Children need to be seen and appreciated for who they are and what they feel. Our job as an adult is to look at a child and ask, “Who can you be?” This means we create an atmosphere of curiosity and attention, which nurtures a child to find the essence of who they are. We support their way of being, their emotions, and provide freedom for them to be who they are while teaching them how to be a kind and authentic human.
When we tell children not to feel something (don’t cry, don’t be sad, don’t be angry) we are teaching them not to trust themselves and their emotions. When a child feels something is wrong and they are told they shouldn’t feel that way, they then decide there is something wrong with them and/or their feelings. Or they develop a fighting attitude where they need to prove to the world that they are right. Or they do both. When we provide a message that feelings are wrong, we help create beliefs that “emotions aren’t good,” and “we shouldn’t have them,” and “if we do have them we are bad or we need to control them, deny them, push them down or avoid them.” This results in people developing coping mechanisms of avoidance, such as eating, denial, over-doing, which in turn can result in depression, anxiety, anger and addiction (to work, drugs, alcohol, behaviors, food, etc.).
When we control our children, when we don’t listen to them and pressure them to be what we want them to be, instead of being curious about who they are, we create doubt and confusion in them that manifests in emotional problems like self-hate, lack of self-confidence, confusion and lack of trust in one’s self to make decisions. Physical manifestations vary from withdrawing to acting out, increased illness, and even self-destructive behaviors like cutting, self-sabotage, and addiction.
Create boundaries firmly and consistently and teach children the rules and appropriate behaviors inherent in society. Model and engender respect for self, for others and their property. Do this with unconditional love and kindness. Behavioral correction delivered with anger and criticism, suggests to the child removal if love, which is confusing to them. Anger generates a disturbance in the child that creates negative beliefs about themselves and/or others such as “I am not good enough and something is wrong with me or s/he wouldn’t be angry at me” or “people are dangerous, unsafe and they don’t love me”. These negative beliefs become part of their identity and will accompany them through their lives.
Adults are Gods to children, powerful and all-knowing. Children are very literal—they believe what they are told. If they experience parents who aren’t present, who avoid, who are critical, angry, or impatient, they usually assume there is something wrong with them or the adult wouldn’t be acting this way toward them. Their response to the feeling causes it to get embedded in the system along with the beliefs that accompany that experience (i.e., “when I behave that way, love is withdrawn, thus I am not good enough, I am bad, defective or unlovable”). These inferences about themselves and life then (consciously or unconsciously) govern their lives.
When children’s beliefs and negative experiences are stuck in the body, they will respond as though they are still in the past—they will not respond intentionally in the present. Rather, a past event is stuck in the system and generates a default reaction (usually unconsciously). The default behavior is a form of self-protection that becomes hard wired. If something occurs that recalls the distressing event, the brain signals danger, which activates the “reptilian brain”—home of the “fight or flight” response.
Paradoxically, when the fight or flight response triggered, we don’t have access to the rest of the brain—we are stuck in fight or flight, so we cannot problem solve very well. We are hard wired to fight or flee—or if we can’t do either of those, we go into immobility. This doesn’t allow for the use of natural talents and knowledge, so we are very limited in this state. Being in this state also perpetuates the victim/tyrant cycle, violence, more trauma, anxiety and ultimately, illness.
Emotions inform us about the things that happen around us. Emotions show us when we have been invaded; when we are in danger; when we find something that excites us and brings us joy; when we love something and when we value something, and when we don’t like something. Without emotions, it is impossible to discern and follow our passion. Without understanding our emotions, we are unable to identify our triggers. Without acknowledging and respecting emotions, we can let others take advantage of us and abuse us and even hurt us. Emotions are key to developing our strengths and talents, which eventually leads to a career that expresses the core of who we are. When we know what we feel and we trust our feelings, we can negotiate the world in a healthy way that supports our talents and gifts. And we can be aware of what is going on around us so that we can sense danger, trust that feeling and do something to move ourselves to safety.
Our goal is then to minimize the number of triggers we have that block dealing effectively in the moment. If we teach children how to listen to and contain (or feel and sense) their emotions they will understand the messages inherent in them without acting out on them (throwing tantrums, hitting, etc.). If we respect the messages we receive through our own feelings, we teach our children to do the same.
It is important for us and our children to learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of our feelings; to be in our bodies and to be curious about how we feel; to let the feeling be in the body; to notice the sensations that go along with the emotion; where is it in the body and what is the sensation like—is it a fluttering in the stomach? Nausea? Tension? What does this emotion mean to us? What need is unmet? When you get out of your head and allow the emotions and sensations to be in the body, clarity and insight often arises regarding the situation. Once you learn this, teach your children to do the same. This insures that negative beliefs won’t get stuck, for it is when we resist our feelings that they cause problems later.
Obviously we will not be perfect parents. We will lose our tempers. We will attempt to control our children. We will make mistakes. When we do we can make sure that we talk with our children about what has occurred and how they feel about it, sharing with them the source of our own trigger and its impact. We can help them clear negative beliefs that are stuck with energy psychology. We can clear our own blocking beliefs so that we can let go and be loving and watch our children develop and blossom into the beautiful beings they are.
Julie Roberts lives in rural Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. She consults with groups, individuals and children to help them move into their full potential. She specializes in personal and professional change so individuals overcome obstacles to productivity. She utilizes energy therapies, muscle testing, visualization, counseling, and Family Constellation work to help individuals clear the blocks in their life. She teaches graduate courses, and conducts workshops that improve leadership skills, teaches CLEAR®, and guides individuals through a healing change process. She has taught CLEAR in Russia and Nigeria. Women for Women International uses CLEAR® with its participants to help them deal with trauma resulting from conflict and abuse.