Consciously or subconsciously, we humans are constantly impacted by the moods and emotions of others. In fact, we go so far as to push each other’s buttons just because there is “juice” there! Did you ever notice that when we are triggered, the people around us can sense it and their mood or demeanor shifts? Often they do not even realize why they feel this inner shift. This phenomenon is common in adults and children alike. I very clearly remember working with a 35 year old single mother, Jessica. Jessica contacted me last year seeking help with the intense anger she felt toward her 6-year-old daughter. Most of the time, the anger was triggered by little things, like her daughter not being able to choose between two pairs of shoes or taking too long to get dressed. It is common for parents to have occasional feelings of anger toward their children. Even when they intellectually understand that something is not worth getting upset about, they just CAN’T help it! The anger can be overwhelming. And after they’ve blown up and the child is crying, they feel guilty and terrible about themselves. They resolve to be more patient. Still, the pattern plays itself out time and time again. It is hard on the child, the parent, the co-parent—the whole family.
In Jessica’s case, she would get extremely frustrated and angry when her daughter was slow to get ready, couldn’t make a decision, or left her toys lying around. The frustration was so intense at times that Jessica, a sweet and charming woman, had to walk away from her daughter to scream and punch something—a door, a pillow, anything.
I want to take a second here to recognize that it takes a lot of courage for a parent to acknowledge this kind of behavior and to seek help. Many would be too ashamed, afraid of being judged, to take the steps toward change. But Jessica was committed to a close relationship with her daughter. She could see that her behavior was making the girl feel sad and afraid.
Jessica heard about my work with emotional regulation through a girlfriend who attended one of my monthly free trainings. We met in my office in San Francisco for the session. As I usually do, I asked her how long she will need to notice whether her anger has resolved. I explained that once a negative emotion has been resolved, it will never return. Jessica chuckled and said: “I will know tonight or tomorrow morning! But let’s wait a couple of weeks, just to be sure”. So we booked our follow up appointment in two weeks and, feeling confident that she had resolved her anger, I was eager for the follow-up.
When the day finally came, as I opened the door Jessica was standing there with a huge smile: “I don’t know what you did, but it worked!” she said. I asked her to tell me about it, “Well …”, she continued, “I did not get upset once in the morning, not once! That has never happened before”. I said that it was wonderful and congratulated her on the work she accomplished during our session. “Wait, there is more to it!” she said. Since the session, her daughter was noticeably better about cleaning up after herself, getting ready in the morning, and choosing between her pink or white sneakers without anybody having to plead with or push or frighten her!
It made total sense: mom got rid of her button and, instead of feeling blocked or afraid, the child could make decisions peacefully, naturally, easily!
Jessica shared another effect of our session. The eczema she had on her neck for several months disappeared within a few days of our work together. Sometimes this happens after a session—it is just the body saying “thank you!”
Let me wrap up by saying that the solution to our emotional problems is definitely inside of us. Often, the best way to change a difficult situation is to change our behavior. To do this reliably, we must heal our emotions. And all of us can do that, our body has the natural capacity for it. The greatest challenge is recognizing and acknowledging our patterns. Once we have identified them, regulating the dysfunctional emotions is straightforward. And the impact is powerful, on our life and on the lives of people around us.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tipi and discussing if it could help you or clients you work with, join us for one of our free monthly events, or schedule a free consultation with me here.