Have you heard the term emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
Growing up I learned to prize the values of mental intelligence- especially academic, and even physical intelligence or prowess, and yet learned very little about emotional intelligence.
Becoming a parent, however, revealed that emotional intelligence was something I was sorely lacking.
Personally, I had been through years of therapy, practiced loads of spiritual work, and done tons of reading, and hardly anyone offered insights into the importance of the emotional relationship between parent and child.
I found myself shouting at, shaming, and guilting my daughter- behaviors I swore I would never do. It shocked me into recognizing how emotionally immature I actually was!
I remember starting my day with the best intentions to be a calm, kind, and loving Mama. Then, almost without fail, I’d end up yelling, pushing, or in some way forcing my agenda on my daughter by mid-morning. At that moment- trying to get her to change her behavior to make me feel better, I felt quite justified in the self-righteous attitude of being “in charge”. Once I successfully overpowered her, I fell into a self-aggressive pit of guilt and shame.
Why couldn’t I break this pattern? I “knew” better, yet having no models for emotional maturity in my family, I had a blind spot to truly understand what parenting with emotional maturity was.
In western culture, we strongly focus on physical maturity as well as intellectual maturity and place a much lesser value on emotional maturity.
Did your mom or dad sit down and teach you how to be effectively selfish by setting healthy personal boundaries for yourself? Probably not.
I meet with a lot of families and oftentimes I see those who are highly intelligent by these cultural standards- loving, giving parents no less, who are entirely overwhelmed on an emotional level when it comes to parenting. As long as their child is behaving in a way they deem appropriate they are fine, and yet when their child won’t listen- BAM! The parent finds themselves whining, screaming, blaming, name-calling – all things young children do when they are activated.
This is the function of the amygdala in its full activation – that primal part of the brain that kicks in when perceiving a threat to survival. Should you actually be under threat, it is highly intelligent behavior to yell and scream and get wild to ensure that whatever is threatening will be frightened away. But my guess is that is not the way you want to behave with your four-year-old!
I created the SafeSeat process to support myself and others in having a sacred space to emotionally grow ourselves up.
Rather than shame and blame myself, I choose to go to a place of safety when I see a behavior in my child that seems bad or wrong and my primal brain is triggered.
Moving to my SafeSeat, especially after ‘acting out’ my young emotional strategies, I bring deep self-awareness to the younger one inside that had a need, that was hurting, that was trying her hardest to be seen, heard, and understood, and never learned the skill set of emotional maturity.
This week when something happens in your parenting that activates your primal survival strategy- use your awareness to check in.
What sensations am I experiencing in my body?
Are they dangerous in this moment or just uncomfortable?
If not dangerous, am I willing to offer kindness to the one in me that feels young?
In my Safe Seat, turning back through self-awareness I see, hear and understand the one that needs my support instead of trying to get my child to take care of me.
This is the first step to understanding that your child is not causing your pain, nor can she fix it. They are simply activating a need or feeling that has always lived inside of you and never had a safe way to come out of hiding.
In making this choice- notice a part of yourself is awakening, seeking love and attention and it is a great gift to offer deep loving-kindness toward those feelings and needs.