I've been actively working with my protective Mama Bear's instinctive reaction to when my children are in distress. In pain. In discomfort. Upset. Lonely. Frustrated. Unsure. It is soooooo hard for me to see them this way, acutely, unbearably uncomfortable for me, that I react (often unconsciously) as if physically threatened.
Immediately, I want to take away their pain and distress. I want to fix it. Or 'help' them rationalize it. Get perspective or distract them from it. It feels like my #1 job as a parent to protect them from these hard feelings.
My youngest, who we just relocated to the dorms at her University, is feeling scared. She's uncertain she made a good choice. She' insecure. She is spending her first night there, but the school is online so only 60 freshman are there instead of the normal 1000+. They all have to wear masks and stay to themselves so as not to transmit the Covid 19 virus, so it's kind of weird.
Her feeling lonely, vulnerable and unsure is excruciating for me. I need it to stop. It seems like protecting her from hurting is my job. But when I paused and considered, I realized stopping her pain wasn't actually for her benefit, it was for mine. I was triggered. Her upset had activated my stuff. I wanted my pain over her feelings to go away. It activated the thought that I wasn't being a 'good' mom as evidenced by her upset. If I were a competent mom, she would be happy and thriving.
But even if I could 'take away her pain' (and I can't) it would be doing her a huge disservice. She needs that pain and loneliness to guide her to what matters, what she values. Interrupting this emotional flow disrupts a beautifully designed biologic process. When I distract or try to fix what is activating her feelings, it actually harms her.
So I'm sucking it up and feeling my own discomfort and pain, so she can feel hers.
It is guiding me to my values, like my love for her. To connection. To care. To trust. The things that matter most. I'm trusting her feelings are guiding her to her values, what is important to her.
Do your children's emotions trigger you? How are you responding?
If you are wanting ease with challenging behavior that triggers you, we have created a community for parents to learn skills and concepts together so you aren't alone. We focus on moving from power struggles to peace, how to create an emotionally healthy home, to take things less personally and to set boundaries clearly, all to enjoy real peace. The Real Peace Place. For more information: https://fivesteps.mn.co/settings/landing-page