Finding Emotional Safety
Do you ever question how your child expresses their strongest emotion? Are they learned? Are they inherent?
My 7-year old daughter experiences her strongest emotion by yelling at the top of her lungs and then leaving the situation if she can. When she has surpassed her emotional stress point and can no longer cope, she reaches into her implicit memory bank and utilizes her “go-to” mechanism, YELLING!
At first my reaction was to be very upset with her for treating someone else that way. For me, being upset looks something like YELLING at her myself so that she could hear me enough to stop. Brilliant, right?!
I am aware that my behavior of yelling has been modeled to her and how this correlates with her unconscious response. Her learned behavior is a direct correlation to her life experience. When she is triggered, her coping mechanism is to yell. This is what she has been taught and she only knows to do this.
I decided to start an experiment. I stopped yelling as a form of communication when I’m triggered, and have brought this behavior into my conscious awareness. I am now modeling new behavioral patterns which create new neural pathways. The kids have picked up on this and we are all starting to reframe our reactionary patterns.
I have been enlightened! We now have a new process that our family calls, talking in an uncharged moment! After things have cooled down, we sit and discuss what happened from both perspectives, so that each child has a chance to discuss what they thought happened. If one child starts to interrupt the other, I ensure that the other is understood and will have their chance to talk. After each child communicates their story, I validate them by repeating what they said and asking them if this is what they are saying. After this process is complete, the kids have usually moved on and are ready to stop talking about it. Or they tend to see each other’s point of view and we mutually agree that it was just a misunderstanding. It’s bliss!
Also, my daughter, on her own, has initiated another tactic to find her emotional safety. She brought a chair from her bedroom into our living room space and told me that when she feels she needs a break that she wants to sit in her chair alone without anyone engaging her anymore. This tactic has worked really well as it gives me and the others in our family a visual cue that she wants to stop and process.
We are in the process of developing new neural pathways to deal with stressful emotions and it’s an amazing journey!