PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi, Anna!
ANNA: Hey, Pam.
PAM: So, this month in the Living Joyfully Network, our theme has been Sitting with Fear and Discomfort, and it has been fascinating. I’ve really been enjoying this month. When fear arises, our instinctual reaction is often to reach for control and just crank on that tool until our fear subsides. Yet with unschooling, we’ve discovered that wielding control over another person both weakens our connection and relationship and it interferes with their and our learning.
So, what can we do instead? Sit with our fear and discomfort and see what we discover. I’m really excited to talk about this, Anna. Let’s dive in.
PAM: Yay! All right.
Why sit with discomfort and fear?
That’s a great question to start with. As I mentioned, when we experience fear or even just niggling discomfort with something, our knee-jerk reaction is often to reach for control, but we know the toll that that can take on relationships and even on our relationship with ourself, if we’re trying to use control or guilt tactics to get ourselves to do something that we think we “should” do or we berate ourselves for having these feelings in the first place, “I shouldn’t be scared of that,” or whatever. Instead, we’re looking for other tools that we can use to help us actually process what’s happening rather than trying to stop or ignore it.
Sitting in discomfort with our fears doesn’t literally mean sitting. And what I mean is, we don’t need to find large swaths of alone time. It’s more about being with our fears without reacting to our discomfort for a while. And just to be clear, we’re not talking about emergent, physical-peril-type situations here.
For me, “sit” implies cultivating that meditative, open-minded, curious, and kind mindset that creates a safe and loving space for ourselves in which we can explore the many facets of our fear that we will find or the uncomfortableness that’s bubbling up for us. So, that’s what sitting with discomfort and fear means for me.
First, I just want to say that moving through this topic on the Network this month has really been amazing, because I feel like there have been so many aha moments and insights for the people there. And for me, myself, as I’m thinking about how this plays out with me, I’m just really super filled with gratitude for that community right now.
Because I will say that the idea of sitting with discomfort, that’s not always been easy for me, because I tend to want to control, solve, move on. I just want to deal with it that way.
But I realized that I wanted a better understanding before I reacted, because it just almost always goes awry if I’m jumping straight into action without really understanding my own pieces about it. My first reaction, like you said, is often to reach for control or just shut it down, just shut down whatever’s happening. And that always leads to disconnection.
And I don’t want to shut someone else down. When I think about it logically, I don’t want to do that. I want to understand though, so that I can be intentional about my next steps and remain connected to my child or my partner or whoever I’m moving through this experience with.
When we have fear and move straight into action, we’re missing the things we can learn from the experience. So, it really stunts our own personal growth. And when we reach for control with our kids, it stunts their exploration and learning and we weaken that connection, like we’ve mentioned, and the trust that we’ve built. Because we’re cultivating these relationships, we’re building trust.
And for some people that are newer to it, that’s tenuous. Those bonds can be broken pretty quickly. Now we can repair. I’m not saying this is forever, but it is something to be aware of, where we come in too quickly and how that can impact the work that we’re doing in these other areas.
I think what was important for me, too, is understanding that fear is just a message. We don’t have to be afraid of it. We can just notice it. We can even be grateful for it, because it’s showing us something that we need to look at maybe a little bit more closely. And just cultivating gratitude for the message, for me, changes the energy of it instantly.
PAM: Yeah. And, again, I like to come at it with that playful attitude and try it out. Try it out a couple of times and see. Because I remember one of the big takeaways or learning for me when I first started trying this out was how much of the picture I was missing at first.
When I was first having this reaction, it’s understandable. There’s nothing wrong with the reaction or the feelings that I’m having, but when I could sit with it for a while and learn a bit more, I learned how much I didn’t know at first, how much I was missing. Not only the piece of myself, but the pieces of the situation and the other people involved.
When you talked about trust, building trust in the process of sitting with your fear and discomfort versus immediately reacting with control, I built trust in that process that I would learn new things, that there were probably things that I didn’t know yet. So, to not react immediately was really helpful that way.
