I've been struggling with an issue that affects every area of my life. Lately it's been particularly difficult. Last night I talked to my husband about the issue, my feelings and reactions, my struggles and stuckness. Compassionate man that he is, he listened for a long time, nodding and such, and then offered some things that might in a small way help. They weren't bad ideas. But I realized the reason I get frustrated and resistant when I'm talking to someone about an issue and they offer advice or solutions. Now, we all do this. We all want those we care about to feel better. We like to fix things. We like people to be happy. But in that moment, what I really wanted was to be assured that even though I'm struggling, lost, sad, angry, and frustrated; even though I have demonstrated some not-so-pretty behavior; even though I don't have any answers and am therefore "failing" at something in my life, that I am still an okay person. Not just okay - inherently, deeply lovable.
That realization helped me clarify a parenting approach as well. In Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, Naomi Aldort presents a compassionate approach to parenting that relies heavily on affirming our children's feelings and desires. I've found that simply reflecting what my daughter feels, though, often stirs up a maelstrom of emotions that stop us dead in our tracks. Aldort writes about this, saying that if our child has not felt affirmed enough in the past, reflecting emotions can open the floodgates. I've had a sense, though, that with my daughter there is more going on. Last night I realized it's not enough to reflect. I have to convey to her that she is a good person even though she is feeling difficult emotions. Even though she is resistant and angry and overwhelmed, she is still okay. Still fabulous even! That her emotions happen but are not equal to her self. This has to be behind any affirming or reflecting I offer. Otherwise, I say, "You're sad about that," and she cries harder because of the sadness itself, because she has this belief that sadness is not okay.
So this shall be my new approach - to offer love, not solutions; affirmation of Self, not just naming of emotions. For my daughter and everyone else.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Affirming Inherent Goodness
Written by Clea Danaan
Clea Danaan grew up in the Pacific Northwest; she now lives in Colorado. she is the author of five books relating to nature-centered spirituality and natural family living. She writes about nature mysticism, chickens, homeschooling, permaculture, and more. Her books have been published in more than six countries and translated into several languages, including French and German.