By Christine Falcon-Daigle
When I was a kid, my mom and dad’s parenting skills dictated that I “behave,” be “good,” and be “seen and not heard.”
If I was upset and angry, or scared or anxious, I was taught to keep a lid on it. Tears were not allowed. I learned very early on that my feelings made my dad extremely uncomfortable.
Different Ways Of Dealing With Anger
I had one parent who was a ticking time bomb (dad). I was always walking on eggshells around him, afraid of and never knowing when the next explosion would occur. And I had one parent who never got angry (mom). My mother taught me to stay out of my dad’s way, be submissive and do whatever I could to avoid “making him angry.” Two totally different ways of dealing with anger – neither of which were healthy; neither of which helped me as an adult.
What Am I Feeling?
When I took the Hoffman Process, I learned that most of us grow up with a narrow range of “acceptable emotions.” I was given a page on the first day that listed hundreds of emotions to help me discern what was going on with me, emotionally. This was a new concept for me. I have actually learned how to stop in the moment, check in with myself and ask: What am I feeling right now? Where do I feel this in my body?
Emotions are something we feel in our bodies. I had spent so much time avoiding my feelings, or trying to numb them out with activities and substances, that I was a virtual novice at identifying what I was feeling. This was a revolutionary way of being in my body! Trying to stay present and understand the physical cues from my body is something I’m still practicing on a daily basis – and I’m getting better at it!
Parenting 101: Dropping Down & Tuning In
Recently, I had an experience with my 13-year-old daughter where I could tell she was experiencing a lot of feelings, but she was so shut down, she was having difficulty understanding what was going on with her. I could sense her anger, frustration and fear, and I watched her physically try to block what was happening. It was like watching someone trying to build a dam in a raging river, while the force of the water was building up tremendous pressure. She was like a closed fist. I begged her to tell me what was going on, but she stubbornly refused. Then I had an “ah-ha” moment: I got out the feelings chart from my Hoffman Process.
At first, she refused to even look at it. But I encouraged her, and explained that whatever it was she was feeling, it was okay. Eventually, she felt safe, looked at the chart, and was able to narrow down the range of feelings that she was having. As she talked about them, the closed fist opened, and eventually blossomed like a bud into a flower. I watched in awe as her physical form softened and relaxed.
Behavior is communication. If you’re sensing discontent with one of your kids, share your Hoffman feelings chart with them and tune in.
The True Gift Of Feelings
What we learn in childhood we carry into adulthood. My commitment as a parent is to teach my daughter more tools to deal with her emotions and safe ways to express them. I used to curse my feelings. I saw certain ones – anger, fear, sadness – as problematic for others, inconvenient, unwelcome, and a real burden. Now, I recognize what a true gift they can be. I’m a better parent for it!
For more information or assistance, check out the various resources available from Hoffman: click here.