And that fear brings that tunnel vision. And, like you’re saying, you miss a lot when you’re in this fear tunnel. You’re not hearing the people around you. You’re not seeing the situation clearly. And so, that’s that first step, when we can say, okay, this message is coming through, but I don’t want to narrow in. I want to just give it some space and see what bubbles up, see what’s happening.
And that leads so nicely to the next thing I want to talk about, which is why it’s so important to first be kind to ourselves.
Because sitting with discomfort to process and to move through our fears is really all about learning more about ourselves, learning that cultivates this deeper level of self-awareness. So, being kind and compassionate towards ourselves is often about releasing judgments that we’re feeling, judgments about ourselves, about our kids, our partner, earlier experiences we’ve had like past baggage, societal messages, cultural messages that we’ve absorbed, because those cloud the situation.
They can be expectations that we’re putting on ourselves to find the right answer and to find it fast. And it helps to remind yourself that this isn’t physical peril. We have time. We have time to process. It’s not urgent.
So, when we’re in that info-gathering stage of processing, that observer mode, if we aren’t feeling kind and compassionate and safe, creating a safe space for ourselves, we are much more likely to hit that tunnel vision that you were talking about. We’re likely to be selective in the information that we’re gathering to contemplate, to think about, and risk missing so many other pieces.
It’s our human tendency to confirmation bias, that we are immediately, in that heightened fear state, almost thoughtlessly or subconsciously, instinctively, filtering the information that’s coming at us in ways that support and reinforce our existing belief that this is scary, that there’s something wrong with this, that we need to fix this fear.
And in that state of tunnel vision, we basically just see what we’re looking for, confirming our first instinct to reach for a control-based solution, like bringing in new rules or restrictions that will relieve the tension that we’re feeling with our fear. So, instead, if we can see that rising fear as a nudge or just a flag for ourselves, a sign to just stop, breathe, and observe. For me, that breathing is super important.
ANNA: Super important.
PAM: In that kindness bubble. I like to think of it that way, in that kindness bubble, we’re really able to start observing what’s happening and take in things that are new to us, notice those things that in that tunnel vision of fear, we would just discount and not even bring into our consciousness to think about.
So, that, to me, is why it’s so important to get to this kind and compassionate mindset first, before I choose any actions or reactions.
ANNA: If we go to beating ourselves up or shaming ourselves, it’s not addressing the underlying needs or emotions or the issues, just what we talk about with our kids. And then that’s where things can fester.
One of the Network members was talking about how she realized that she was acting in the role of a dismissive parent to herself, trying to say she shouldn’t feel a certain way, “Just get over it. This is dumb. Why are you feeling like this?”
But it didn’t help her get over it for her to be berating herself that way. It just made her feel terrible. And so, she realized that she needed to validate herself. “This is feeling hard and scary right now. I’m not understanding this. And I don’t like the way that it’s feeling.” And when we can give that kindness to ourselves, it helps us to open up to the other options. It helps us to see those things we weren’t able to see and to use the tools to figure out what’s going on, how do we want to move forward?
We can let go of judging ourselves as wrong or “the bad unschooler” or “the bad parent”, because that just shuts us down. It’s just not helpful. And when we can hold ourselves with love and kindness, it makes it so much easier to move through whatever emotions are creating the discomfort and helps us turn back to the connections so much faster. And it’s in our connections that we’re going to find the solutions that feel good to everyone.
And just like you said, when we have that confirmation bias, if we’re feeling afraid about technology or screens as people often call them, all we’re seeing is screen-screen-screen-screen-screen, because that’s what we’re fearing. But when you can go back into that connection, you see the learning, you see the joy, you see how complex it is. You see that it’s just one piece of a larger picture. And then you’re able to relax a bit.
But if you just tunnel in on the fear or conversely, then you’re like, “I’m a bad unschooler. Unschoolers are supposed to do this,” that’s not helping you connect with the child in front of you. That’s not helping you understand the situation in front of you, because you’re not making the choice then from inside of yourself, you’re making it because you think you’re supposed to. Not a good idea.
