense, solid, clear and strong.

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