Back when we were kids, if we didn’t want to believe, see or hear something, the solution was very simple:
Squinch your eyes tight shut.
Hands on your hears.
And: “Lalalalalalalala!” Really loud. So you can’t hear anything they say.
Now we’re adults, and a wee bit fancier: we call it being an ostrich or putting your head in the sand.
But, much like our physical needs, in that even if we try to ignore our physical cues and needs, those needs are still there (and not meeting them will definitely affect us!), we have a whole other dimension of needs that need to be met: our emotional needs.
(There are other needs, too, of course, but let’s just tackle one thing at a time here!)
And if we’re notorious for trying to “lalala” away our physical needs, our emotions get swept under the rug waaaay more often.
Sometimes there’s something deeper going on, and you may need to see a therapist to help you work through that. But, oftentimes, what we need is not therapy; just a bit of honesty.
I know you can do it - dive in and get honest with yourself.
Emotional eating has gained prominence as a buzzword these days -- most of us are familiar with disordered eating and the concept of using food to drown out one’s feelings (and we also know that that’s not a healthy way to deal with emotions or relate to food!)
But have you ever heard of emotional reading? I know I never did (and I may have actually coined the term).
The story of my emotional reading starts way back when I was a little kid: I have always loved to read; it’s like my second oxygen: I inhale words and can easily lose myself in a book.
So, as a kid, whenever I had Big Emotions I didn’t know how to deal with, the only “tool” I had to move forward at the time was to read. Upset, frustration, hurt, betrayal, and all the myriad of female emotions I didn’t even have words for all disappeared when I immersed myself in a book.
The problem came when I grew up and couldn’t just disappear to my room with a good book anymore: I had a bunch of little people who needed my attention, assistance and supervision pretty much all the time.
It was only when I got into a long slump that I noticed myself reading all the time. Sure, I doled out kisses for boo-boos, and did basic cleanup and meal prep, but aside for that -- it was me and my book.
And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t a tool; it was an escape. It was a way that I could escape from the feelings I was feeling, instead of actually dealing with them.
Dealing with discomfort
We all have our own escapes (that we often think are “tools”), but wanting to run away from uncomfortable feelings is normal: they are, after all, uncomfortable.
On top of that, our society frowns upon feeling and expressing “negative” feelings.
“You’re fine, stop crying”
“What are you making such a big deal over?”
We’re encouraged to “buck up” and “just smile!”
And, while being happy and content is definitely a great place to be in, when uncomfortable emotions come, lalala-ing them, pretending they don’t exist and “bucking up” doesn’t make them disappear: it just buries them.
In order for us to get past the uncomfortable feelings, the first step is to recognize that they’re there.
Allow yourself to sit with the feeling. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable -- it may not feel good, but it’s okay.
And then it may be helpful to explore what will actually best help you to work through your uncomfortable feelings. Maybe you’ll just allow them to be till they pass on their own. Maybe you’ll explore what thoughts may be causing those feelings, and allow yourself to challenge them. Maybe some creative expression - singing, writing, painting - will help you.
But the goal is to find something that will uplift you and help you; not something that consumes you as you consume it.
Be honest with yourself
But the first first step, before you even feel the feelings, you need to be honest with yourself.
Are you using something in your life as an escape? Is there something you do as a crutch to avoid feeling?
What would your life look like if you weren’t afraid of feeling those things?
Shaina told herself that she “had a giving personality”, and that that was why she rarely refused a request of her toddler, even though it meant twisting herself into a pretzel as she agreed to some pretty unreasonable demands (ahem requests).
Getting honest, she realized she just “couldn’t deal with” the meltdown that would come with setting boundaries and saying no sometimes.
Once she saw that her discomfort of her toddler crying was just an uncomfortable feeling, and didn’t “mean” all the things she made it mean, she was okay setting appropriate boundaries that would enable her and her toddler to thrive.
Many of my clients have a negative charge around the idea of “sleep training” and allowing their babies to cry (I know I do, too!), and that’s why the first step in the KinderWink method is being aware of what’s going on in your own head.
Once you’ve set yourself up for success, then you can set your baby up for success so you can all get the sleep you need.
Being honest about your emotions, and being honest about your emotional needs so that you can meet those needs, is one of the foundations to being the mother you want to be for your children.
What steps can you take to be honest with yourself instead of “lalala”-ing?