PAM: Yeah. I love that piece about when we’re judging ourselves.
People will be new to unschooling and they’ll hear, “Oh, you don’t have rules, you don’t have time limits around screens.” And so, they’ll think that to be a good unschooler, the rule is we don’t have restrictions around screens. And so, they release those restrictions.
I feel compassionate towards people who find themselves in this space where they’re fearful of the thing and yet they’re judging themselves about the fear and then they’re stuck. So, not only is it disconnecting, it literally is disconnecting, because often they’re like, “Okay, they’re doing the thing that I’m fearful about, but I know I shouldn’t stop them doing it. But if I go up and talk to them, they’re going to hear it in my voice. They’re going to feel that,” so they step back and they’re like, “Okay, so I’m not going to engage with them over that. I’m just going to let them do it,” which makes total sense. But it doesn’t help you process. It doesn’t help you move through and better understand the situation and come to see and learn why.
We don’t just willy nilly say, “Oh, we don’t have restrictions on screens.” That’s not the end of it. There are reasons. There are principles underneath that. That’s where you want to get to and understand, but if you’re disconnected and you’re not hanging out with your kid and seeing what they’re doing and getting into it, understanding and seeing the nuances of everything and seeing what it is they’re literally learning. So, some random conversation over here that you have was actually connected to something that they were playing, but you don’t see that connection if you’re not there engaged with them.
So, it’s just a spiral if you can’t connect with them.
ANNA: Right. And I think what happens here with whatever the issue is, if you’re making the decision to squelch your fear down and pull back over here, because you’re going to let them do this thing that scares you, what ends up happening is that that may work for a short amount of time. But then that fear just comes up, angry, rearing its head again. And that’s confusing to the people in your life, because it’s like, “Oh, I thought this was okay.” And then it’s like, no, it’s not okay, but it’s okay. But it’s not okay.
And it’s just so much better to dig into that and see what’s happening and to connect and to understand. And so, that’s why this month is so important. It’s not about whatever the thing is that bubbles up. Things are going to bubble up for us again, and we’ll revisit them and we’ll have new skills and whatever, but if you’re squelching something down and not addressing it or looking at it, it’s going to come up in a way that can be harmful to the relationships or really just hard for yourself. That’s why this is so important, this piece that we’re talking about this month.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. And so, that’s why being kind to ourselves is important, because whatever is bubbling up for us, we need to give it that space so that we can see it without judgment. Because that’s a judgment of ourselves that has us clamping down. So, not judging ourselves for whatever we’re thinking and feeling. It’s okay. It’s okay.
So, now let’s transition. Instead of the external, fixing things, trying to control, new rules, whatever it is to try and dampen or feel better about whatever is bothering us, let’s transition into our internal processing. So, how are we actually going to do this? How are we going to work through this discomfort that we’ve got?
One thing that can help and helped me quite a bit was reminding myself I had time. We’ve talked about that. Reminding ourselves that it’s okay. I don’t need to have an answer now. But that can be something that really gets in our way, because we can feel judged by people.
Maybe somebody makes a comment about how much screen time that our kid is having, then all of a sudden, we feel like we need to fix this and solve this immediately to placate whatever their judgment is. No matter what it looks like from the outside, even if it looks like we’re doing “nothing”, we know that we’re choosing to process, to learn, and eventually choose how we’re going to respond rather than just react.
It can also help to recognize how much of that pressure that we’re feeling may be coming from us, that pressure that we’re putting on ourselves. And we can, again, release that with kindness.
What we’re really wanting to do as we shift to internal processing is to cultivate a calm, kind, and non-judgmental internal space before we begin to explore and process what’s up. We want to be able to befriend our fear and be open to listening to it, because, as you said earlier, that’s where the messages are. We miss the lesson if we push it away.
