So, it turns out the course I’m teaching is actually teaching me. Isn’t that the way it goes, though?
Right now, I am leading some incredible people through my newest pilot program, which will be released unto you all in the Fall. It is the work I love more than anything. Self-Sabotage. We are going deep into exploration as to why we as individuals get stuck in the same cycles and forging a new relationship with the part of us that wants to hold us back so that we can all experience a whole lot more acceleration toward our desires.
That is why I have been inconsistently appearing in your inbox and in my Facebook group. I have been spending a lot of time incubating and birthing this little program baby into the world, which has taken up a lot of my focus. I really consider my coaching work my art as right now, in my life, it is how my inner being to find its way into form in the outside world.
And my life is imitating my art.
Last week, I had a huge realization about how to interact with my saboteur through learning more about conscious, respectful, positive parenting.
Parenting is a huge learning experience for me right now. It’s messy, it’s confusing, it’s beautiful. It’s all over the place. For some reason, even though I teach about listening to soul before ego, I had put parenting into its own box and have struggled to strike the balance between understanding which I was operating out of with my son. Slowly I am connecting the dots. Everything, everything, everything is connected.
This is what I’m learning about behavior; both my kid’s AND my own:
Behavior is multi-layered. There is a behavior layer and then beneath, there is the SOURCE level. Our behavior is a reflection of what is going on underneath the behavior.
If we just look at the behavior level and try to fix an undesirable behavior through incentives, punishments or threats (like many of us try to motivate ourselves), we may be able to manipulate it but we miss out on super valuable INTEL about how to meet the unmet need BENEATH the behavior, which means the behavior will surface again, or a new undesirable behavior may replace the old one.
So, let’s look at this through the lens of both child behavior and our own self-sabotaging behaviors:
Small children are like these incredible puzzles, just like our saboteurs are. They have limited means to articulate themselves, and they behave in all sorts of ways to express what is going on below and to try to meet their unmet needs. They are often completely unaware of why they do what they do. They just know they have an impulse to engage in say; hitting the dog, throwing their silverware on the floor or charging into your crotch at full speed.
Much of it is attention seeking, of course. Kid’s love attention. Especially, my kid. But underneath the need for attention is an unmet need for something they can’t express; feeling of certainty, safety, connection or significance. If those aren’t in place in a positive way, they will find a way to meet them through negative attention.
I am learning that the more compassionate I can be with my son, while still drawing boundaries with him, the more I am able to open the space for his processing and understanding his emotional life in a safe space, the more our relationship improves. The more he starts to listen. The easier it becomes to contain and redirect the wild-fire of his spirit. He’s three years old and doesn’t understand that he is acting out because an internal motivation of an unmet need, but when I can figure out what that is, I can figure out how to try to meet his needs in a more productive way, that keeps us all saner.
And listen, I can’t always meet my son’s needs completely. Ultimately, part of the job here is I have to figure out how to teach him to meet his OWN needs, but in the meantime, understanding that he really is doing the best he can with the tools he has helps me to build EMPATHY. And the more empathy I have for him, the more patience I have and the cooler I can stay.
Conversely, when I become the dictator who tries to control his behavior through manipulation and over-powering him (still guilty of this sometimes), the more power struggles ensue. The more I find myself irritated, bitter and taking his behavior super personally. The more he can feel that and needs to push even MORE boundaries to again try to meet the following needs; certainty, safety, connection, significance.
Since you have just read the last three paragraphs, go back and substitute my son for your saboteur. They are quite similar. They are both vulnerable, impulse-driven, limited in awareness, immature, emotional small children.
So, try on this perspective. We need to learn to PARENT our saboteur.
Even when they are kicking us or screaming at us, we have to remain the captain of the ship. It will be messy and imperfect. The cool, confident leader, who is navigating how to support and serve them fully, while somehow, still meeting their needs, and our own in the process.
So, just as I was drawing this conclusion, my own saboteur jumped me big time.
Last week, in my group program, I sent out a module entitled, The Cost of Our Easy Buttons. One of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors is numbing. In doing so, we miss out on valuable intel from our inner being and our truth about where we are out of alignment with our values and how we want to feel. We miss out on valuable time in finding the alignment that will bring us peace and joy. One of the surest ways we know our saboteur is in the room with us is when we start to numb.
