Posted in Children, Communication, Home, Marriage & Family, parenting

What I Would Change if I Could Parent My Children Again

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

If I had the chance to go back and parent my children again, what I would change?

When thinking about what I would change, I have to look at my values. What is most important to me? What was most important to me when I was raising my children? What mattered most and why was that so important? Was I true to what was important to me? And were my methods effective?

We tend to follow the model set by our own parents. It is all we know, as children, but later we begin to examine other models. We watch other families, we read books, listen to podcasts or sermons, watch videos, and attend parenting seminars. Some of the input I gleaned from these sources was very helpful to me.

Here are the things that I wanted and were important to me as a parent.

  1. I wanted my children to like me.
  2. I wanted my children to respect me.
  3. I wanted my children to be happy.
  4. I wanted other children and adults to like my children.
  5. I wanted my children to like and respect other children and adults.
  6. I wanted my children to be healthy and safe from harm and injury.
  7. I wanted to train my children in such a way that they would have a successful future as adults.
  8. I wanted to train my children in such a way that we would have a good relationship as adults.
  9. I wanted to pass on my values to my children.

I look back, now, and ask myself if I accomplished my objectives. How well did I do? Were the methods I chose the best ones I could have used? Could I have done some things differently and possibly had a better outcome?

With any responsibility there is daily opportunity for success and failure. Each day requires an evaluation of what went right and what went wrong and from these evaluations we can determine how to make more suitable choices and how to carry out a more effective plan the next day or the next week. As someone has said, the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. For a different outcome, there must be a new input. A change—large or small—is necessary.

Wanting my children to like me and respect me

The first and most important thing I realized in parenting was that who I was would determine how I would act, as a mother, and whether my children would like me and respect me. They were watching me. They would see my flaws. They would benefit from my strengths.

I saw that these little people needed me to be a strong and wise and consistent person in their lives. If I was this kind of person then they would feel confident in my leadership. They would like me, and they would respect me.

Parenting is about leadership. We show our children a pattern of behavior that we want them to follow. We care for them. We plan activities. We play with them. All this time we are teaching them how to respond to life. From our approach to life they determine how to engage with life and even whether life itself is worth living. They pick up our hope for the future, and, conversely, our hopelessness.

Wanting my children to be happy

There are discussions going on these days about whether or not it is a wise thing to pursue happiness. I wanted happiness for my children. I don’ t think it was a bad thing to want for them. I wanted each day to be happy. I made a point of being cheerful in the morning when I awoke them. I tried to maintain my cheerfulness and optimism throughout the day. Bedtime needed to be a happy time as I put them to rest with sweet thoughts and feelings. The reason I did this was because I heard from someone that as adults our happy childhood memories will sustain us through the difficult times. We had regular “happy family times” that we looked forward to when we would do fun things as a family, such as play a game or have popcorn with a movie in the living room. We took pleasure in simple, ordinary things like a good meal or snack, or a family walk in the neighborhood, or camping, or gardening in our small backyard. I tried to model enthusiasm and instill wonder and curiosity–traits that contribute to happiness.

Wanting my children to respect others and have others like them

I wanted others to like our children, so I treated other adults with respect and spoke respectfully about them. I especially treated their father with respect and required that they did the same, even in times when I disagreed with him.

We were delighted to host other families and have them over for meals. This was a highlight for me and for our children. My culinary skills were put to the test and honed. Our children saw this. They shared my pleasure. Children are encouraged by the risks we take and the competence we show. It gives them confidence that they can do the same, and confident, adventurous children are more likable.

Wanting my children to have a successful future

I knew that work would always be an important part of our children’s lives. If they could hold a job and be good employees that would greatly impact their success as adults. So I started giving them small responsibilities early and I modeled a positive attitude towards work. They might do the dishes grudgingly some days, but it was required. They might not clean up their rooms as regularly as I wished, but I modeled tidiness in the home. They learned personal discipline through weekly chores like cleaning bathrooms. When we were offered the job of vacuuming the hallways in our small apartment building, we realized that our sons were old enough to do this and we gave them the job, along with the income. They saved the money to buy bikes and had their first sense of the power of work to give them what they wanted. This was a lesson in responsibility. They each held part time jobs while they were still in school. Work would not always be fun, but it was an unavoidable fact and a means to an important end, that end being to put food on the table and pay the bills. Growing up, my parents required that I give 90% of my income to them. We did not expect this of our sons because we wanted them to learn to be responsible with their money and see that they could accomplish their goals. We did, however, incorporate a very realistic aspect into their financial responsibility training. Once they had full time jobs they contributed to the expenses of the family by paying a minimal amount in rent which essentially covered their food costs.