So, this transition is really important, the transition from externally wanting to fix things to, “We have some time here. I’m feeling uncomfortable. I’d really like to dig into kind of what’s bubbling up for me. Where is this feeling coming from?” So, knowing that I want to transition, that’s a really important next step.
ANNA: Yeah. And, for me, when I see myself doing that jumping in to fix or control, it’s just a red flag. And then it starts that process. What’s this about? Why am I bringing this energy to the situation? What’s happening?
A friend and I were talking about something that brought to mind this quick, easy question and it’s, “Is it a trigger or a threat?” And this helps me see if my reaction fits what’s actually happening around me. And what we found is that triggers can bring about the exact same feelings as an active threat, but there isn’t something actually threatening us in the moment. So, when it’s a trigger, I want to dive into that a little bit. That’s where I want to go into that internal processing piece to move through it.
But sometimes, I will recognize that it’s a trigger from childhood and I actually just set it aside to deal with what’s in front of me, because there may be something actively happening in front of me, but I’m setting it aside to revisit it later. But that little reminder is so helpful so that I’m not in this high alert, which is a very physical feeling, thinking that there’s this huge threat, when really, I just maybe bumped up against an old wound or something else that I haven’t processed from before.
And, just like you, I remind myself, “There is plenty of time.” We aren’t talking about peril here. We’re talking about things that push our comfort zones, that bring up old fear messages, and reminding myself that there’s time to take care of it and just really take that charged energy out of the decision and even just help me relax myself into the situation a little bit more, because I can get kind of tense and physically feeling that tightness. And it just helps me play with the options, time for me to gain a better understanding of what’s happening and where my reactions are coming from.
Because the goal here is not to get rid of the fear or discomfort, per se. It’s to understand it, to see it as a message, and to move to a place of greater understanding where we’ve moved out of that tunnel vision that fear can produce an into that information-gathering and open and curious phase.
And there may be a lot of internal work as we sort through this. And people may not understand why it’s taking this time and what’s happening. And even with our kids, we may need to say, “That sounds so interesting. I think I need a little bit of time to process and figure out how I can help you towards that goal,” something that gives excitement to them, but a little bit of space, because things can feel very urgent for our kids at times, too.
And then that can make us feel pinned into a corner, like we’re not feeling comfortable, but there’s this urgency coming from them. And so, how can we give all of us some space?
And what I’ve found is if I can give my full attention to their excitement and to really hear what they’re feeling and communicating to me about it, there’s still room for me to take some time. Because once somebody feels heard and seen, they’re able to give a little bit more space to things.
And sometimes we don’t need a huge amount of time, but especially for those internal processors, like you and me, I need to just have a minute to sit with this idea. But what I found is that that just becomes easier and actually just a part of our process about it, because we learn about each other and we know that.
We don’t have to summarily dismiss something because it doesn’t make sense to us in the moment, or because it brings up this fear. We can inquire and look inward and intentionally move forward, making sure that everyone’s needs and concerns are taken care of.
And as we set that standard in our family, everybody trusts that. So, they know, okay, she needs a little bit of time, but she’s going to help me figure out how to do this thing I want to do. There’s a trust that’s built in there, but that still allows me the processing time I need to get to where I can help and feel good about it.
PAM: Yeah. I love that.
I love that we can create this space for ourselves, this time that we need to process something, yet we can also, at the same time, celebrate their excitement about whatever the thing is. Because often we worry that if we listen to them and say, “Oh, I can see you’re so excited,” that we’ve implicitly agreed to something. Those are different things. Those are different things.
And when you’re asking questions and just steeping in their excitement for a bit, if they’re bubbling over, if that’s the situation, you’re learning more, too. You get to learn more about why they’re so excited about it, probably and what, in particular, they’re excited about. Because sometimes, they’re excited about a slice of the thing that we hadn’t even thought about. It’s like, “Oh, that’s what they’re thinking about. That’s what they think that looks like.” Whereas, to me, it looks like something completely different.
