It was another day, and another battle for Melissa with her 8 yr old son, Justin. All she was trying to do was make him a sandwich for lunch. He seemed determined to refuse every option she offered - including what he liked the day before. As she went from Do you want this? to Do you want that? her frustration increased to the boiling point.
In another post, I’ll talk about how our children keep us engaged in these vicious cycles, and strategies to break the cycle, but today I want to talk about the unconscious triggers that fuel our frustration and anger with our kids. They stand right next to us wearing an invisibility cloak. They keep us from being present with our child and being able to come from our best parenting self.
As Melissa and I worked together to unpack this power struggle, we did some emotional work that delved deeper into what might be contributing to this discouraging, “here we go again” situation with Justin. The goal was to parse out the present day perfectly understandable frustration from the unconscious triggers in order to act more effectively as a parent. Triggers, that are beyond our conscious awareness, add layers of intensity from another time and place to current day feelings.
Here’s what showed up for Melissa. She remembered something she hadn’t thought of in years. As a little girl, she’d go out to the garage, where her dad was working. Trying to please him, she’d keep handing him tools, only to be met with rejection again and again. She realized that the situation with her son felt just like that. And that the same felt sense of anger, sadness and rejection was being triggered in response to her son’s behavior.
Once the invisibility cloak was removed, Melissa was much more able to turn toward her son and see him for himself, not as dad. She became freer to implement effective strategies with Justin without the unconscious entanglement of fearing rejection.