I had just spent about half an hour doing the Aware Parenting Dance with my daughter, and she had had several good laughs and cries. We were finally in bed. She was thinking about what had just happened and realising how it all worked: she asked for something, I set a Loving Limit, she had a cry about it while I listened compassionately, and she felt a lot more peaceful afterwards. I could almost see her neuronal pathways firing as she reflected and came to conclusions.
‘Sometimes I feel like I want to cut myself, or jump from the veranda on the pond side [three stories high] so that I can have a cry’ she explained. ‘But I am scared’. She searched for a way to explain. ‘It’s like the good spirit tells me not to jump, and the bad spirit tells me to do it.’
It reminded me of the Cherokee story of the grandparent talking to the children about the white and black wolves inside (see below). I suppose that’s were she got the image from. For a second, I was worried about her confession of self-harming impulses. Then I remembered we all have horrible thoughts sometimes; the important thing is not the thought, but whether we act upon it.
‘I wouldn’t call them good and bad spirits’ I replied.
‘I just don’t know how else to explain it!’
‘I’d say there is a part in you that knows it needs a big cry, and it’s looking for a way to help it come out. But there are other ways of helping it, like what we’ve been doing tonight’ I offered.
‘Yes, but now I feel SO tired!’ she moaned.
‘Maybe it’s like when we’ve been on a very long walk, and we feel exhausted but so good about what we’ve achieved…’ I suggested.
Her brother chipped in, recalling situations when he, too, felt like a cry. ‘Sometimes, when a boy from school is mean to me, I feel very sad. And sometimes I forget that it is the pain in his heart coming out and I get angry at him’. I looked at him admiringly and nodded.
‘I have a tummy ache from all the crying’, said his sister. She needed some TLC, so I cuddled her lovingly. She melted into the cuddle, and her pains and aches melted, too. They soon fell asleep, and I sat between the, marvelling at their level of awareness.
The Cherokee story: A group of Cherokee children has gathered around their grandfather. They are filled with excitement and curiosity. That day there had been a quite tumultuous conflict between two adults and their grandfather was called to mediate. The children are eager to hear what he has to say about it.
One of the children pops the question that puzzles him: “Grandfather, why do people fight?”
“Well” the old man replies “we all have two wolves inside us, you see. They are in our chest. And these wolves are constantly fighting each other”.
He nods. “Yes, in my chest too”. He surely has their attention now. Grandfather continues. “There is a white wolf and a black wolf. The black wolf is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The white wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. They battle constantly”. Then he stops.
It’s the child that asked the initial question that can’t handle the tension anymore. “But grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replies: “The one that we feed, my son, the one we feed”.
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