I am relating the story of my morning; a repetitive recurring interaction between me and my 6 year old daughter. I am talking to my Listening Partner – an acquaintance I speak with weekly; we’ve agreed on having 10 minutes either way. She listens to me and I listen to her in return. This is modus operandi self-care, cos I’m blowing it big time and want things to change. I know from experience 10 minutes of warm, non-judgemental listening can work what sometimes seems like a miracle. It can realise a lightness of being, where answers to parenting dilemmas are found within. It is an empowering process and this is what it looks like.
“She’s viciously swearing, venomously shouting horrible things” I explain to my Listening Partner.
I go on to describe what it is like to be at the end of such a brutal assault. “I start out ok, but before too long I feel overwhelmed… I start to feel like I’m the target… I can’t help it, the words sting and I feel the urge to cry. So I remove myself to the kitchen in an attempt to regroup; I try to find some self-compassion. I acknowledge inwardly that I don’t deserve to be spoken to in such a way and try to tell myself that her words are not personal; but I feel helpless, angry and tears spring to my eyes.”
Then I share with my Listening Partner how my daughter followed me into the kitchen. “Check this out” I say “The very second she (my daughter) catches a whiff of my tears, she exclaims with great emphasis “HA! I made you cry!” Of course, I immediately pack the tears away and deny any such thing… as if!!??”
By now, I am feeling pretty wired retelling this story, thrown back into feeling how I felt at that time. My Listening Partner stays quietly with me. I can feel her warmth, her caring and most strongly her belief in me that I will work this out. No words required. Accepted as and where I am, I reflect inwardly.
And there it is… “You can’t control me!” I want to shout. In fact encouraged by my Listening Partner, I do shout – and guess what!? I’m not yelling at my daughter. I am now my 6 year old self and I am directing this exclamation at my parents. “You can’t control me! I won’t let you” I say forcefully as if my parents are right there before me. And boy does that feel good, powerful even. Infused with strength, I feel less of a victim. The tension has dissipated.
My Listening Partner asks me how it would be to let my daughter see my tears when I next feel the urge to cry.
Right there…the realisation hits me.
I can now see how the past has been controlling my present, not my daughter. How old hurts have been re-stimulated, causing me to act out towards my daughter and her emotional intensity ‘as if’ it were my parents coming down hard on me, helpless to start with and then belligerence in defence.
Next an AHA! moment; my mind is clear and there is the information I need. My daughter has not been trying to control me or dominate me, my vision has been clouded. Rather, she has been trying to tell me how helpless she is feeling, that she’s hurting, real bad. Thanks to my Listening Partners warm attention I have uncovered the answer to my dilemma, it was there all along!
The next time my daughter erupts and starts to use nasty, hurtful words… I am present, no longer thrown into the past, I get playful. We connect through laughter and I follow through Playlistening (a child focussed Listening tool, something to share another time).
What happens next? Well, her laughter runs its natural course, she returns to her affectionate, loving, willing self and an evening of cooperation follows. No need to ask her why or for an apology either. Before the night is through she says “Mummy, sorry for saying bad things,” off her own back, in her own words, heartfelt and she shares about goings on at school that had stirred her up that day. Regulated she too could access her wisdom and knowing.
This time I was able to connect in the midst of the storm because I had released the binding tension of old hurts, hurts that get triggered by certain off track behaviours. I was able to stay, play and listen just as my listening Partner had done for me. That day my daughter got to release the tensions of her day and I like to think… heal a little.
My Listening Partnerships are part of my mental and emotional self-care. They give me a safe space where I learn what is getting in the way of being the parent I know I can and want to be. I would be as bold as to say they are a place where I am developing the emotional muscle I need to be in authentic relationship with others, to connect. Yes, my Listening Partnerships help me to attune for heartfelt connection.
Daring 2 Connect