I, too, have my vices and numbing agents. It had been a while since food was much of a numbing agent for me, but this past week was a pretty tough week. I found myself buying potato chips and justifying it because we had family coming into town. I opened them when I wasn’t hungry and proceeded to mindlessly graze on them for the better part of three hours.
I felt sick. I justified continuing to do it because I had already started. I kept going until the bag was almost done. I hadn’t done this in many years.
I work with people day in and day out on emotional eating and I fell into the trap big time. Driving to pick my son up from preschool, the shame hangover started. I felt full and gross and confused. I felt the urge to start to eviscerate myself–it always temporarily feels empowering before it starts to really get destructive.
Luckily, I have done a lot of work on shame. I know it doesn’t help forward progress…at all. I allowed myself to feel full and gross, to feel the shame associated with it without indulging the story about it, knowing that of course, I did this for a reason because I was trying to get a need met and didn’t have an easier or more empowering path to do so.
My saboteur had jumped in unconsciously handing me the opportunity to numb out from all the stress I was experiencing.
I realized at that moment, I was the parent of the self that was experiencing shame. My job was to be the captain of the ship so I was able to breathe through it, hold the space, and instead of berating myself for bad behavior and cutting off communication with I already beat down self, I engaged and here is what I learned.
I put my hand over my heart as I drove and let the tears come.
I am feeling utterly helpless with our political climate. I am feeling nauseous and hot rage and so guilty for the privilege and luxury I have, forever having been a part of the problem, for my naivety and blindness to all the ways I have participated unknowingly in the suffering of others. I am so frustrated with my complacency and resistance to shifting this.
I want to DO something with these feelings. I want to make them go away immediately and since I am feeling so overwhelmed in my life, I am constantly feeding my anxiety without having somewhere to put it through action.
I asked myself how I wanted to feel.
I wanted to feel impactful. I wanted to feel loving. I wanted to feel “in it together.” I wanted to feel hopeful. I wanted to feel firmly grounded and able to weather the storm.
Were the potato chips doing that job?
Ha! No, of course not. They initially made those feelings a little less manageable for about thirty seconds but made me feel more hopeless and dis-empowered for the following couple hours.
So, what now? How could I help myself to feel impactful and hopeful again?
I needed to help myself process this. I needed to feed my hope and my knowledge. I needed to DO something in some way to move something forward.
So, I donated to the ACLU and RAICES. I actually took the time to read the piece, Dear White Women (one of the interactive social Syllabi) created by Rachel Cargle instead of just considering it and pushing it off. I started planning when I could march. I am listening to interviews on how to speak to people with opposing viewpoints in a way that they may be open to listening. I am speaking to people about what it would feel like to look at this through the lens of divine love and possibility, even now. I let myself feel the pain of the images and of the reporting.
I know this is not even slightly enough. Little by little, I am trying to stay present and doing the work of being here and human.
I am trying my best to stay away from venting on Facebook, as I know I am only preaching to a choir and increasing the collective anxiety, and a mindset of fear and “other.” I am becoming that which I despise. And oh man, that is so so so so tempting because part of me wants so badly to hurt and make someone wrong and pass along what Glennon Doyle Melton calls the “hot potato of pain,” just like I”m sure my saboteur wants to me.
And I am trying to forgive myself. Not for the potato chips or the wine (because let’s face it, there has been a lot of that too). But for the numbing, that has kept me disconnected from my deepest humanity for too long.
I can see now that I have always been afraid of being fully awake to what is around me. Always. And it has held me back as an artist, as a story-teller, as a coach, an author and as a human.
I am sure I will still numb. I will still default to fear. But my intention is to stay awake right now, as much as I can muster, to be compassionate with my saboteur (who would much rather I didn’t stay awake but go take a nap). My kids need me. The world’s kids need me; every color, every income level, every country. I need to figure out how to serve them in a bigger way.
Compassion and mercy originate from the soul. Race and borders are illusions created out of fear and ego.
I am outgrowing my complacency. How do I know? Because staying complacent and numbed is hurting more than staying awake.
Rock On & Be Well,