When I feel down, I do not want to pull others down with me. Especially my children. I get irritable, and want to retreat. When I feel like this, and my kids ask for something, I sometimes express irritability towards them and then I feel worse. Our kids recognize emotions.
Kids Recognize Emotions
Like many parents who raised kids in the 60’s, my parents were quite stoic with their negative emotions. I don’t recall them ever speaking about them.
When they felt unhappy, frustrated or powerless, I noticed. I internalized their emotions, felt their pain, and tried to make them feel better. I tailored my actions to what I thought they wanted.
Unaware I was doing this, the sequence went like this:
- Feel others’ emotions.
- Change behavior to uplift them.
- Submerge my own emotions.
- Extrapolate this to other situations by caring more about the opinions of others than those of myself.
As a result, my health suffered.
Dr. Steve Maraboli aptly expresses this phenomenon in his quote, “If you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas.”
And run out of gas I did.
Unknowingly, my stress hormones were activated chronically. I suppressed my true spirit and molded myself into the person I thought would make other people happy.
Depending on where a person is most susceptible (genes and lifestyle choices come into play here) one or more systems in the body are affected. These include:
- Energy metabolism
Symptoms are the last to appear. Once you have them, it means your systems are already out of balance and have been for some time. This is when people become chronically ill or have trouble recovering, feel tired, develop allergies, rashes, stomach issues and even autoimmune conditions or diseases. And the list goes on. . .
Families Repeat Patterns Until They Know Better
This reality stared me in the face recently when I re-read my son, Jake’s book, Off The Beaten Trail.
For those of you who do not know his story, Jake struggled with severe anxiety, depression, skin rashes and hives during his first semester in college. During a harrowing first semester, he realized being in school was not the right path for him.
He mustered the courage to leave and redirect his life on a path that aligned with his intuition and desires. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to be inspired to redirect his/her life. It is well-written and entertaining!
What struck me during this second read was Jake’s admission that he internalized his dad’s feelings during his childhood and tailored his actions so as to not to upset his dad.
Wow! Jake repeated exactly what I had done. This stuff repeats in families when we are not consciously aware of the deals we make with ourselves and loved ones. Kids really do imitate our actions, which clearly speak louder than words.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou‘s quote hit the nail on the head.
Our health goes south when we are not true to ourselves and mold to others’ expectations. The body literally breaks down and while it may take years, it can be insidious.
I ran out of gas and have been addressing the fallout for several years now. My health continues to improve.
My son is addressing his health, too. High levels of cortisol pumping through his body for many years resulted in a leaky gut and hives and rashes. He is currently working to correct these conditions.
The Solution: What We Can Do As Parents
As parents, we must recognize when we feel off or not quite ourselves. Learn to identify when we are anxious or depressed or feeling another negative emotion. And then express these feelings.
We must do whatever it takes to manage our feelings including but not limited to:
- Talking to a health professional
- Practicing yoga
- Breathing deeply
- Walking with a friend
- or whatever else works for you.
When we are around our kids, the best thing to say is something like this: “I am feeling down (or whatever the emotion is) right now. I need to sit with my feelings for awhile, feel them, and when I am ready I would love to be with you.”
Letting our kids see we are human and take time to care for ourselves gives them permission to care for themselves. We then remove the burden some kids feel to manage parental happiness.
This frees them up to be authentically who they are. And, more importantly, not dim their own light or hide who they really are to save us or manage our emotions.
Parents think they are protecting children by hiding negative emotions, but children are smart and sense them anyways. What separates humans from other species is that we have a whole range of emotions.
When we express them, it contributes to our well-being. When we block and repress them, they fester and manifest as a health condition or disease.
Children feel insecure when there is a disconnect between the words they hear and actions they see. My kids would arrive home from school and see their dad lying in bed. Whenever he was up and walking, their dad spoke in an enthusiastic and chipper voice because he wanted to appear happy to avoid upsetting anyone else.
He did not realize we were all affected and the uncertainty confused us. Should we pay attention to his lethargy when confined to bed or believe he was okay when he spoke in an energetic voice? We were constantly trying to assess, “Is he okay?”
Kids learn to distrust their own intuition when they sense one thing but are told something else. When feelings are not in sync with observations, insecurity and distrust of self ensues. Sadly, distrust of self carries over into distrust of others and affects all relationships and aspects of their lives.
What We Can Do As Children
It took me many years to learn we do not have control over another person’s happiness, including that of a parent. The best we can do for ourselves and our parents is to make ourselves happy. Follow our own instincts, intuition and desires and create a life true to ourselves.
In doing so, we may inspire our parents to listen to their own intuition, let go of roadblocks holding them back and have the courage to heal. It is never too late.
Breaking The Cycle
When people asked me if I was freaking out and nervous when Jake dropped out of college and decided to embark on a trip to Central America with a one way ticket and no cell phone, I gave a resounding, “Hell, no!” I was so happy for him and felt his joy upon embarking on his adventure and knew in my heart this was exactly what he needed.
Selfishly, I got a vicarious thrill witnessing his courageous leap of faith and action, despite anxiety, health conditions, and societal expectations. I wished I had stopped in my tracks at his age and dropped everything and reassessed my own life.
What we learn from our children! Jake had broken the cycle of sacrificing self-ness in our family. I am so grateful for that!
He learned skills to create his life his way. He continues to be one of my greatest teachers.
Wynne At Health Mission Statement
I help people, who feel a bit off and not quite themselves, reconnect with who they really are, so they can live the rest of their lives with energy and passion and health that supports their happiness.
If you are ready to explore your health complaints, what you would like instead, and see where I might help, schedule a free 45-minute consultation today.
Our bodies truly want to heal. Healthy is its most comfortable state. I help people get rid of interference blocking optimal health and build up the body’s natural reserve to heal on its own.
Only when we take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually can we truly have our health support our happiness.
When we feel passionate about our lives and the contribution we make in the world, that is true happiness! It does not get any better when we see our kids thrive and do the same!