So, I am just getting more information and it’s absolutely okay to be totally excited with them, help them feel seen and heard about whatever it is that they’re interested in. And we can also ask for the space or just state that we need some space to think about that. There are some pieces to work through for us.
One thing that’s great about that is that they learn that that’s how we process things. They learn that about us. And as my kids got older, they would bring something to me and they would say, “You have a chance to think about it and then get back to me,” because they knew I needed that space.
It was just how we learned about each other. And then also, our kids absorb these tools and then when they start to feel things bubbling up or we’re asking them to do something or we’re asking if they want to go somewhere, they can ask for the space, too, if they’re not quite sure yet, if they want to think a little bit more.
It becomes something that everyone in the family generously gives space to each other when needed, when asked for, and they don’t take it personally. Because it’s not about the thing. We were just super excited about their excitement for the thing. It’s not about the thing. It’s about needing a bit of space to process and figure out what this means.
And maybe that thing was bubbling up for me because of some bad experience I had 10 years ago, or when I was a child doing something similar. And putting that aside kindly, compassionately, with love, to be in the moment isn’t ignoring it. I’m going to revisit it. That’s okay. I’m going to have space for that. And as soon as you notice it, acknowledge it, it starts subconsciously bubbling away. I swear.
ANNA: Right. Okay, so you’re in the moment, you’re excited, you’re going to set aside this fear that you had based on something that’s happened to you in the past. Then when you revisit that, you can go, does this apply to now? Does this apply to what I just heard and how they’re moving through this situation and these things?
And I think, like you said, you’re getting so much more information by that engagement that when you actually go back to this piece, that you haven’t shoved aside angrily, that you’ve just said, “Yeah, that that was hard for me when I was a teenager,” or whatever the situation might be, and then you can go, okay, but I see the difference. And so, then you can actually put it to rest with kindness, and that just feels so much better.
And we’re learning about each other in these exchanges. We’re learning about the internal and external processors in the family. We’re learning about how we move through decisions when things feel charged or things are bubbling up for people. And all that interpersonal learning is just so valuable.
PAM: So valuable.
So now, let’s turn our curiosity inward. For me, this processing piece, just like you said there, does this really relate? It is so much all about asking myself questions.
So, we’ve moved away from our tunnel vision. We’re more open and curious. We’ve quieted the outside noise and maybe the negative inner voices. We’ve validated ourselves. We’re feeling kind. And now, really this is when I get super curious. Where did that come from? It is me asking myself a lot of questions.
Often, it’s why. Why did that bubble up then? Why am I uncomfortable with that? Because sometimes you get just this uncomfortable, butterfly feeling in your stomach. Sometimes I’m not even quite sure yet where it’s coming from. What is it that just happened in the last hour or day that is like not going away, that’s not just moving through me? It’s getting kind of stuck here. Why do I feel like I need to step in here? What do I imagine will happen? Why do I not want that thing to happen?
So, for me, it often takes quite a few “why’s” to get to that juicier, revelatory kind of stuff, because the first few answers are often the why’s behind why I’m feeling the fear or the discomfort in the first place. So, it’s getting a little bit deeper to start to understand where they’re coming from. Also giving it time, not saying, “Okay. I have 10 minutes in the bathroom here, so I’m going to get through this.” Or, “They’re taking a nap and I’m just going to sit down.”
It really does take time. In my experience, it takes time for things to bubble up and connect. Because sometimes, it’s things I didn’t realize were related to what’s going on. And sometimes it takes a little bit to find the memory that’s being triggered in this moment. And that is exactly what we mean about sitting with our questions, sitting with the discomfort. It’s letting our minds do a little bit of work and bubbling, asking ourselves questions that we feel might help direct our thoughts in ways that will give us this juicier information.
ANNA: Because we’re not trying to jump to a quick solution. That’s what we’re talking about with the time. Don’t even go into the exploration with like, “I’m going to solve this right now.” It’s more just like, “Huh? What’s happening here? What’s bubbling up?” And, for me, it’s the same. It’s questions.
