let’s live

May 13, 2010 at 10:00 am 3 comments

Mom, do you love me when I am crying?


Me too. I love you even when I am sad.

I love you no matter what you are doing.

Me too! I love you no matter what I am doing too.

Oh how I love this girl. I want to eat her sometimes, consume her completely, get the MOST of her that I possibly can. Other times while I am watching her, nearly writhing with the degree of my love, my mind begins to search wildly, to scan for other ways to do something with these feelings. Sometimes I end up thinking, I want another baby, just so that I can get more of this love, so that I can find an action that will help me deal with the strength of my emotions.

Feelings, even good ones when felt strongly, are difficult, and we wriggle and writhe unable to just let them be. Action is the first thing we move toward to help us cope.

Feeling pain? Take an aspirin!

Feeling sad? Think happy thoughts! Take a bath! Drink a beer!

Feeling good? Post about it to Facebook! Take a picture! Commit it to memory so you can recreate it again and again!

Feeling mad? Talk about it! Post about it to Facebook! Slam a door!

We always want to do something. And if someone else is feeling something we think they want us to do something as well. The lame thing is that doing something doesn’t work, it doesn’t really help us and it doesn’t help anyone else. If you want to see an emotion shift quickly just watch what happens when you feel that feeling all the way, without squirming. Like in yoga class, when I’ve twisted myself up into an almost unbearable pose and then the teacher comes and twists me further, but instead of then giving me permission to release he asks the class to stay here longer. Because I feel uncomfortable I look for ways to shift a body part to ease or at least change my feelings, and when that doesn’t work I move in my mind, trying to get away from the sensation. If I finally give up the struggle everything gets better, instantaneously.

When uncomfortable in any emotion, the best possible thing we can do for ourselves is to feel that feeling as much as possible, without running away, without fixing, without doing anything at all. And when someone else is feeling something we can support them in feeling their emotions in the same way. This means that when your kid hurls the sippy cup across the room because you gave him the WRONG sippy cup, do not rummage about for another sippy cup. Don’t even move. You don’t even have to say anything, simply bear witness. If they are open to empathy give it freely, Oh, you’re really upset. That’s not the cup you wanted. There probably will come a moment when getting another sippy cup is desired but allowing room for the feelings come first, action later.

At art class this week a little boy became mad about a lump of clay and lashed out at the little girl next to him. His grandma said, No no no! You don”t do that! Do you want to paint? Let’s move over here and paint. The boy became angrier at this and ran out of the room. The grandma followed him out saying, Do you want to go? Do you need water? Do you need to go potty?, until they were out of sight. The boy was mad. That’s all. But instead of noticing that and accepting him, his caregiver was trying to do something, trying to move him out of his emotional state. And guess what? It didn’t work. He was still angry, perhaps even angrier than he was during the initial interaction, and they had to leave.

Let’s stop fixing. Ourselves and others. Let’s stop doing. It has no place in the emotional landscape and does us no good. Let’s stop “protecting” ourselves from feeling things. It’s okay to feel. In fact feeling is what makes living worthwhile. Let’s live.


Entry filed under: empathy, parenting principles. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lorien  |  May 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you. I love this post. I feel grateful for this blog.

  • 2. emily  |  May 14, 2010 at 8:21 am

    whoa. that was a big one. that must taken a while to get out and to get right. and so true. the sooner i can let myself go and just be in the emotional spot i am trying to avoid, the sooner i realize it is not only bearable but even a little peaceful. cool nat.

  • 3. angela  |  May 14, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    so right on. my kids are just like me, they feel intensely, and sometimes it is overwhelming, those pesky feelings. why is it so hard to just feel them. i don’t think i ever learned how when i was little. so glad to learn alongside my kids. amazing, really. thanks for this post, your words are always right on.


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