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26 Apr Compassionate Parenting – a container for anger, anxiety, guilt, shame and worry
Parenting is a mixed bag. At any one time in can be exciting, tiring, frustrating, over-whelming, thrilling and just flipping hard work. With this role comes a huge amount of responsibility. Depending on how this responsibility is related to has a huge impact on our thoughts, feelings and actions. Yes, it’s possible to relate to the most difficult parts of ourselves and not actually become them. Nobody that I’ve met wants their inner crazy parent to emerge and yet it is so easy for it to emerge from the darkness and start to run the show. So what can we use to relate to the parts of ourselves that we find difficult? Compassion.
Compassion offers us the wisdom that life is really hard and offers us the motivation to do something about it now and in the future. When we develop and nurture compassion in ourselves we develop new skills and qualities that help contain the most difficult parts of parenting; the guilt, shame and worry. We can learn how to relate the difficult parts – anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, worry – from a kind place rather than a critical one.
Most parents that I talk with are really good at feeling bad. Feeling bad for the way they dealt with something, things they haven’t done, things they said or even thoughts they had. And this is why it is so difficult having the tricky brains we have. It’s not actually our fault that our brains get caught up in these loops of anger, worry, anxiety, guilt and shame. It’s the way that we have been designed. About 2 million years ago the human species developed this incredible part of the brain the frontal cortex. This is the part that can do all kinds of clever things like plan and think of many things at once. We are the only species that is aware of being aware. Kind of mad, right? On the flip side it can also worry. And reflect on this worry. And keep laying loops of worry in the mind till we drive ourselves insane. And keep on doing it even after this. Luckily our compassionate part can act as a referee for these internal discussions and bring a more helpful way of thinking about things.
We can nurture our helpful compassionate skills and qualities as an anti-dote to the common experience of feeling bad as a parent. This means practicing being and thinking in a certain way that is helpful to ourselves and others; training our minds to think and act compassionately. It means developing a part of you that really has your best interest at heart and creating the voice of an inner ally. Would that voice talk with kindness, warmth, gentle authority and really understand the tiredness and demanding role? Would it offer sensitivity, courage and an ability to tolerate emotional pain and not judge? Creating our inner compassionate qualities is like anything new, it takes patience and effort.
Developing and nurturing our compassionate parts brings an awareness that we can use to our benefit. We can use it to find out what is difficult for us and relate to that with our compassionate minds. So instead of ‘going nuclear’ on ourselves with a string of internal put downs (only fuelling the difficult emotions and harmful thoughts), we can see that things are tough and develop the skills and qualities needed to help things change.
Mumsnet offers a wonderful Compassionate Mind Training Resource. This link gives a step by step guide of Compassionate Mind Training. So if childcare or leaving home is an issue we can learn to train our minds to be at their helpful best at home: https://www.netmums.com/support/the-compassionate-mind-approach
If we want to give something, we have to have something to give. Let’s give compassion. To ourselves and others.