Where is this coming from? Am I projecting into the future? Because that’s a big one for me. Am I worried about the judgment of others? Am I really looking at it thinking, ooh, the neighbor is going to think that we’re bananas for doing this? Is that coming into play? Because all those things cloud the perception of the situation in front of me.
And, like you mentioned, quieting the outside noise is so important for me, because at this stage that we’re talking about, I don’t really want to be taking in information from other sources. I really want to be sitting with me and asking what’s bubbling up in me. And what is this situation bringing up in me? And there’s a time where I may want that outside opinion from somebody else who has been through it, but at this first part for me, I’m really just wanting to ask myself the questions.
Byron Katie has what she calls The Work and it’s made up of a couple of simple questions and I am no expert on The Work, but the questions have come in handy to me over the years. And it starts out with, “Is it true? Is it really true?” And then my favorite is, “Who would I be without this thought?” And she also has what she calls the turnaround. And that’s a little bit harder to explain, but pretty much in every situation where we’re stuck and making it about someone else or something else, it’s really about us.
And so, that’s great during this stage where we’re like, I’m saying they need to do this. Oh, is it really that I need to do this? Is it really that I need more time in nature or I need more exercise or I need more time to do this creative thing that I want to do? even though I’m putting it on them. Because they’re perfectly happy doing what they’re doing. What’s that about? So, that’s an example of the turnaround that really, I may be projecting my pieces onto the person next to me. And so, that’s just been a valuable tool over the years.
And I can just learn so much about myself from these questions. And I can start to see where the thoughts came from and how I got here. And I think sometimes, our thoughts really feel like who we are and what I’ve learned is that if we can observe our thoughts, that’s where the choice comes in. And then we can be more intentional and realize, yeah, I can choose a different thought. I can choose a different story in this situation. And so, that really changes things.
So, that’s kind of all the internal pieces that are going on in my head during this part of the process.
PAM: Yeah, again, that’s where the playfulness comes. So, when I’m kind to myself, I don’t judge myself for any kinds of questions. And again, like you said, we’re not trying to come to an answer.
We may be right where we were at the beginning when we get to the end, but oh my gosh. Now we understand why.
ANNA: But with understanding.
PAM: Boom. If we understand why, we can explain it.
ANNA: We can explain it! Because that’s the hard part for people. When we just come in and clamp down, they’re like, “I don’t understand. You’re not hearing me.” But when we really understand it and can explain it, then they’re like, “Oh, I see what’s bothering you. What if we do this instead?” That’s where the conversations can happen.
And there’s one more question that I’ve had fun playing with. When I start to get to a fear or where a fear is coming from or something that my kids are doing or want to do. It’s like, what if I was a person who really loved that thing? That thing makes me uncomfortable. I don’t really want to do that. But there are people who love it. What if I was a person who loved that?
And just to play with that and to think about it. Or what if I was a parent who was so excited that their kid was interested in this thing? Because then I can play with, if I was really happy that they were interested in the thing, what would I do?
I have talked about Lissy and rock concerts before. She was 12 or 13 when she was first interested in going and that was uncomfortable for me. So, I did a lot of sitting with that discomfort for a while, seeing where that bubbled up. And I played with, what if I was like super excited? What if I loved concerts myself and I was so excited to share this with my child? What would I do? I’d be excited and I’d be like, “Yeah! Let’s go!”
And I thought, you know what? I can do that once and see. It had been many years. And it was only something I did a couple of times and just because I didn’t really enjoy it doesn’t mean that other people didn’t. It was fun to play with, who would I be or what would I do if I was really excited that they were loving this thing? And that helped me play and realize that being supportive in that way really was something I could do.
ANNA: It feels good. Because you’re getting to try on that feeling as you’re walking through that scenario.
PAM: Yeah, no, that was exactly it. Because when you say yes to things, when you do things, it doesn’t mean you need to do them forever. One yes doesn’t mean that you’ve just committed yourself to a lifetime of yeses. If I didn’t have fun, I would have found other ways for her to enjoy it. So, when I say yes for an experience, I’m learning more. I’m seeing how it goes.
