I often hear from moms how you’d like to be more patient with your toddler’s tantrums, with the baby who isn’t sleeping, or simply with handling everyday tasks like getting out of the house with small children.
You feel bad, clearly, for losing your temper or giving into frustrations, but perhaps there is a fear inside that runs deeper.
Where did this rage monster come from? And how do I get rid of it?
As a mom of twin toddlers and a preschooler, I often lose it in unexpected, random ways that simply shock me. For example, the other day I had just finished my yoga and meditation session, which is a pure blessing. I felt at peace with the world and myself…or so I thought.
After almost a half an hour of hard work to get my two-year-old twins down to nap – with my meal getting cold in the other room – I just snapped and screamed at them, “Just GET down to sleep YOU TWO!” and I slapped my hands on the mattress.
I then looked at my son and daughter and worried about how I might have hurt their feelings at that moment. My boy tried to console me by putting his hand on my shoulder, saying “It’s OK mama; it’s OK,” while my daughter simply stared at me, looking alarmed.
Does that sound familiar? We love our children so much that our heart just cannot bear the idea of causing them any pain. And we worry that we might cause irreparable damage in their souls.
But what if we could open ourselves to the possibility that our explosions of anger are not our fault and are actually deeply wired in the human brain – for good reasons? Anger is a vital emotion that has helped us evolve into the incredibly connected and resourceful species we are today.
Problems arise when we learn and internalize, at some point in our life, that anger is not appropriate and should be suppressed. It then becomes a scary and unfamiliar feeling, and we have a hard time understanding that it comes and goes.
We can listen to it, without necessarily acting upon it, and by doing so, we might even learn to observe it with compassion and warmth and learn to moderate our reaction.
Mindful observation of our emotions and finding compassion for ourselves are powerful and effective skills we can learn using principles developed by world-famous scientists and psychotherapists like Paul Gilbert, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale.
And what about our children, who bear witness to our difficult emotions? If we show them that we can be upset, and at the same time, make it clear to them that these emotions are ours alone and not about them, then they learn that these emotions need not be contagious or worrying.
Even if children are too young to understand, their amygdala – the part of the brain that is wired to recognize signs of danger and safety – can pick up a soothing voice and a reassuring facial expression.
I believe every mother has the right to be nurtured and understood in her difficult and exciting journey; we need to become compassionate and caring parents for ourselves, first and foremost.