We encouraged our children to explore music and art and technology, anything that might round out their skills and better equip them as adults.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

So, what would I change in how I raised my family, if I could do it again? I think my values are still very much the same, but I know I would pay attention to a few areas where I could have done better.

I would reach out more

If I had it to do over again, I would still focus on a happy childhood. But I would reach out more to others and teach my children to observe needs and meet them. I was so focused on meeting their needs that I did not teach this very well.

In a small family of two children my sons missed out on the opportunity of caring for infants and small children under my supervision. I was the eldest of seven siblings and gained a lot of experience as a result. I did not see that my sons were not benefiting from the same experience.

I also did not teach them the value of visiting and looking after the elderly or the infirm because I was so caught up with my job and volunteer responsibilities.

I would speak more openly about suffering and injustice and our response

Although it is important to have a happy home, I would be more realistic with my children and talk more openly about the pain and suffering and evil in the world, at an appropriate age. I would share coping skills with them, and possible ways of thinking about and responding to what happens in the world.

I would include warnings about abusive behavior and train them in assertiveness

In teaching our children about respect for others, I would also include warnings about when blind respect can go wrong. I would be more open, once again, at an appropriate age, about signs of abuse. I would teach them about discernment and what emotional abuse looks and feels like. I would teach them how to say no and set boundaries.

I would be involved in talking about sex

I left the sex talks to my husband and I would be involved in this important area if I had it to do over again. A wife and mother has much to contribute and I missed my chance.

I would emphasize the importance of good communication skills

All of our lives we are going to be communicating with people and our success will depend to a great degree on our relational skills. We must model good communication skills to our children and I fell short in this area. Our sons turned out to be fairly good communicators, however, I notice areas where they could have benefited from skills such as negotiation and conflict resolution. Later in life I took helpful training in these areas. I wish this training would have been available to me much earlier because then my family might have enjoyed the long term benefits.

Those are a few of the things I would change. There is little point in living with remorse, as a parent. I know I did the best I knew to do at the time and I was aware that I wouldn’t be a perfect parent. None of us are. But we can still learn, even later in life, and become more effective in our various leadership roles. Maybe others can even learn from the areas where we failed. I’m hopeful that in some way what I have gleaned will be helpful to others. I have a undying admiration for those who take on the life-long responsibility of parenting.

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Posted in Eco-responsibility, Food, Health, supplements, sustainability

What is Missing?

organic proteinI find so often when I read an article, be it in the news, or in a magazine, that something is missing. But then articles are not generally written with full disclosure in mind, or the inclusion of a balancing viewpoint. They are written from a bias. I’m sure even my own articles have bias. So, I accept that.

At the same time, it is helpful to have a discussion around what is being said and what may be missing. This week I was given a complimentary Alive magazine with my purchase at a local health food store. The full title of the magazine is, Alive: Canada’s Natural Health and Wellness Magazine. With special attention to Earth Day occurring in April, the magazine features eco-conscious articles and content about eating whole foods, composting, urban gardening and re-using instead of recycling. It also has an article on food insecurity, multiculturalism and inclusion. What struck me, though, was that within the magazine there are no less than 25 full page ads for supplements in capsule, tablet, or powder form, packaged in plastic bottles/jars, and sometimes packaged additionally in paper boxes.

The connect is obviously missing. Here are two very distinct messages. One says, buy these plastic bottles. The other says, care for the environment and eat natural. The message to BUY is coming across much louder and clearer than the very eco-friendly articles. How can this message about caring for the earth be believed when there is such an obvious contradiction in the magazine?

This, to me is just another one of the many examples we have in our society of do as I say, and not as I do. We need to start talking about what is missing from the conversation. For instance…

  • How many factories does it take to produce these highly “processed” supplements?
  • How much plastic is lining the shelves of health food stores?
  • Why are there such small quantities per bottle?
  • How much bio-waste is produced by these factories?
  • What portion of their budget is spent on advertising…on bottles, boxes, paper inserts, in magazines, on websites?
  • What is their profit margin?