That’s how I get more information, by trying things out. If I can get to a place where I’m reasonably excited to see what happens, it’s that open and curious piece. Okay. I’m open to some new experiences. I can stretch my comfort zone a little bit for your excitement. I would like to do this rather than setting you up with someone else to do this, because I want to learn more. Should I really be feeling uncomfortable?
There’s just so much to play with and so much to learn when you start playing with these questions in your mind and just seeing how you can stretch and in what different ways you can take it.
So, that leads us nicely into this last piece, which is when we’ve been bubbling up with those questions, thinking about them, now we want to turn our curiosity outward. What does it look like now?
So, maybe you tried going to the show. And once we found this new thing or two, for me, it was playing around with who would I be, or what would I do if I really liked this? It’s also important to realize we don’t need to find all the possible things. We don’t need to get to the root. If you’ve got a couple of new things that have bubbled up for you, that’s enough to start playing with right now. That’s what I discovered makes sense in my world.
Do I need more information to better answer the questions that have bubbled up? You mentioned earlier, am I projecting my fear into the future? This is a great time to ground myself in the present if that’s what’s been happening for me. I can play with leaning into my fear, give it a shot, try something out, see what happens. Maybe I can make a plan just to do something differently now. That was making me uncomfortable, I’m going to be a bit more open and curious next time they invite me to join them in that game or whatever. So, try it out and just see what happens.
Maybe bring the questions that we’ve unearthed just top of mind and just watch our days through that lens to see what we discover. Sometimes we can bring our questions into conversations with our kids or with our partner and just get some feedback. It depends on your relationship. It depends on your child, but maybe we just kind of plant the seed. “I was wondering about this.” And then you just see what they may say or what kind of reaction you get. Because often in conversation, they’re happy to share their points of view or how they see things. And it’s interesting and it’s fun. So, we can just dive in and just see what happens.
Sometimes, if the fear is around something that my kid was doing or choosing to do or was doing a lot, maybe that was my fear. They’re doing it a lot. It really helped me to just think, they love something about this and I can’t figure out what it is. The question could be, I am so curious to know what it is they love about it. Often, it was diving back into the relationship and really focusing on connecting and reconnecting with them and that started to bring more information to me so that I could better understand what was going on and better answer the questions that I was having.
So, it really was about staying curious now and just turning my lens outward, having some new experiences, just seeing how things unfold with these new couple of revelations or things about myself and what I’ve been thinking. Now that I know these things, what does it look like in real life?
ANNA: Right. And so, for me, this transition to this next phase is really grounding myself in the now, like you said, because so many messages we get from outside sources aren’t related to our life, the relationships we’ve cultivated, the way we knew each other. And it can be hard for people to even understand.
So, while their concern may be coming from a place of kindness, it’s not about our family or our reality, so I can let that float by. And so, now I’ve bubbled up some new ideas. I’ve quieted that noise. And now we can start trying things on, changing our story, taking those small actions, like you talked about. How does that feel? How does it feel if I’m embracing this piece of it?
Connecting with those around us now and having those conversations, because now that you’re more grounded, you can share your concerns without the judgment. It doesn’t have the charged energy. It’s just this curiosity. I’m curious about this. This is still feeling a little weird for me. How does that feel to you? It’s so much less charged once you’ve done that work. Whereas if you came in at the beginning, like, “I don’t like the way this feels. No. That doesn’t sound good,” it’s such a different energy. And so, together, you can find those ways to move forward that feel good.
And yeah, projecting out into the future, I just am so careful about that, because we will never know what the future will hold, but it’s so disconnecting to take our fears of the future and our “what ifs” and put them on our children. They want to be seen now for the fully formed humans that they are. And so, remaining connected will actually be the most helpful tool to get through those future pieces. To make sure that the future is taking care of itself, the most helpful tool is keeping that connection right there and so strong.
