Of course I have high expectations of myself, I’m an aerialist! Sometimes if I let myself slide off balance by burdening myself with too much responsibility this can turn into an inner punitive voice. Now that I can understand this clearly I hope that things are beginning to change. When my inner critic comes up I can say hi to them and take a look underneath and find out who, or what is there. In my case a little girl who got the message that she had to try very hard to be perfect in order to get love and that even this did not always work. I’m happy to be able to see her clearly now because it means there is opportunity for change.
How much of ourselves are we really in control of?
My counsellor told me on Sunday that 95% of what we do is governed by unconscious programming and only 5% is under our conscious control. This is why when a pattern moves from our unconscious to our conscious awareness it is a moment to celebrate even if this is uncomfortable.
Making self regulation conscious
The idea that I would like to think about today is self regulation as a conscious process. Both for our own benefit so that we are able to manage the demands of life and be in flow with our children and so that we have valuable skills to pass on and demonstrate. Whether we like it or not, a large percentage of what children learn is implicit – absorbed from the environment.
Finding a place where we feel a sense of harmony with ourselves and our lives so that when we start to move away from this place of balance we notice it. The beginning of this process might be just to stop and listen deeply to ourselves, feel the places within our bodies where there is pain, the places within our psyche where there is numbness or depression. Begin to look deeper, meditate on the hurts hiding beneath these places.
Ask yourself what you do to avoid feeling? What do I do to punish myself because secretly I feel unworthy, not enough.
A practice I find helpful are meditating with a notebook at hand and drawing/writing what emerges. Naming the feelings which arise, the memories or symbols which come to mind. In this way we can access less conscious parts of ourselves and access the wisdom of our right brain. Offer ourselves love and empathy, learn to sit with discomfort at times.
We had a lovely conversation at a women’s business group I went to on Friday about how self care isn’t about bubble baths! It can be about having the time simply to take care of the basics, enough sleep, high quality human interactions, time in nature….whatever your bottom line essentials are.
I can accept in you what I can accept in me!
The more we find ourselves and our own emotions acceptable the easier it becomes to accept them in our children. By learning to empathise with ourselves, love ourselves and forgive ourselves we are more readily able to do so for them. In doing so we create a family culture where we recognise and name our feelings, empathise with each other and in doing so learn to recognise when we are off balance and support each other to return to balance.
Regulating for your newborn
When our children are very small we need to do this process for them. It is a mistake to think that new born babies are able to “self soothe”. At this early stage they are entirely reliant on us to regulate their state. If the care givers are able to respond quickly and effectively to them on a consistent basis they develop an oxytocin (the love hormone!) receptive brain and this is likely to result in a child who is temperamentally calm.
If an infant’s needs are met inconsistently and they are left to cry for long periods of time their brain becomes flooded with the stress hormone cortisol. Because neural pathways are being rapidly formed during this period the stress response becomes wired into their brain leading to a child and later an adult who is more prone to anxiety: Self regulation becomes more of a challenge and various addictions may be used as a way of coping with this.
If like me you tend to become stressed easily there is hope. Our brains are very malleable and the more awareness we bring to our patterns the more we are able to notice when we are heading off balance and find positive strategies to re-centre. Eventually new neural pathways form, changing the landscape of ourselves and creating a new normal. It takes effort, awareness and ideally the support of others on a similar path but new ways of experiencing and responding to the world are within our grasp.