It seems a little hypocritical to include a short article in the magazine about the importance of “inclusiveness” and “food security” when literally every third page page screams “elite” and “privilege.” Face it, who can afford supplements at $40 dollar a bottle for a month’s worth of product? And clearly you will need to buy multiple bottles, probably at least a dozen, but it could be much more. The magazine also contains an “Alive Shopping list” to help you with your decisions about which supplements in the magazine might be for you, so you can “tackle the supplement aisle with confidence.”

I admit that for me it has been a financial strain to buy supplements and I’ve never been able to afford as many supplements as I apparently “need.” So, this magazine is geared for those who earn more than I do–probably at least twice as much–who can comfortably afford the products. Think about that for a moment. While guilting those who are consuming, it is simultaneously enticing them to consume more of the highly processed, highly priced, plastic-packaged products.

As a society we may slowly be learning to walk the talk, but we still have a long way to go. We will have to ask ourselves some serious questions, one being, do we really want the sacrifices involved in the eco-friendly, whole food message?

Posted in Abuse, Children, Sex change, Sexual mutilation, Transgender

Sex Change Mutilation

alone-anxious-black-and-white-568027.jpgI have to speak out on a subject that is of very grave concern. In the name of gender change, doctors and medical teams are cutting off body parts of young teens and even pre-teens.

What shocks me is that these youngsters are not legally allowed to drink, or drive a car, yet they can make permanent, life-altering decisions about their bodies that require serious surgeries, hormone treatment, and puberty blockers, when there is no medical assurance of successful long term outcomes. In fact, the opposite has been documented.

We are seeing penises cut off, breasts cut off, hysterectomies being done. These children will be mutilated adults. They will never fit in society except as a class of their own. A class of misfits.

It is time we teach people to be comfortable in their own skin.

It is time that we recognize the true danger of the “choice” ideology and acknowledge that it has gone too far. It probably crossed the line a long time ago, but this is more serious than anything I have seen so far.

There is no changing back once such a radical surgery has been performed. Choice will no longer be an option. Think about that. There could be serious remorse.

It is a cruel trick for adults, who know better, to play along with a choice that literally, physically injures a child. These surgeries require undergoing the risk of anesthesia and infection. There may be a need for skin grafting and future surgeries. Surgery is always traumatic to the body. Usually the risk of surgery is weighed against the benefits. But in this case the outcome is not even desirable.

No matter how badly a child wants a “sex change” it should not be allowed and doctors should not consent to performing these surgeries. It is unethical.

Major alterations to a child’s body will most certainly result in long term emotional pain, depression, anxiety and confusion. The idea that a person can have an actual sex change is a blatant lie. There is change in appearance, but not a sex change.

A body will continue to have the same chromosomes it was born with and will be subject to these dictates regardless of interventions. A lifetime of suppressive medications will not change the sex of a body. These children are being set up for a lifetime of medicating themselves and fighting against the natural course of their bodies. Think of the toll that will take.

Do we love our children and want the best outcomes for them? Because if we do, we will not allow them to be deceived by the current ideology that they can have whatever they want, including sex change. It is just not a believable narrative.

Let’s take off the politically correct blinders and see this for what it really is. Child mutilation. It may be performed by “professionals” in a “medical facility” but that very fact shows a lack of professional insight and makes this picture all the more haunting.

Posted in Leadership, success

23 things that will mess up your life

It’s pretty easy to mess up our lives. It’s very difficult not to, in fact. Everybody can look back and point to choices they regret.

From childhood we are inclined to resist the guidance of our parents who are doing their best to look out for us and prevent us from our own ruin.

It’s good to learn early on that we cannot have everything we want because some of the things we want are not good for us. It is only as we train our desires that we begin to want the things that are going to give us a good future.

Over the years I have watched many people make bad choices. I have observed that it is easier to prevent a mistake than to correct it later.

I find it painful to watch people make choices that I know will mess up their lives. Most of the time I can’t prevent them.

I’ve decided to write this article in the hope that someone might want some coaching on how not to mess up their lives.

What will mess up your life?

