The are also unconscious, part of our emotional brain, and drive you to meet a need.
You can’t talk your way out of an emotional need, because the emotional brain hijacks you.
It’s easy to meet that need when you’re in a good mood.
It’s harder when the negative emotions overwhelm you or your child…
What are the drivers behind your negative emotions?
Anger and rage is a way of protecting yourself and rises when there is a threat to getting what you want (think tantrum).
Fear and anxiety is also a drive to get away from something that is perceived dangerous to/for you… (it’s also different from panic)
Panic, grief and distress is brought about by separation or thought of separation from something you love or from feeling safe. Panic is more connected to grief because of the feelings of pain and terror at the thought of losing the person, object and feelings of safety.
Think of your child going to daycare/kindy/preschool for the first time. The confusion and loss can feel immense for them and leave lasting memories.
Just last week I worked with an adult mum who knew her reactions to moving (something her partner wanted to do and she apposed) were not rational. She kept falling into arguments with her partner over it. When we traced it back, she could clearly see herself being left at school by her mum, the teacher telling her mum just to leave, and mum did. She could remember her confusion and panic to being in this new environment and not knowing anyone!
We also traced it back to further instances in her life, being left alone, the most significant was being born premature and left in a humidity crib and mum coming in just once a day. Babies don’t understand this separation and as a result it can leave emotional memories, that don’t have any narrative around them, locked into the body. The result is that when similar instances, and they can be very slight similarities in nature, pop up… irrational panic takes over the whole body. Like being asked to move somewhere where you know no one… when your partner has a job that takes them away from you for days and weeks on end. Irrational fear is a very motivating emotion and drives you to seek that which makes you feel safe.
So what can you do, as an individual or parent wanting to help your child with their overwhelming emotional call to action.
Here are a few ways:
1. Identify the emotion!
Naming the emotion, out loud for the person/child, often helps to tame it because it sends a signal to the child/person that you understand them and it has a neurological “cooling” of the brain response.
Help them to cool down again and again and you become someone very safe and trustworthy… they are more likely to respond quickly that way.
2. Identify the underlying need that their emotion/action is calling for
Ask yourself… “What do they need in this moment to calm that emotion down?”
If you’re unsure, just listen and empathise with them.
The more your actively listen, feeding back what you hear, the more the person is able to explore what they are feeling and what led them to that feeling.
Giving them this psychological “airing” space is immensely valuable to uncovering their true driver for the emotion.
Once you have discovered the need, name it and ensure you both agree that this is what they need.
3a. Help them find a better solution (or if there is no logical solution.. go onto 3b)
When you both can see the need, and you can see that there are better ways to address that need, then ask the person/child…
“What’s another way you can meet that need?”
Get them to brainstorm the solution before offering suggestions.
We want to encourage empowerment, so it’s much better if they can come up with a solution that works for them.
If they pick a solution that you see problems with, ask them…
“Do you see any possible problems doing it that way?”
This way you are encouraging them to expand their focus to ensure the bigger picture is taken in.
3b. Help them understand where this need is coming from
Irrational solutions = mean irrational needs that need further exploring
Generally it’s from another previous experience.
Take the example above of the irrational fear of moving.
It all stemmed from child hood experience that have been left unresolved.
What we can do, as friends, parents or partners, is to listen and encourage them to talk through those feelings. Give them TIME and DON’T RUSH them.
With children the best way of doing this is to make a story out of it and include the emotions felt and the bigger picture of the experience.
So for example, talking through that first day of daycare/school, you ensure to include how having so much new exciting things to do and how mum/dad were right there after school to pick them up and how they got to make that beautiful picture and so forth.
For adults, you can try talking it through, however I find that often adults find it awkward or uncomfortable to talk through childhood experiences with others as culturally we want people to just “get over it”.
So there can be resistance and shame, especially if they are talking to someone who can’t provide that airing space (because they are uncomfortable with the emotions that come up for them).
They just give you the opportunity to clear the emotions and see the big picture beyond what your emotion brain holds true.
They also are held with other people who are open to listening and have the same aim of releasing their own stuff!
After all, it our emotional/unconscious brain that runs the show.
Our logical brain only has control about 5% of the time.
95% of the time you’re being driven by your unconscious needs.
For more about what’s happening, specifically in your toddler’s brain, and how you can help them manage their emotions and you stay sane, why not join me on Wednesday night for this Webinar? Replays are an option for those that register and can’t make the time work for them.