When you chose peaceful parenting you may not get much peace for quite a while. What I experienced for many years was far from peaceful. An avalanche of emotions were expressed by my sons that unlocked my own repressed emotions. There was rage, terror, grief and more. It was a FULL ON experience of the full range of human emotions.
This was a stark contrast to my own early years. I somehow got the message as a child that expressing more than a little bit of sadness or grief was not OK. Likewise anger. There was no room for me to express anger. Rage was out of the question. Fear was OK in very small doses but was not to be indulged.
I was a master of repressed emotion.
Being a ”good girl” meant becoming a master of emotional repression.
At the time this was all unconscious. I had no idea I’d repressed emotion until sometime in my 20s when someone referred to me as an “ice queen”. I’d forgotten how to cry. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t get sad much either.
On the surface of my life things seemed just fine, but chaos, drama and all sorts of emotions were beginning to leak out and affect my my personal relationships and my sense of self.
I needed a lot of help and a lot of inner work to start my recovery, but life has a way of bringing all the shadows to the surface. I didn’t have to go looking.
I chose a different path when I became a parent
By the time I had my first child at age 35 I had done years of re-evaluation counseling (co-counselling), rebirthing and spiritual exploration to get back in touch with my feelings.
I knew that I wanted my children to have a very different experience of emotion than I had as a child.
I wanted my children to be able to express emotions freely without judgements and without anyone trying to shut them down. They would not have to fit into a “good boy or girl” mold. I vowed that my sons would be able to cry, scream and shake as much as they needed to.
Little did I know how intense that could become. Be careful what you wish for!
The emotions begin to flow!
A Pandora’s box of emotions was well and truly opened by my first son. As a baby and young child he experienced and expressed more waves of intense emotion, at all hours of the day and night, than I thought was possible.
It was as if he was channeling and expressing the emotions of many generations through his young body.
Needless to say, his experiences of rage, terror and grief ripped open my own defenses and opened the floodgates for my emotions too.
The amount of crying, screaming, wailing, raging and sobbing that has gone on within our home is hard to describe. I have nothing to compare it to, as I have no idea what other families experience behind closed doors, but it seemed like A LOT.
This is what peaceful parenting unearthed in my family. It unearthed the wildness of human emotions in all their force and range.
All the shadows came out to play with all the skeletons in the closet. All the old repressed emotions emerged along with all the stories that go with them. The painbody, as Eckhart Tolle calls it, was fully revealed in all of us. Thank goodness I found Eckhart’s book “A New Earth” during this period. It explained so much of what was happening.
Fortunately, once revealed and seen clearly, the painbody (bundles of repressed emotions and stories) starts to dissolve.
Learning how to deal with emotion
Together, as a family, we’ve been learning how to deal with emotions and how to express them in ways that are adaptive rather than destructive.
There’s been a lot of work done to unlearn the old stories that kept my painbody alive. I gradually discovered that my repressed emotion was bound up with beliefs about past events that were highly distorted. I had been believing things that I realised later were simply not true. There were many beliefs about myself that had to be unraveled too.
In our family it wasn’t ever really a matter of parents teaching children how to deal with emotions. I started out with very little in the way of emotional intelligence, so how could I teach? Instead of me teaching my children, it was a case of each adult and child in our family figuring it out for ourselves in our own way and our own time, within this crucible of our family home.
So much has been released. So much has been integrated. So much is still in process.
Learning how to Listen in Presence
I was inspired by Eckhart Tolle and parenting guru Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training to learn how to listen to my sons in Presence. My sons gave me a chance every day to practice listening to them deeply without getting lost in my own emotional reactions or trying to fix them.
I discovered that the best way to be fully present for my sons while they were having an emotional meltdown was to focus on my own inner peace and listen in silence. When I could get out of my head and focus on Presence I could listen to them without adding to the drama. The big waves of emotion passed more quickly and cleanly, letting them get back to play and learning. I explain more about how to Listen in Presence in my book Joyful Parenting and the Joyful Parenting Course.
Throughout the whole wild, chaotic process that has been our family life for the last 21 years there has been an undeniable amount of noise and drama, but there has also been an ever deepening experience of peace.
Peace has been revealed as the enduring, ever present truth in our lives. Each wave of emotion arises out of peace and dissolves back into peace when it passes.
Peace is stronger and more fundamental than any emotion and is always there to hold and comfort each of us.
Peace-mixed with love-mixed with life force energy is our truth. This is what I’ve discovered through these decades of “peaceful parenting.”