I was recently reading an article about reframing global warming in way that motivates people to make change from a place of empowerment rather than from fear, which creates paralysis and avoidance. That reframe can be applied to almost everything that we feel overwhelmed by and believe there is nothing we can do, even though we “should” be doing something. That process and the beliefs attached to it impact the wellness of people individually and as a community.
If we start listening to an internal conversation about parenting for instance, over time that conversation leads to a cycle or process that creates and confirms beliefs that keep the process in place. That dialogue and process starts looking for information to confirm those beliefs. When my daughter was 3 yrs. old I entered into a very long power battle with her around eating anything green. She was refusing to eat anything green. There would be fierce melt downs and tears with her and arguments between my partner and I about the whole process. As meals would approach there first would be sensations in my body of extra energy that would be translated into fear, anxiety, overwhelm and urgency. In my head, the conversation and process went something like this: (always a “you”) “you are the worst mother for not figuring out a way to make her eat green veggies. You should know how to make her eat these. You should make her sit at the table for hours until she eats them. You should ride it out, she will get over this and start eating green things again. Something is wrong with you. Something is wrong with her. This shouldn’t be happening. She will die of malnutrition. People will think you are the worst parent, you are way too lenient, you are way too harsh, try this, try that.” Then I would give up because of the battle internally and with her, and then get beaten up for giving up. And then the fear would begin again, with the same process and same resistance within and without.
As I realized what was going on and stepped outside of the process, a few things happened. First, I was able to look at whether I was responding or reacting. Secondly, I was able to look at the process and ask some questions. Did I react well to anyone coming at me with urgency, fear or anxiety? Did I need to have time to make my own choices based on information I was receiving? Did I like it when people pushed me to make a decision when I wasn’t ready? Did I appreciate it more when people asked for my feedback and solutions when it was something that impacted us all? Was it helpful to listen to all the negativity and urgency from those internal voices? Was it changing anything? Thirdly, I began to talk with her and let her know (along with having the pediatrician and other family members talk to her) once again why it I felt it was important she eat something green from a place of compassion rather than urgency, and asked her to come up with a solution for this issue. Her solution was to pick one green vegetable that she would have with other vegetables to help deal with the taste. Once we worked together and identified what was happening in our process, what each of us needed in that process and then communicated those needs (with coaching as she was three) the well- being of our community was supported again.
When we try to control, avoid, make urgent, deny, react – we are feeding that internal dialogue that gains so much from keeping us in our small limited process. It hurts our well-being individually and as a community. The ability to keep an eye on the internal conversation and its process is a practice that we can use for our relationship to the environment, ourselves and each other.
In Gassho (my heart and your heart are one)
Meg Safford Nishibori