And in last week’s podcast, you talked a bit about joy and some of the reasons behind it and why you chose it. And when we choose joy, we’re laying the groundwork for our brain to know that it’s the default we want, not fear. And the more experiences we have with joy and awe and gratitude, the easier it is to go right back there when something gets us off track, because going off track is not bad or wrong in and of itself. It’s just a message to me to tune back in and make intentional choices to keep that connection in the forefront.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I’d love that. I keep reminding myself, I am not trying to solve this for the future. So often, when we’re uncomfortable, we really want to not be uncomfortable again. So, it’s like, okay, I just want to process this. I just want to figure this out. And I want it all to be okay into the future.
As you’re going through this process, one of the things that I’ve learned long-term is that, oh, this isn’t a find out what all the problems are that I am uncomfortable with, do this process, and then finally we can live in comfort. This is life. This processing is fully engaged and living a life with the other people that are in it, with the relationships that I’m choosing to have and the people I’m choosing to care about and to connect with. So, not judging ourselves for these things bubbling up for us and they’re going to keep bubbling up and we continue the process.
And, as you were saying, being able to reach for that joy to remember that, oh yeah, this is one of those things I’m going to process and to be okay with that.
ANNA: Right, because that’s the thing, as this becomes the habit, the ingrained piece, it’s like, “Oh. Something’s bubbled up. I’m going to do a little bit of digging. I’m going to look into this a little bit more. I’m going to reconnect with my child or my partner or whatever’s happening.” And then it becomes easier. So yeah, things are still going to bubble up. There’s still going to be discomfort, but I feel like you don’t stay stuck as long. That’s been my experience. I don’t stay stuck as long and I don’t spiral so deeply.
I start to feel discomfort. And then I know I have a way out of it. I know I have a way to make sense of it in my environment. I know I have a way to remain connected in my environment. And so, it feels much lighter. And so, that’s really what this whole piece is about is just feeling this in your bones, this process of how you can move through anything. And it works with anything. You can move through really tough things by this same process.
And so, that just feels good to have those extra tools and know that, okay, we’re going to bump up against things, but we have a way we can move through it together and keep our relationships intact.
PAM: Yes. That is what I love the most is the process works no matter what, from processing really big, heavy things that are going on to noticing I need some more sleep. I’m obviously tired. And again, it’s not that you never have to process again, it’s that you start to notice things a bit earlier. You notice the clues, because you you’re familiar with them. You’re experienced with them. You have the process that you can reach for more quickly.
So, you notice a bit earlier, you know you have a path to go through and a process to follow, and it felt like I had a tool. I felt much more capable of, whatever comes up, I don’t know what that’s going to be, but we can handle it. We can find our way through it. And that came with experience.
ANNA: Yes. And it’s so much more empowering to realize that is within you and that you can do this versus following rules that someone else has set aside. Because we’ve all been there. Most of us have been to school, so we followed the rules, but we didn’t have that deep understanding.
And this process really empowers you to know you don’t need experts. You’re the expert in you and your family and your relationships. And so, I like that piece of it too, because I think we derail sometimes when we’re trying to follow someone else’s path and it’s not feeling great.
And as we talked about in the information gathering, when we turn outward and we’re curious, we’re going to look for answers to our questions, but we’re always bringing it back to what makes sense to me? What makes sense in our lives? What makes sense with the actual people that I have in front of me? That is where the power is.
And I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be kind and compassionate towards yourself in this process or you are going to find yourself spinning your wheels there, feeling stuck. You’re going to much more strongly and quickly want to reach for control which is going to bring disconnection into your relationships. Like you said, it’s not the end of the world. Again, that’s more information, more learning, more repair that needs to be done in the relationships, but that can be done, too.
Kind, compassionate, open, curious. Fears and discomforts are okay. They’re just messages for ourselves, right?
ANNA: Yeah, absolutely.
PAM: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Anna! It’s such a pleasure to chat with you.
ANNA: Always! Take care.
PAM: Have a great day. Bye.