*This is a guest post
I remember, as if it were yesterday, sitting at my kitchen table holding my infant while my toddler was engaged in a full-blown temper tantrum and wondering if I had lost my mind! I vowed then and there to discover, at any cost, the source of my upset and why I reacted the way I did! I had clearly lost my peace with no idea how to find it. Happily, it was not lost, but “misplaced,” and with greater understanding and awareness, ultimately restored.
First, I want to assure you that, no matter what, you are not ruining your children when you make parenting mistakes, which we all do in great abundance. Parenting is the most difficult and challenging job you will ever take on, made particularly so because most of us have no idea what we’re getting into, very likely did not have ideal parenting ourselves, and know little about the psychology of early childhood development. So how can inner peace be obtained/retained under these daunting circumstances?
First, we need to understand how we lose our peace before it can be reclaimed. That seems obvious – our child’s behavior (or some other person/situation) causes it. Actually not, and here is the inescapable chain of events. Different types of thoughts, from loving and empathetic to fearful, unsupportive ones like, “I can’t do anything right,” automatically instruct the brain to create chemicals to match. If we believe we are going to be judged as inadequate or a failure, the brain, being alerted to a “threat,” turns on the stress response, keeping us stirred up and agitated. What we fear is irrelevant to the body’s systems – the lion jumping from a tree or a person criticizing us. It simply recognizes a request for “survival” chemicals and responds accordingly.
This chemical cocktail immediately floods all 60 trillion cells in the body, creating the emotional state. Thus, the undermining fear-driven thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious, and not a person’s behavior, cause the upset. Our false and hurtful thoughts/beliefs about ourselves are partially buried, so we can be caught off guard when a person’s behavior triggers or brings them into conscious awareness. Therefore, raising children becomes the perfect set-up for discovering the many self-sabotaging beliefs we may not realize are directing our lives since they are programmed in during our earliest years, lying dormant beneath assorted distractions or addictions. Without realizing our thoughts and emotions are intimately and inevitably related, it certainly looks like another’s behavior is causing the problem, but such is not the case.
Clearly, therefore, peace of mind is our own responsibility – no one confers it, nor does anything remove it. Just our own unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and grievances are the culprits.
Therefore, here are two vital steps required to reclaim peace of mind. We must first calm the chemicals flowing in the body and then we can tame the thoughts that created them in the first place:
Calm the Chemicals
In order to deal with the thoughts and beliefs causing the distress, we must first deal with the immediate body chemistry imbalance:
- Breathe deeply at least 3 times – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Assure yourself with this language, “I am safe and I am loved.” (repeat slowly three times)
- Practice acceptance. Normally when feeling distressed, we turn to something to soothe the feeling (food, alcohol, drugs, friendships, television, etc). Instead, when the discomfort arrives, give yourself permission to sit with it; open your arms and allow the feeling to just be. This sounds scary, but distress stays anchored into place when we resist its presence. It can literally move through and beyond us the moment we allow it.
Tame the Thoughts
- Whatever the situation where you feel upset, encourage yourself with, “This has a solution and help is here.”
- Ask yourself, “Why do I not feel safe?” and give yourself a moment of silence to see if the answer comes. Simply observe the beliefs about yourself or another that triggered the upset. Do not judge them.
- Challenge the chatter. Notice the voice in your mind endlessly saying negative and unhelpful things? Don’t fight the chatter; simply choose not to pay attention. Not realizing the destructive nature if these thoughts has kept us from tuning into a new station, a new voice, but now you have a choice.
Without information about the true origin of emotional upset or how to regulate it, our options have been limited. Thus, we haven’t been clear about how to help our children when they are out of control. Just sending to “time-out” does not solve the problem. Our little ones (and older ones, too) when caught in the grip of their emotions need an advocate, not an adversary. Clearly, the first step is to help them feel safe. And as you help them feel safer, you will, too. Each time you practice a different approach to your distress, realizing you can change your mind, your peace returns more quickly.
So not to worry, children are very resilient, and thankfully, each new day is a fresh start for everyone concerned, with no need to bring the past into it. Therefore, your goal is to be as loving and appropriate as possible, both with yourself and them, focusing only on being present in the moment. It is not helpful or healing to feel guilty and focus on your errors or their’s. Appreciate all you do right, instead.
Children are our best teachers, always watching/listening, not just when we’re being “parental.” They pick up the inner conflict at an energetic level so you can’t hide from your little ones, which is a great motivator for continuing down the path of self-discovery. They take us by the hand and unknowingly lead us, via their behavior and issues, right into our darkest fears, and thus, loss of peace. Once we see how we are hurting and sabotaging ourselves, we can choose again, change our minds, and life blossoms in ways we might never have imagined possible.
As you continue to honor and love yourself, and become your own best cheerleader, your children will be right there with you every step of the way, growing into your best friends and greatest admirers. And with deep peace of mind steadily restored, you can smile at those sleepless nights when all seemed lost, giving endless thanks for all the lessons in letting go of fear that your children required you to learn!
About the author: Carol Howe is one of the original and most respected teachers of A Course In Miracles. A personal friend of co-scribe Bill Thetford, she wrote his biography, Never Forget To Laugh. Throughout her 40 year career with ACIM, she has guided many thousands on their journey to inner peace. To download a free copy of her latest book “The Best Guide Ever to A Course In Miracles,” visit https://www.carolhowe.com/p/ebook. You can also visit her website www.carolhowe.com and connect on Facebook and Twitter.
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