  1. You will mess up your life if you are a follower. If you don’t have the strength to abide by your convictions and say, no, then you are going to do things you will regret later.
  2. You will mess up your life if you refuse to think about how daily decisions will affect your future.
  3. You will mess up your life if you don’t discern which people want the best for you. Some people really don’t care if you mess up. They have made bad choices and want company. They want to drag you down with them.
  4. You will mess up your life if you don’t have a vision for the life you want to have. Without this you will be without a roadmap. You will be making decisions based on the moment and on how you feel.
  5. You will mess up your life if you are afraid to stand out from the crowd and be different. Sometimes going against the crowd will mean that you will stand alone.
  6. You will mess up your life if you defy your conscience. There is a still small voice inside us that often warns us of danger and sometimes makes us feel an apprehensive guilt. It’s good to listen to your gut feeling.
  7. You will mess up your life if you rely on your peers for guidance. Most likely your peers are struggling with the same things you are. In order to keep from messing up your life you will need to look for role models who have more life experience.
  8. You will mess up your life if you fill your mind with garbage. Garbage is anything that does not move you in the direction of your goals. You need to develop a strong sense of what is worthy of your goals and what is beneath them.
  9. You will mess up your life if you allow any addiction to overpower you. Addictions are very expensive and always take a toll the take on our finances, our relationships and our health. Do not let them have this power over you.
  10. You will mess up your life if you think too highly of yourself and your abilities and if you think to lowly of yourself. Develop a healthy understanding of yourself in relation to others. See others as being of equal worth.
  11. You will mess up your life if you are prone to violence or violent outbursts. Others do not deserve your wrath. The deserve your patience and understanding.
  12. You will mess up your life if you think only about yourself. The most fulfilling life is a life spent with consideration for the needs of others. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  13. You will mess up your life if you refuse to learn. Learning means studying and listening to others with more knowledge and experience. Be a truth seeker.
  14. You will mess up your life if you are not discerning. Discernment means you can see consequences before they happen. It also means you see the motivation behind things, like advertising, for example. Discernment will help you understand what is for your good and what is not and why this is so.
  15. You will mess up your life if you cannot put the welfare of others ahead of your own welfare. This is especially true if you seek an enduring relationship and want to have a family.
  16. You will mess up your life if you habitually lie. Others will not be able to trust you.
  17. You will mess up your life if you steal. You do not show respect for the property of others. This also applies to vandalizing the property of others.
  18. You will mess up your life if you do not know how to manage your sexual desires and impulses. This is probably the least talked about subject because it is so personal. A sense of entitlement will result in making destructive choices.
  19. You will mess up your life if you avoid obligation and responsibility. One of the key obligations is to manage your finances by having an income and realizing that you are responsible for providing for yourself for the rest of your life.
  20. You will mess up your life if you engage in criminal activities.
  21. You will mess up your life if you borrow beyond your ability to pay it back. Borrowing has to be considered very carefully because it can quickly turn into crippling debt that will limit your ability to meet your obligations and have the things that are important in your life.
  22. You will mess up your life if you refuse to apologize. Everybody makes mistakes and we need to own up to our mistakes.
  23. You will mess up your life if you do not clean up after yourself. Cleaning up after yourself shows respect for your environment. You will respect yourself and others will respect you if you look after your surroundings.

There is a lot of value in simply being a decent citizen and not messing up what you have been given. Life is not so much about climbing the ladder of success as it is about being a contributing member of society. It is about taking time to think about how we are impacting our future, the lives of our loved ones, and our planet. We only get one round at life. Let’s not mess it up.

Posted in feminism, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health, women

What I like and dislike about feminism

I, like most women, have not studied the basic tenets of feminism. Instead, we have drawn our conclusions about feminism from what we have seen, and read, and sometimes altered our perceptions as we learned more about the movement.

There was a time when I thought, perhaps a little naively, that feminism was primarily about women gaining the right to vote and getting equal pay for equal work. But feminism has evolved into something much more complex and some days, I admit, I struggle to understand what feminists are trying to accomplish.

Most women are not active feminists, including myself, but we have always appreciated the work of those who have advocated on our behalf for things like equal pay and benefits. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if feminism has been derailed from its original purpose. Or did I misunderstand the intent from the beginning?

Originally I was of the opinion that feminism was about advocating for what was good for women–all women–but recently I have begun to think it is more about power and the need to assert ourselves and activate for certain “rights” with the outcome being that we dominate.

