Last week I had my first appointment with my counselor about anxiety. It's been about 5 months since I was discharged from treatment, so I've been doing really great!
Unfortunately anxiety reared its annoying head and I thought it best to see what advice Deb had for me.
Really, the main thing that has stuck with me from that appointment was what she said about relationships. Her little pearl of wisdom: Two relationship deal breakers are emotions and assumptions.
What a coincidence--those two things just so happened to be the very first things I dragged into the latest issue with a particular family member.
So yesterday when my daughter was yelling for me and throwing a fit in her room, what did I do? I ignored it. And then when my resolve to ignore her began to wear down I started chanting "just take the emotion out of it" in my head. Amazingly that helped tremendously! I suppose I hadn't realized (again, things just need to be spelled out for me...occasionally several times, at that!) that I bring a HUGE amount of emotion into battles with my daughter. We are both incredibly emotionally charged people and when the two of us are upset and are engaged in a battle of wills, well, nothing good comes of it!
Sometimes I can ignore her for a while, but then I just get angry 30 minutes later when the issue is still unresolved and I'm still listening to her carry on! So then I'm prone to yelling or being totally unreasonable (it's very tempting to take away something fun--dessert at dinner later that night, maybe--even if it has nothing to do with the issue at hand--perhaps the toys aren't picked up).
However, in my infinite wisdom (that is greatly enhanced now that the kids are sleeping peacefully), I can see that reactions like that from me only make things worse. Being unreasonable in my punishment is basically my adult way of acting like my 4 year old is.
Really, if you look at the issue closely it's easy to see why my own highly emotional response just creates a bigger problem. My adorable Miss A is overreacting (in my mind) to something (say, picking up the toys) and my response is to overreact just as unreasonably by bringing something else completely irrelevant to the issue into the equation (dessert, perhaps. What does dessert have to do with toys? Nothing!).
Good grief, no wonder so many of our "early years issues" went unresolved and only grew until they exploded!
Unfortunately another problem arises: I have to train myself to keep my cool (I'm discovering I have a bit of a temper!) or else everything just goes down the pooper!
So, I've at least discovered one way to keep myself calm: remember to keep emotion out of the equation.
Now, I'm by no means saying emotion is a bad thing. I love emotions! I love being able to adore my kids, I love being able to love people. Even being able to have our feelings hurt serves its purpose--it keeps us safe and encourages (if it's handled "correctly") better communication skills.
However--and this is definitely something I'm learning through my kids--there are appropriate ways to handle emotions and there are inappropriate ways to handle them.
Anger should never be targeted at anyone (hitting, yelling at, or even spreading rumors about).
Fear is another biggie with kids--but to keep it from becoming an anxiety issue, it's best to talk about fears and why they are or are not likely to happen (monsters under the bed=there may be scary shadows or sounds, but there are no monsters. Tornadoes=yes, tornadoes can happen and can be scary, but just because it's windy doesn't mean there will be a tornado. It takes more than a small wind to create a tornado).
So, here's to hoping tomorrow is a day filled with properly handled emotions--on my part!