Are your children screaming for your attention?
Are they creating a family drama?
Or is it the thoughts in your head that are screaming for your attention and creating drama?
Maybe it’s both!
How do you stay calm while your child is screaming?
Over the years I’ve noticed that it’s the thoughts I have about the situation I’m in or the person I’m with that cause the most stress and turmoil. I often experienced negative thoughts and emotions when one of my sons was screaming or they were fighting with each other (they did that a lot when they were young). I would have judgemental thoughts about them and the drama and I’d soon be yelling, fuming or feeling overwhelmed. But I discovered that my emotional reactions were not inevitable. In fact, they are mostly a thing of the past for me. They can be for you too.
It’s possible to be calm and peaceful, even joyful, in the midst of family dramas. So much depends on where you focus your attention.
In order to dissolve our patterns of emotional reaction, it’s necessary to become more aware of our thoughts in challenging family moments. Like those thoughts that judge your children and tell you what you should be doing right now to fix all the problems!
What are you thinking in those challenging moments?
It might be a problem with a toddler who is all over you all the time (“He should respect my body! I should be able to stop him doing that.”).
Or siblings fighting constantly (“They shouldn’t be fighting like that! I should make them behave better.”).
Or a teenager who won’t come out of their room or put down their phone (“She shouldn’t be so rude and withdrawn. I should connect with her more.”)
Worst of all, you may have self-judgements (“I’m a lousy parent.”) and fears about the future capturing all of your attention and making you feel like shit.
ALL of these thoughts stir up uncomfortable emotional reactions. They trigger your frustration, anger, overwhelm and despair.
The thing is – we have been trained from a young age to focus on and believe our stressful thoughts. We spend most of our waking hours trying to fix the problems around us by thinking about them and acting on those thoughts. We rely, almost exclusively, on what I call the ego-mind. This is surface-level thinking that has been learned. It’s mostly “old programming”. That doesn’t mean it isn’t very compelling.
All this thinking about solutions can seem to be “working” when we finally get the toddler to sleep, the siblings calm down and play or we manage to have a short conversation with our teen. Unfortunately, it’s usually a short-term solution and the next problem is waiting just around the corner.
My emotional roller coaster
What all this thinking meant for me, when my children were young, was that I was on a thought-driven emotional roller coaster. Thinking rarely stopped and I lurched from one emotional reaction to the next. I was trying hard, day in, day out, to manage, control and fix problems in myself and in my family. Eventually, I became very physically and emotionally exhausted.
I felt at breaking point and I was desperate for anything that could help.
I didn’t find a quick fix.
Sorry. I know you’d really like one of those.
What I found was the inner peace of Presence.
I found the key to fundamental wellbeing and a life lived in joyful, creative and peaceful flow. This means I can be the calm eye-of-the-storm when family dramas occur.
I spent the next 10 years making my life a living experiment in how to fully wake up to Presence – as the truth of who I really am.
My two sons not only survived my shift in focus; they thrived. As I turned my attention towards Presence my emotional reactions, that had sparked so much conflict in our relationships, gradually disappeared. I found I could be the calm in the eye of the storm when it came to family challenges and dramas.
You might be thinking “Goody for you. You found Presence but that’s not possible for me.” But I can assure you that it’s possible for everyone who is willing to start looking. Presence is not personal to me or to anyone. This is who we really are. It unites all of us. It’s our birthright and it’s never left us. Most of us have just been too mesmerized by our stressful thoughts to remember that. Until now.
Coming home to Presence provides the ultimate grounding and stabilising experience. It makes it possible to question the thoughts and beliefs that bring so much stress and struggle into daily life. Presence is the exploration of who you really are when you are not believing the stories of the ego-mind.
How do I find Presence?
The take- home message in everything I teach about Presence is the same.
Even when your child is screaming for your attention, don’t focus first on what is happening “out there” with your child. Before you do anything, take a moment to focus within yourself.
Focus your attention within yourself on something that isn’t your thoughts.
I focus on my inner energy field – the tingling, flowing aliveness within. When I first began this practice i could only sense a tingling in my fingers and feet. Now, I experience my whole body and environment as a continuous field of energy.
If that doesn’t work for you, try focusing on your breath, your heart beat or a mantra. Your experience of Presence will deepen with practice. The moment that your child starts having a tantrum or siblings start to fight is a reminder to focus within and draw attention away from your thoughts. If there are emotions stirred up within you, just notice them without judgement until they pass.
With daily practice of focusing on your inner energy field you will discover that thoughts are highly overrated and not really helpful most of the time.There is a deeper wisdom to be found in Presence that guides towards peace. This wisdom is often called intuition or the guidance of your higher self. In my experience there is nothing more satisfying or liberating than living and relating to others in Presence.
In the last 10 years I’ve been constantly exploring how best to share what I’ve learned about Presence and how the ego-mind distracts us from it. I’ve written a book “Joyful Parenting” and I’ve developed and taught a course by the same name. I’ve done lots of one-on-one coaching and mentoring and I’m keen to continue that work. I keep getting new ideas about how I can be of service and I’m working with a group of friends on an exciting new project.
Get in touch if you’d like to explore working with me to question your stressful thoughts and to rediscover or deepen into Presence.