In my attempt to comprehend what feminists are up to I have realized that feminists are social justice warriors advocating for numerous human rights. This can be a good thing, however, I wonder if the movement is over-reaching. From my perspective it has morphed into an almost unrecognizable entity, compared with what it once was. Planned Parenthood, for example, the most prominent feminist organization, is heavily involved in influencing the United Nations in setting international standards for education and healthcare, in the name of empowering women.

I’ve learned that feminists claim to empower women primarily by providing easy access to contraceptives, offering comprehensive sex education, and working at decreasing poverty among women. Since child bearing is viewed as a contributing factor to poverty, the proposed solution is to educate, provide contraceptives and offer abortion as means to reduce family size.

It is no secret that Planned Parenthood has worked internationally, very successfully in countries like China and India, to control population growth. Often this is achieved through selective abortion of female fetuses. Somehow this does not sit well with my understanding of an organization that exists for the purpose of empowering women.

Admittedly, women with children cannot devote the same amount of time and energy to advancing their careers as men, or as women who do not have children. So, either we choose not to have children, or we take on a heavier load, and somehow manage the extra toll it takes on us physically and mentally. Even if we take advantage of daycare and share parenting responsibilities with our partners, mothers will still carry the greater share of the burden. Because of this some women will often opt for lower paying and part time jobs in order to stay healthy and balanced. I know of numerous women for whom this has been the case.

I have some difficulty with feminists who seem to insist that we can have it all. Supposedly we can compete equally with men in every field and for every position and ought to have equal representation in every department, while raising a family as well. This is, of course, is completely unrealistic. To hold to this narrative would require that women abandon parenting.

What I probably find most disconcerting about feminism is its lack of support for the role of mothering. A woman’s role as the care-giver for her children is considered so insignificant as to be easily delegated to strangers. There is a complete denial of any long term impact of these arrangements on children. Evidence, to the contrary, shows that nothing is as critical to the development of a child as the consistent and ongoing attention and nurture of a mother and father.

I understand the aspirations of the full-time career woman. I understand the drive to contribute and the rewards of success. The women whom I know want to work. But they also want options around how much time they work in order to be available for their families. By elevating the importance of a career we tend to put undue pressure on women, some of whom want nothing more than to be at home caring for their families.

We need to have this conversation about choices and about how our families are impacted by our choices. But the moment someone broaches these subjects, feminists immediately cry foul and proceed to dismantle the credibility of the speaker. To see women silenced in this way is distressing. Every woman’s voice is valid and deserves to be heard. This unwillingness to dialogue makes it appear that feminists would rather protect their ideals than listen to the women they claim to represent.

If I could put a new face on feminism, I would begin by having feminists embrace the wider role of a woman as a wife and mother. I would encourage working at building healthy families in which divorce is less common and addictions occur with less frequency. I would build support for two-parent homes as a means to reducing poverty. I would also seek to reduce the need for social services and foster care by teaching parenting skills and communication skills so that children can remain in their home of origin. Rather than seeing sex education as the responsibility of public education, I would offer training sessions to parents on how to inform their children and guide them toward healthy choices. And, significantly, I would measure success more by harmonious homes, than by a well-paying career. Feminists may consider this form of thinking as regressive, but in reality it is thinking long term about the future well-being of our society. One of the main plagues of our society today is addictions. Supportive families are significant in preventing addictions and helping the next generation to succeed.

Increasingly women are losing their choice of being home with their children. Feminism tends to ignore the benefit of a two parent home. We cannot remove fathers from the equation. If we set up society so that we divorce women from their responsibility as wives and mothers, then we may in time end up in a place where all but the very wealthy will no longer have any choice but to work and abandon child rearing.

I wonder if I am missing a big part of the picture of what is happening with the feminist movement. Maybe the bottom line is the money that is pouring into the coffers in the name of healthcare and education and human rights and the eradication of poverty. Or maybe there is a worldview that feminists feel they need to advance. Perhaps the focus, contrary to what I hoped to believe, is not really on what is best for women and their families. I have to ask whether feminism was possibly inexorably flawed from the start by excluding men from the needs of women?

I can only align myself with feminists in as far as I understand and support their views. I am currently looking for more evidence that feminists embrace the significance of the primary roles of a woman as a wife and mother. I see this as the basis of feminism, if feminism is indeed advocating for the welfare of the whole woman, as I have believed

Posted in Depression, faith, Health, mental health

Staying in my Happy Place

This morning I awoke in my Happy Place. It felt like the world was right. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I wasn’t overwhelmed by any anxiety. I didn’t have a sense of doom. I wasn’t worried.

