My #1 greatest challenge in my journey toward being a peaceful person:
I have always yelled. My mom was a yeller. I learned from a young age that yelling is power. When I was yelled at, I felt powerless. I felt small and weak and out of control. I felt shameful and bad.
I learned to yell back at her in an attempt to take back my power. I yelled and screamed, I slammed doors and threw things. But I didn’t like it; I hated what I was doing. I would inevitably get sent to my room, where I would rage until I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I never “won”. I never succeeded in taking my power back. It was incredibly depressing. This is the point at which my thoughts would eventually turn to suicide. If my memory is correct, I had my first suicidal thought at just 11 years old. Suicide seemed to be the ultimate take-back of power in my life that I so desperately longed for.
I struggled with this feeling of powerlessness even into adulthood, because power to me meant controlling others. I could never seem to succeed at grasping that power, though; no matter how much I yelled and raged, no matter how much I tried to control others. What took me a long time to realize was that being powerful as an individual doesn’t equate control of others; being powerful as an individual happens when I have full control of myself.
It’s what I sought as a child and what I never learned. It’s what I’m learning now. I can’t control my children, or anyone else around me. I can only control myself and my own reactions.
When situations arise that trigger my feelings of helplessness, of powerlessness, my default response is anger. This really has nothing to do with my children or my husband or anyone else, but it has everything to do with my unhealed emotional trauma. It’s a signal in my brain that the wiring it received when I was young was unhealthy.
Healing that trauma is the biggest step toward being able to respond differently to those around me in the future. As I continually work on that healing, as situations arise that trigger that trauma, what helps me the most is to begin by taking a deep breath (or maybe a few) and stepping outside myself and into my child’s perspective (or whomever else is triggering my response). I ask myself, “What is their intent here?” and I verbalize to them, “What are you doing here, what are you trying to achieve?” What usually looks like a big mess or chaos to me has a greater purpose to my children. What others do that may be initially incomprehensible to me has great meaning and purpose to them. Once the intent of my children has been established, I can move into my ideal parenting role of teaching and guiding, rather than controlling and dominating. Once the perspective of others is understood, I can move into a place of compassion and commonality rather than rightness and division. I find that once the initial urge to yell and rage has subsided, the remainder of the interaction becomes easy, and even enjoyable.
Peace begins within. I can’t be a peaceful in my interactions with others when my inner self is in turmoil.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I used to misunderstand this quote. I thought that “being the change” was how I could change the world. I was wrong. The only person I can control is me. The change I wish to see in the world? I should try to live it; not for the sake of changing others, but for the sake of being the person I would like to be.