Emotional blackmailing…whew sounds ominous! Right? And I’m the first to admit that I participate in this dynamic in my relationships #cringe. It’s what I do when I’m not setting healthy boundaries about how I treat myself- like we talked about in the last blog.
If I’m not willing to do the practice of offering loving kindness to my internal experience, I’ll go out to my people and shame or blame, or overpower, or abandon them to get out of my discomfort.
Even more so I will bind them in a way, I will shut down their experience, with my anxious energy, to control my environment so I don’t have to feel what is arising in me.
This is a big one, so let’s slow it down and soften a bit.
Take a few deep breaths, and put your hand on your heart, that’s what I’m doing as I write this because it’s a big part of my practice too…
(I actually took my hands off the computer keys- pausing to slow down and really notice the energy of what I’ve already said up there, maybe you pause and close your eyes before reading on).
Oh, hey- you’re back… I am too so let’s keep going.
Remember the example from last week? If not go read that one first here.
My daughter asks for a snack- and in a split second I am back to my early conclusion of, no matter what I do around here, no one cares, I’m trying so hard, and it’s never enough! I am not enough! I am unlovable!
From that place if I don’t explore that early belief and become more aware of it, I will put all my attention on my daughter and how demanding she is for asking.
If I go the route of emotionally blackmailing I might-
Shame her- Don’t you see EVERYTHING I do around here? For EVERYONE?
Blame her- Why are you ALWAYS hungry? Are you EVER full?
Withdrawal – I’m tired of you ALWAYS asking me for things, I’m so done with you!
(clue– everything/nothing/always are key words in detecting young energy or young conclusions- when I hear myself saying them, I know after practicing that something tender in me needs some loving kindness- do you use those words sometimes about your child?)
I make her wrong, bad, selfish, and rude in an attempt to get my own needs met.
Of course, as soon as I do this I immediately feel horrible- I notice I am acting exactly how I don’t want to. My deepest desire as a mama is that my children are free to be themselves- and here I am casting all this emotional blackmail based on a conclusion I made long before my kiddo was even a figment of my imagination.
That conclusion that no matter how hard I try I am never enough- that I am unlovable.
Again, she just asked for a snack.
When I first recognized this I then realized I went from all that attention out to all the attention in on myself. I felt HORRIBLE about perpetuating an environment where kids were made wrong and bad and responsible for adults’ comfort. YUCK!
That is NOT my intention at all. But here I was, doing that. So I beat myself up and landed back at my early conclusion. That, no matter how hard I try I am never enough. I am a horrible person.
So with attention all out on my girl, I was emotionally blackmailing her to stay away from the discomfort of my early conclusion.
With my attention all in I was self-aggressing to get away from my early conclusion.
Both are not serving my greater desire of being present with my daughter and are centered on this early conclusion.
So the secret sauce here is to turn toward that early conclusion- really take this part in- and recognize how precious it was that you went there.
Remember most likely you were trying to take care of yourself, your internal experience, and the way you behaved hit this same wall in your parents that your child has just innocently hit in you, and you were left to conclude you were wrong, bad, rude, mean, horrible.
SO, of course, you are going to want to bind them, to make your environment safe again, and yet, now you can check out, are you really in danger? And stop taking your child’s experience as an emotional threat.
This is HUGE! When your kiddo is asking for a snack? Or won’t get off the screen? Or won’t get their shoes on when you’ve asked 40 times!
Slowing way down inside of yourself, notice what’s arising. What are you saying to yourself? What are your sensations? How are you treating yourself?
I know you have to get out the door and I’m asking you to slow down. It was my experience that until I actually gave myself these crucial moments to notice what was arising in me, to see my part in the dynamic, we were powerless to get anywhere, out the door or to any kind of harmony in our relationship.
Because when I am willing to attend to the emotional component in me, and not project that out by binding my child with emotional black mail- parenting becomes so practical- my energy can now go into the things we need to attend to in our environment so we can have success.
If you think about it- parenting is very practical, yeah? It’s very task oriented. So just watch where it becomes very emotional. See where you put your attention? Like with the snack- my girl is asking for a snack, I have systems in place that support us, and I can simply remind her, or find out what I have to offer in that moment.
I did a really cool experiment with some parents I was speaking with this last summer at the festival in Lithuania- maybe you can imagine it a bit if you will.
I asked them- put your attention inside, to your internal experience- close your eyes, notice the center of your body from your bum to the top of your head…just notice what you notice without trying to change or fix or make it different. Notice your breath.
And then I asked them- now put your attention out here on me… on this room…on the people around you… on your environment, again- what do you notice? No changing or fixing… just noticing… your experience….
Back inside, on your center, from your bum to your head… what do you notice….
And again- back out… on the room, on what’s around you, your environment….
Try it- what do you notice? Attention in, attention out… attention in, and then out…
There is power there, yes? Your personal power, your awareness.
Now consider your parenting- where do you put your attention? And when? Take some time to really notice this one if you can.
I like to think of attention as the function of awareness. I imagine it as a flow of energy with current, or force.
I heard a phrase once- energy flows where attention goes.
Again- don’t try to fix, change or excuse, or defend, just notice.
Where you put your attention is where you put your relational empowerment.
Attention all out on binding your child is emotionally blackmailing them. It’s one-sided.
Attention all in on your conclusion is emotionally blackmailing yourself. It’s one-sided.
Imagine your attention in balance- out, in, out, in. Like breath.
When I noticed this dynamic alive in my parenting I just started noticing- out, in, out, in.
I considered the early conclusion that had me stuck in all out or all in, desperately trying to feel safe, to feel loved.
Out, in, out in.
I offered a new option to my young experience of unconditional love from a more grounded and balanced place of dual attention- Of course, you did this Dear One, when you were young, to feel in the love- and now you are safe, here as an adult, in this body to feel the feelings.
Out- I am safe.
In- I am Safe.
Out- I am Safe.
In- I am Safe
When I recognized that I was safe and I wanted to treat myself with kindness- my boundary setting changed and in Purejoy we are working on some new content that will be out soon to support you to do the same.
Again in the Purejoy view, we say a healthy boundary is what is ok with me and not ok with me about how I treat myself! NOT about how others treat me.
I have this option available most of the time in my parenting.
Back to the example: When my girl asks for a snack and I am tired at the end of the day. I notice both attention out, and in, balanced and grounded.
Out, she is asking for a snack.
In, I have a bit of tension, I am tired, I want to be done making food.
Here we are.
I say to both of us, Awe Love, of course… you want what you want, and I am here.
In, I offer myself loving-kindness in the place of my early conclusion that my daughter did not cause and cannot fix.
Out, I let my girl know I am done making food for the day but we have the snack drawer she is always welcome to and I am willing to give her 3 ideas for food she can make. It’s very practical.
We both stay present in the reality of this moment of our relationship. I take care of myself and my experience, she carries on with hers.
This is Purejoy!
If you’re curious about this topic or any others that I have been writing on in the blog- head over to our Facebook Practice Page where I will be answering questions about the Purejoy Parenting view.