Having kids is intense. To begin with, there’s nobody you’ve ever cared so much about. You care for these people with every fiber of your being. Every cell in your body feels connected to this being that is your child.
And the guilt is immense.
And the worry is huge.
And the anxiety can get off the charts.
Simply put, we have a lot of feelings for and about our children, and our entire consciousness, in all of its dimensions, engages with whether or not they’ll thrive or fail.
How to Understand Your Unconscious
John was angry at his son, because he wouldn’t help him take the trash out on Tuesdays. He really resented how little his son, Jarred, to help keep things tidy and in order. Jarred responded by recoiling from his Dad. The mother, Alma, was criticizing John about it. “Stop yelling at him – I WILL HELP YOU TAKE OUT THE TRASH!”
“NO YOU WON’T!” John said, feeling undermined, and misunderstood. And disrespected and sabotaged.
When families deal with rigidity and anger, you can’t move forward. You need help. John didn’t want to come to terms with his feelings of being unheard and unseen, and disrespected. He wanted his son to take those feelings away by taking out the trash, but children have to be asked about every time to do things, so the resentment mounted. John kept finding his family thwarting him, and it only made him angrier and lonelier, which made him scream louder so somebody would hear him.
Areas of mystery, dread, confusion, conflict and worse, are the best way to start to attack toxic unconscious forces, not by pushing them under the rug or medicating them (although both of these strategies have their place.)
Instead, they are the royal road to deeper understanding. When John understood that so many unmet needs were coming up, and that he had so much despair around them, he could start to focus on himself more self-compassionately. He could bring his wife Alma into his feelings, and be less alone. He could gently instruct his son, every Tuesday night, to help take out the trash.
Getting Deep: Let’s take a look at you.
Especially if your kids have your DNA, what’s getting passed down to them is a whole lot more than nutrition and values. They have the potential to inherit an entire generation’s worth of emotional patterns.
Emotional patterns get handed down from waaaaay back, and take a moment now to reflect on your own heritage. Using Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” were any of your kin ever in “survival mode”, just making sure they’d stay afloat?
- Was there an emotional illness in the family? Violence? Addiction? Poverty? Emotional numbness? All of these traumas and difficulties become part of your DNA, deep in your unconscious, where they can still haunt you.
- Is there any shame around vulnerability? Difficulty surviving criticism?
- Does anyone in the family blow up — or become withdrawn (instead of being able to employ anger)?
- How about pleasure? Does anyone need to escape into it excessively? To offset the stress of being alive?
- Is anyone’s true potential and authentic power thwarted because the most important thing is simply staying calm?
There are many, many different forms unresolved emotions, which lie fallow and sometimes toxic in our unconscious mind, and that stand in the way of a smooth ascent to optimal satisfaction in life.
Becoming a family that is emotionally attuned, aware, present, and comfortable with every feeling and thought, is a process of evolution. Sometimes we learn from our children about our own unhappiness.
When you come to terms and embrace what you feel, with self-compassion and understanding instead of shame, avoidance and fear, you can be with your own feelings. Then, you can be with your child’s feelings.
It’s hard to stand the thoughts and feelings. It isn’t easy. But work on it. It’s worth it.
So the next time something happens with your child and you find yourself filled with shame, anger, disappointment, frustration, intolerance, or even excessive pride or a desire to control, be glad. Be glad that these powerful feelings have a purpose. Because if you follow them the right way, they will help you resolve what is still unspoken and unresolved, and take you and your child to a better, more loving and connected place.