When we want to have good mental health it is important to have a measuring point. It is important to identify how we feel when things are going well. My Happy Place, for me, is my measuring mark. It is the place I try to be most consistently in my life. I try not to fall too far below this mark and when I do, I make an effort to get back there.

In order to repeatedly experience my Happy Place I find I have to know what good things happened to make me feel this way? What did I do differently?

Some of the things that contribute to my Happy Place are a good diet, time spent outdoors, and being in the presence of family and friends.

Things that rob me of my sense of well-being are injustice in the world, family conflicts and the threat of losing what is precious to me.

In the same way that I identify what happened to make me feel peaceful and joyful, I also need to figure out what happens that makes me lose my sense of well-being.

I find it helpful to write down whatever I can think of that impacted my emotions in a negative way. Then I put a box around it.

When I write things down, I can see clearly what I have to watch out for. I have a limited amount of time and energy and I cannot allow these things to absorb a disproportional share. In other words, I need to be careful about how much time and energy I spend interacting with them. I am the one who has the most control over how these particular disturbances impact me.

On this list of stressors are some things I can do something about, and other things over which I have little or no influence. Because I am a praying woman, I commit to God the things I cannot change. And then I pray for wisdom and guidance regarding the things I can change.

Maintaining a peaceful life feels good, but it is also necessary for our health. Anxiety and worry and distress cause all sorts of difficulties in our bodies such as high blood pressure, stomach ulcers and even reduced immunity. Stress can also cause people to resort to unhealthy and addictive behaviors and this is another reason why it is good to identify our stressors and learn to manage them.

When I write down the troubling things in my life, I am giving them a name and creating a bit of distance between me and them, enough to take an objective look at them.

This is one of the ways I organize my life. When our lives feel stressed it is often because we feel out of control. Our lives become chaotic. Chaos makes us uneasy. We naturally want to be in control of our lives.

When we see our stressors in front of us in this way, life becomes more predictable. A more predictable life gives us a greater sense of control. A greater sense of control leads to greater peace of mind.

Blocking, or burying things, by refusing to think about them, means that they can pop up unexpectedly and throw our lives into disorder or chaos. That is the reason why I like to be aware of what is going on inside me, particularly the things disturbing me. I like to identify and corral the enemy in this box.

At the other end of the page that contains the box with the things in it that are stressors, I draw another box that represents the good feelings I have when I am happy with my life. It includes the things that contribute to these good feelings. In this way I can keep track of what gives me a sense of well-being.

You may need to wait and watch for your Happy Place to happen–that place where you have a general feeling of well-being. Once you recognize the exact feelings you have, you can begin to try and prolong this good feeling. Make it last an hour, a day. Try and make it happen more frequently.

I draw third box between the box of stressors on the left, and my happiness box on the right, and in it I write action steps I will take. These are the things I believe I can do to make my life better and to stay on track. Sometimes I can’t do much, but I can do a little. Doing a little, now and then, starts to add up over time.

One of the keys for me to be in my Happy Place has been to find out exactly what the “little things” are that I can do well. Not what others expect me to do. Not even my expectations of myself, because I will often put far too much on myself. But just those small things that I feel a gentle nudge to do, things that are a good fit for me in terms of my character and ability.

Years ago I read a book about the difference between faith and presumption. I realized that I had presumed a lot of things were my responsibility when they were not. Faith gives us only as much responsibility as we are meant to carry. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we find the yoke that is tailor-made made for us then our burden becomes much lighter and easier. The truth is that as long as we are in this life we will have burdens to bear, but they don’t have to crush us.

Peace is probably the word that best describes what I feel when I am in my Happy Place. I have found that I need to pursue peace. Things will always happen to disrupt my peace and then I have to begin my journey back by recognizing the place I want to be, acknowledging the things that are hindering me, and committing to doing what I can do to make a difference.

Posted in mental health

Emotion Regulation – Coping Skills

What do you do when current world events overwhelm you?

Turn off and tune out?

Post a rant?

Get drunk?

Cancel your internet?

Become a recluse?

Build a bomb shelter?

Move to Whitehorse?

