When Words HURT…

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


Leaning into Yes!

I bear my parents no ill will. I have the right however, to rage against the treatment I received as a child! To grieve the crushing of spirit and smothering of flame that was my childhood. Over and over again – it was NO! No you can’t! No you don’t! No, that’s not what you want. NO, NO, NO! You cannot be you – YOU MUST CONFORM to be who we want you to be. No! No! No! You must make life easy for us! You must fit in. You must be ‘perfect’, a champion, an achiever, a go-getter and most of all… [become a person we like and want around]

I listen and attune to that voice: to the ongoing judgement, criticism and put downs. Hmmm… I wonder?  I scan for the voice of my parents.

‘No!’ So ingrained, so old, such a well-worn hurt that even now – for every ‘YES’… I experience surprise and disbelief; I find myself flipped into some kind of internal chaos and stress. I feel the need to retreat and run, to vaporise, to escape my body and disconnect.

But I am daring to do otherwise.

I slow down.

I notice a sense of clinging, I recognise I am potentially holding tight to introjected beliefs; ‘not enough’, not good enough’, and something about ‘not clever enough’ as in ‘you know nothing’, ‘you’re not special’, ‘nobody really likes you’, ‘you’re not to be trusted’, ‘who would want you!’… and so they go on; strangely… I still fail to recognise this as my parents voice.

A counter whisper has appeared challenging the status quo, suggesting an opposing view, asking to be seen, to be acknowledged. The Child within me, timid yet full of life, asking to be nurtured and loved, for freedom of expression, to be heard, believed and accepted.

The internal tension and turmoil plays out before me. I witness my Protective Parent under threat… all these years, making every effort to serve me well by keeping me safe, by holding me at a distance from life and relationships, pushing me to strive to be do my best. I feel gratitude and waves of grief. With hand on my heart I feel the past loosen its grip, just a little… I am leaning into Yes!

Daring 2 Connect

A Reflection on TRUST.

This morning I was reflecting on trust… I got to this place because I am running a workshop next week and find myself feeling inadequately able… though I know I will do it and all will no doubt be well.

But I don’t want things to go as they always do. I want to be present, embodied. I want to be able to relax and trust myself.

… and that is how I came to reflect on trust.

I am becoming more and more aware of the Child and the Protective Parent at logger heads within me. It is actually like the Child is begging for life and the Protective Parent is feeling threatened.

Instead of warmth, kindness and compassion towards little me – the Child, all I (as in Protective Parent) feel is contempt and disgust…

Where is the tenderness and love!? She was so small and helpless – none of IT was her fault! Why can’t the Protective Parent allow this air! SHE WAS NOT TO BLAME!!!!!!!!”

I weep… the radio is playing and I engage with the words…

“I am feeling so small; it was over my head, I know nothing at all.

And I will stumble and fall, I’m still learning to love, just starting to crawl.

Say something, I’m [not] giving up on you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you… anywhere I would have followed you,

say something I’m [not] giving up on you”

 (“Say Something” by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera)

To love myself, to give myself tenderness… my head spins… what will happen?? Tenderness for helplessness….

A cavalcade of tears falls from my eyes, an avalanche of emotion. Mindfully I embrace the Child and hold her close. I seek eye contact and shower her with warmth and connection. I listen – she cries, and cries and cries. The Child within me, releasing very old hurts from long ago, I am in her shoes, looking out from her eyes at a blank face. The blank face of my mother, there but not there, and I quietly wail to no one in particular, “I couldn’t look after her!” Deep down I recognise what I mean is I couldn’t give her, my mum, what she needed. In that moment I join the dots and succumb to the sadness deep in my belly. I couldn’t give her me because first, I needed HER!

I keen for the mum who died when I was 20, for the tragedy of disconnect and misattunement that tainted our relationship for life.  I rage at my emotional needs not being met in those first years and at the burden of guilt I have carried since her death some 30 years ago.

So a reflection on trust, i.e. trusting myself to do the right thing, say the right thing, ultimately to be there for my workshop participants and meet them where they are at… uncovers a link and connects me to the re-stimulation of feeling unable to meet my mums’ needs, of never getting it right, never feeling enough.

The past in the present.

Daring 2 Connect


Daring to Connect

This morning my daughter wanted to give me a ‘husband/wife’ kiss. She was sitting close on my knee and took my head in her hands, tilted my head to the side and came in close to plant a kiss on my lips, her eyes holding mine.

… and I freaked out!! “A mother/daughter kiss!” I exclaimed awkwardly after she succeeded in giving me ‘that’ kiss.

As the kiss landed, my heart contracted in fear; I can still feel a palpable tightness. It is not about the kiss. It is about the love that was conveyed with that kiss. Pure, unadulterated, warm, glowing love! I couldn’t let myself have it, feel it. I shutdown!

Say I let this happen, let myself deeply feel the love surrounding me, from my daughter, my husband, friends even – well what stares me threateningly in the face, is the risk; the risk of loving and losing, of loss.

I sense it means connecting with the pain I have carried for a lifetime, the pain of abandonment, overwhelming feelings of terror and helplessness. Old traumas.

I am taken back to a time when I believed that surely I would die. I was days old, my mum had been sent home from hospital without me, I was all alone… where was she when I needed her?!! I called out, I cried, I screamed but no one came for me, no one cared enough to comfort me… I was ignored. A baby! Days old! In order to survive those obliterating feelings of complete and utter terror I left my body, I disassociated and from that moment, disconnected from living fully.

It was just a week, then my mum and I were fully reunited, but the damage was done!! Our attachment was disrupted, our relationship undermined and I would from that point trust no one other than myself (and even that ended up on shaky grounds, but that is another story)

So here I am! Motherhood is cracking my heart open, asking me to re-engage, to re-connect, to live and be… this is exciting and damn scary at the same time!!

I am ‘Daring 2 Connect’ within and without.  I am signing up to relationship and wholehearted living.

Maybe you would like to join me? I could do with the support.