Originally published on positiveimpactmagzine.com on April 1, 2011.
By: Chris Morasky
Despite your best intentions, the advice of friends, and the parenting books that you’ve read, you may some day realize that you are unqualified for the job of parenting. You struggle to instill your values, protect your child from harm, and provide her with the tools necessary to become healthy and successful. And yet, your child may resist your teachings and behave in ways that you find maddeningly opposite to what you want. She may whine and complain, or be slow, or have temper tantrums, or won’t eat what you make, or exhibit a million other frustrating behaviors. Why? What are you doing wrong?
You have a problem if you see this as a problem, when it is really an opportunity. You are on a journey of exploration with your child, about the world, about love and pain, about connection and honesty, and most of all about healing. And the most important aspects of this journey are mostly unconscious. As a parent, you’ll experience the heights of love and the depths of pain and a lot of frustrating, funny, overwhelming, depressing, scary and confusing events in between. Understanding this journey consciously will enable you and your child to experience more love, joy and connection.
Your child was born to “grow you up” just as much as you will raise him.
You and your child are engaged in a complex dynamic that will challenge everything about you that is not in alignment with love and the truth about who you are. Unconsciously, your child will find everything that you dislike about yourself, every limiting belief, every fear, and she will lean into that disharmony. This is called “pushing your buttons,” and nobody can do that better than your child.
The way this works is through a cycle of attraction, trauma and re-traumatization. First, let’s understand trauma. Everyone experiences trauma. Your fears and limiting beliefs that unconsciously guide you through life are driven by your traumas.
Let’s explore this idea with an example:
Imagine that you are 3 years old and you go to the refrigerator to get some juice. You pull out the juice container but it’s heavy and you are small, and it slips from your hands and spills on the floor. Mom is there immediately, towering over you, and she yells, “Look at the mess you made! Why didn’t you ask for help?! Just go, get out of the way so I can clean this up!”
For you as a 3-year-old, this is completely overwhelming. It’s scary. The best strategy for protection that your body can come up with at this moment is to keep very still, even though the fight or flight energy is powerful. Your heart is hammering in your chest and the adrenaline is coursing through you.
If sometime later, Mom hugs you and says, “It’s OK, I love you,” and your fight or flight energy comes flooding out in big tears, there is no trauma. It will become a learning experience that confirms that you can make mistakes and those that care about you will still love you. You learn that your loved ones can get angry and yell and still love you.
But if you don’t release the fight or flight energy, the event does become a trauma. Maybe you were told that “big girls (or boys) don’t cry,” or maybe you remember when you had a temper tantrum and got dragged out of a store by your angry mom or dad. You learned that expressing your pent-up energy/emotion can turn your parents against you, so you bury your pain.
As a result, you develop certain beliefs about yourself and your world. In this case, you will learn that it’s not okay to make mistakes, that you aren’t good enough, that you should look to others to do the difficult jobs, and that you are a burden to those you care about.
Trauma is an untruth about who you really are, a limiting belief that says you are less than the love that is your higher self. Because of this mis-alignment, you unconsciously attract opportunities for healing. True healing is not a strategy or something discussed; it is an emotional release that is also felt in your body. You must feel the fear/pain/frustration of your trauma in order to heal it.
Re-traumatization occurs every time you feel yourself frustrated, angry, sad or afraid because you have experienced something that reminds you of the untruths you carry. Because you can only heal what you feel, an adult that was abused as a child will tend to attract a partner who is abusive, and until healing takes place, will encounter a series of dead-end relationships, jobs, health issues, car troubles, and much more that reflect the limiting belief “I don’t get what I want.”
Your child knows this intuitively and that’s why she pushes your buttons.
Every time she does something that makes you feel angry, frustrated, sad or just tense, you have received a gift from her spirit to you.
Much of the time we blame our children for making our lives more complicated than necessary (“What do you mean, you can’t find your shoes?” “Stop hitting, right now!”) and yet we never heal what is buried within us. We can only heal what is active within us, brought to the surface…
Your child will keep pushing your buttons until you heal. If you really want your child to stop a frustrating behavior, find what exists beneath your button and release the wounded energy. Your healing is immediately felt by your child, and she will stop her behavior because there is no longer a button there to push.
By her actions, your child is “telling” you that you can let go of what isn’t your truth. Your child acts with a higher wisdom. She is your teacher often at a deeper level than you are hers. So learn your lessons, because if you don’t, you will pass along the legacy of your wounds to her. She loves you enough to share the burden of your pain and limiting beliefs if you persist long enough. Consider where most of your traumas came from.
This is the dance of parenting. With your willingness to be vulnerable, the love that you share with your child will transform your wounds and your child’s. Be brave and feel so you can heal. And thank your child for the excellent job she is doing!
Chris Morasky is a director of Pathways School, which offers a yearlong online apprenticeship called “Full Circle”. The Full Circle program focuses on the practical and essential skills to live happily, close to the Earth, as well as the wisdom teachings, healing and spiritual practices necessary to rediscover our true humanity and live a compassionate life of service and connection with all things.