This year I have experienced a kind of rage and sorrow I have rarely ever felt before in response to what is happening in the world. I get particularly emotionally distraught when bad news involves children. I want to cover my ears and shut my eyes. I want to run away somewhere and escape. Other days I feel more militant and I won’t go into that.

But do you know that it is actually a good thing to have these feelings?

I had to tell myself that.

We want to numb ourselves, and we need to distract ourselves for a time, even protect ourselves, but what would be much worse than these feelings of outrage and distress would be to feel nothing. There’s actually a name for that and it is a mental disorder. It is called psychopathy and means lacking conscience and empathy. Much of the evil we see is perpetrated by people who suffer from this disorder.

When we were little we were taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This has been called The Golden Rule and it is from the Bible. The Golden Rule teaches us empathy. It teaches us how to live in this world. Since we don’t normally want to be hurt, we shouldn’t hurt others either.

We feel outrage, and hurt, and sorrow when we hear about people who violate the way we believe we are to behave in this world. These feelings show that we are caring humans, so we need to keep on having them.

However, we need to learn to manage our feelings so that we can still continue on with life.

What we need to learn is “emotion regulation” – how to manage our feelings so that we do not remain in a constant state of emotional arousal.

Much of what we hear in the news causes us to be angry on behalf of others, or fearful of how it might affect us. We begin to experience fear when it gets a little closer to home and to those we love. If there is a real threat of harm we may actually need to take protective measures. I’m not going to talk about that here. I am just going to talk about how to deal with those unpleasant feelings.

Here are some things I suggest, which I have started to do. Some will not be new to you.

GET CONTROL OF YOUR MIND

  1. Take a step back. Whatever that looks like. Take some time away from the situation that is causing agitation. Create a bit of distance. We can always come back to it later, when we feel more calm, to take another look.
  2. Admit that bad things will happen. This is not a just world. Sometimes people are evil. I found this hard to do. I did not want to say that people are evil. I wanted to continue to live in a sort of utopia, thinking the best of others. But once I faced it, I actually felt some tension dissipate.
  3. Acknowledge that some things might not turn out well (or as we had wished), even in the long run. But don’t give up hope.
  4. Realize that people will get hurt. Some people will die. Someone close to you is likely going to get hurt at some point, or die. Think about this for a moment and prepare in advance for it, so you are not taken totally by surprise. As my mom says, if we are alive we are also a “candidate for death.” Lol! (She worked in palliative home care so she treats death a bit more lightly than most of us.)
  5. It might look like the bad guys are winning, but it’s only for awhile. My husband reminds me that God will have the final say on that last day. I didn’t find this very comforting, but at least there is that.
  6. It’s OK to be upset and it’s good to be honest about just how badly upset I am. At the same time, I am the only one who can calm myself down. I have to learn to do this, because my health, my welfare, and my sanity all depend on my being able to it. For my own good, I have to learn how to regulate my emotions.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

There are other things we can do like meditation, exercise, engaging in uplifting activities. It’s up to us to search and find what we need. But much of the work happens in our heads–the place where we decide how to respond. Rather than a runaway train, we can be at the controls, deciding where we go and at what speed.

CONSIDER BEING AN AGENT OF CHANGE

After we take a break, create some distance for awhile, and collect ourselves, we might want to think about exactly why a certain issue is so strongly affecting our emotions. Is it possible that this may be a sign of an area where we can make some difference, great or small?

If we want to get involved there are things we can do. Sometimes I write letters, sign petitions, or talk to people. We can also join marches or demonstrations, volunteer with organizations, raise funds, donate, and vote. We owe it to ourselves and the world to regulate our emotions in order to be strong in battle.

PRAY

I want to emphasize the importance of prayer. Prayer can bring comfort to your own heart. I also find certain scriptures to be reassuring, particularly the Psalms. I have witnessed remarkable answers to prayer and I believe that prayer can move mountains.

KEEP ON LIVING

Although we may not engage directly in righting wrongs, there is always the necessity for people to affect change by setting an honorable example. Many amazing people are simply going to work every day, caring for their families, and being good citizens. They ought to make the news now and then.

Learning how to regulate our emotions will mean that we are able to function optimally and have a sense of being in control of our lives.

We want to be of “sound mind,” able to think clearly and evaluate objectively.

We want to run the control panel of our lives.

I, for one, have realized that this can take some work. But after working at this for awhile, I no longer find myself with runaway emotions. I have realized I can put the brakes on.