Of late, I have been much more aware and have gained a much deeper understanding and sense of self. No, I don’t smoke crack and the overwhelming smell of Jake’s diaper has not confused my brain…although, I did almost pass out once.
I’ve been thinking about feelings lately. There’s a weird statement, huh?
“Thinking about feelings.”
It seems that most of my life my feelings have been doing the thinking for me. How I feel determines what I think. I don’t think this is much different from just about every other person I know. This is just how we are raised and what society comes to expect as the norm. We have feelings about a certain thing and those feelings then become what we think of ourselves and of each other. What I never realized before was that my feelings don’t just come from thoughts but rather they come from the “meaning” I give to those thoughts.
Let me give you an example that I’m sure has happened to a lot of us:
I received an email from someone at work inquiring about a task they had asked me to accomplish on that day. Not long after the email I noticed that my boss was calling me. It’s not often my boss calls me (usually just exchange emails) so I thought she must be calling to talk about the task this person emailed me about. I thought that person was upset that I hadn’t responded quick enough and spoke to her and that she was calling me about it. I felt very anxious and defensive as if I had done something wrong and was going to be spoken to about it. These feelings were based on some prior history I’ve had in similar situations. It turns out she was calling about something completely different and benign and I had worked myself up for nothing.
I’ve become very aware that anger does not exist without fear (I also include anxiety in that category). The other day an amazing thing took place that I want to share with you. Our car happened to be parked on the street, curbside. I had both kids by myself and wanted to be very cautious getting them in the car since we were parked on the street. O’s seat was curbside and Jake’s was on the side of the car that was in the street. I decided to get O in first so I’d only have Jake to manage getting in the car with traffic, etc. Jake was standing next to me on the curb as I was helping O get in the car. I was constantly looking back at him to make sure he wasn’t going anywhere and that was really on my mind. O decided that now would be a great time to play around and not sit down. As this was happening I felt myself getting very mad and upset. Normally at this time I would start to yell and/or raise my voice at O to tell her to sit down. This time I did something a little different though. I allowed myself to feel angry for a moment and then explored why I was feeling angry (ie; what did I fear?). I realized that I was scared that Jake would run into the street while I was trying to get O to stop messing around and seated. So instead of yelling at her or raising my voice I turned to her and said, “Honey, Daddy is feeling scared.” O immediately stopped what she was doing and said, “Daddy is scared?”. I said, “Yes Honey, Daddy is scared that while you’re playing around not sitting in your seat that Jake is going to run into the street and get hurt.” She had this befuddled look on her face as if she understood what I was feeling but just shocked to hear it expressed this way. She immediately got in her seat and I felt as if we were one at that moment.
O wasn’t responsible for my being mad. I made myself mad as a defense to my fear of Jake running in the street. When I expressed my fear to O she related immediately and “understood”. Had I yelled at her to sit down, never mentioning my fear of Jake she would have resisted, I would have become angrier, and it would have been a horrible experience for both of us.
This is really the first time I’ve found myself in this type of situation and I was glad that I was able to recognize what my feelings meant and what they didn’t mean. I was also glad that I treated O with respect on every level even though she was doing something that I made myself mad about (note that I intentionally didn’t say she made me mad). In the end, I was authentic with myself as well as with her. She responded so quickly and in such a positive way. I’m really looking forward to trying this out again and even if the outcome isn’t exactly the same in terms of her response I’ll still be glad that I’m presenting the example that I want to show her.