It is inevitable. All parents will at some point experience unpleasant feelings such as anger, fear, anxiety, distress and unfortunately a fairly large majority will “drown” in a sea of unnecessary pain and negative thoughts because of what is happening inside them – how they react to these unpleasant feelings and thoughts.
Today I will introduce you to a useful unhooking practice that will help you refocus your attention on what you have to do and accept the inevitable pain and anguish that the parent’s role has.
This unloading practice is simple but will require patience and perseverance in practice especially when you start to apply it for the first time. It is based on the concept of acceptance (not resignation) and aims to help you improve your relationship with yourself by creating a stable and calm attitude to face what your experience as a parent brings.
The inner voice tells you, “I feel like I’m going to explode,” “I’m not good enough”, “I’m incapable of managing these kids and the situation,” “Something bad is going to happen again,” “They are ungrateful, they are never satisfied”. Observe your body that has taken a fight position such as clenched and sweaty hands, curved back and short and intense breathing. You look ready for battle, but with whom?
When you are in this situation you need an emotional and physical restart, a practice that will bring you back to your here and now role as a parent.
The steps: Accept – Connect – Focus
Accept. When you start feeling physical or emotional pain it is helpful to allow it to exist, to observe it carefully and how it changes and transforms until it subsides and disappears. Any attempt on your part to try to banish fear, control stress or think positive thoughts to forget the negative ones will have the opposite effect. While you will be temporarily relieved, whatever unpleasant feeling you tried to control will come back louder making you feel helpless and desperate.
Do not confront the inner voice that attacks you, nor control your thoughts or distract yourself. Do not judge whether the voice is right or not, whether the thoughts are true or not. You will fall into the vicious circle of confrontation with yourself. Listen and create a distance from the voices and thoughts saying “Here is the voice that wants me to believe that I am incompetent”, “Here are the thoughts that distract me from what I want to do”
Connect. When we are in a charged state we have no sense of the tension that our body experiences nor the postures it takes (e.g., fight position with clenched fists, defensive position with a curved back, sweaty hands and muscle tension, etc.) It is helpful at this point to connect with your body and change posture by relaxing the muscles. Begin to breathe slowly and steadily through your nose until the lungs are completely full and exhale through the mouth until a normal airflow is established. Stretch your body. Press your feet on the floor and stretch your arms. Can you feel the pressure? Relax and repeat.
Focus. Another effect of the charged state is that our conscious observation is reduced and many times we act reactively and automatically without giving it a second-thought (e.g., we utter insults, we make abrupt and nervous movements, etc.) bringing images from the past where we were hurt or the future that we fear. It is necessary to restore our focus to the present moment. Observe where you are and what you are doing where you are, what you are listening to, focus your attention on what is useful at that moment, what you want to do.
The goal of unhooking is not to get rid of unpleasant thoughts and feelings forever, but to see them as they really are – just words – and to stop arguing with them. Do not expect that with this practice will make you happy and do not use it to control thoughts and feelings.
The practice of unhooking aims to free you as parent from the pressure you feel when your thoughts “bombard” you, to release your time and energy and invest them in meaningful activities with your children and not to a pointless rumination. Remember that you are human and that there will be times when you will forget the practice suggested here. Continue with your practice.
If you are interested in unhooking practices book an appointment with us!
Harris, R. (2008). The happiness trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Trumpeter Books.