Wow! What an insanely busy couple of weeks I’ve just had — way, way busier than I like to be, unless it’s busy in the yard, or busy playing! I’ve now reached that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and am excited to share with you some of the thoughts that have had to just bounce around inside my head in the interim…
The big theme for me and most of my clients of late has been, “To thine own self be true.” It keeps showing up in different venues, situations, and manners in the lives of numerous people with whom I’ve been interacting both professionally and casually, as well as in my own life. It happens quite a bit that my clients will (unknowingly, of course) share a theme between them from week to week and month to month. And as always, aside from my kids, my clients are my best teachers — so when I am struggling with or learning about something, often so are they in their own way(s), and our gleanings inform and inspire one another. I believe this is part of the universal law of attraction, in that, when we are going through something, we attract more of it, the more we focus on it. I also think we bring people to ourselves who are learning similar things, even if, as is sometimes the case, s/he is learning about it from a totally opposing perspective — for example, someone learning about teaching a thing, while someone else in her sphere (or right in front of her) is learning about receiving instruction in that thing.
At any rate, over and over the last couple weeks, my clients and I have been getting the message to trust ourselves, and to be true to what we know, and feel, and want. Some of us are on the “follow your bliss” end of that spectrum and are concentrating on the zen practice of merrily tripping along toward what matters most to us. Others are stuck at the gate and beating our heads against yet another example of how we second-guessed ourselves. And still more of us have been somewhere in the middle, trying to listen for our internal messages, straining to hear the voice of our feelings guiding us through the forest of interactions and opportunities of our daily lives.
So I decided to send out a beacon. It’s from all of us to ourself. We’ve been whispering it into our own collective ear for a while now, but it’s time we stood up and shouted it out so those in the back can hear it clearly. So everyone, repeat after me:
I T R U S T M E ! ! !
Mmm, doesn’t that feel good?! Yeah, I like it, too. Now, who’s up for repeating that as often as necessary, until it sticks?
Maybe you could even challenge yourself, as I asked one client to do recently, and trust yourself every time you have a feeling or a thought about what is right to do, or think, or say, or feel for one whole week. If it comes up, and the question is, “Do I trust myself in this situation, or do I trust someone else’s version of what I should do or think, etc.,” then you already know what the answer is. If you have an intuition and you’re not sure if you should act on it — do. If you are struggling with the right decision in terms of your parenting, listen only to what feels right to you — not what you’ve been taught, not what so-and-so says is right, not what this book says, or the teacher says, or your parents say, or what the bossy, self-sabotaging voice in your head says — but only to your deepest knowing. Listen to your “gut”, and nothing else.
If you can live up to that challenge for a whole week, you will undoubtedly be a more powerful person, but you’ll also be a better parent, and you’ll feel happier than ever before in your life. Why? Because you actually do know what feels right to you, and you only ever get bent out of shape because you aren’t doing it. It’s like having to go to the bathroom but not wanting to stop the project you are doing in order to go. There’s a feeling inside you saying, “If you take care of this, you’ll feel better, you’ll be able to concentrate more easily, and you won’t feel agitated.” When we ignore that feeling, for a different agenda, we get more and more uncomfortable. When we stop the routine, or the project, and let go of the rigid adherence to the other agenda for a moment, and listen to ourselves, and trust our internal messages, and act from there to do what feels right, then… Aahhhhh. We can relax, we can get back to feeling good, and we can move on with other tasks more quickly and with more focus than we were capable of when we were ignoring our feelings.
As it turns out, we have the exact same variety of internal anxiety and irritation ignoring our bodily functions as we do ignoring our intuitive functions. There’s a pain, or an itch, or an irritation that comes with ignoring what we know and feel in our deep-selves. Some would even say that all anger and suffering come from ignoring our deeper knowing in favor of some shallower, perhaps more practical or popular, “knowledge”.
This is why I tell people to tread lightly when reading the Introduction to Nurture Shock, which is a book a strongly and often recommend. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman do a stellar job of collecting, condensing, and covering some important research in child nurturing and development throughout the book. The information they deliver is potent medicine for a good bit of what ails the practice of modern parenting — where so much misinformation has poisoned our ability to hear and listen and understand our own intuitive messages. Where the book feels shaky to me is where the authors warn us (using their own story to illustrate) how far off our “instincts” can be — because the examples they give aren’t instincts, they aren’t deep intuitions about what feels right; they’re programs. So although the things they mention aren’t things I would suggest anyone doing (like praising the stuffing out of every kid in view), I also would say that those things aren’t instinctual or intuitive — they are parenting mythology, rhetoric, and pseudo-scientific superstition passed down through the last few generations. The things Bronson and Merryman warn us not to listen to aren’t ourselves, they are actually the very things that obscure our own voices and knowing. And at a time when you can literally find “good scientific evidence” to support nearly any parenting method under the sun, it is more important than ever not to collapse our own feelings with what we are told to be feeling. It’s all the more important for those of us seeking to get a more comprehensive story into the hands and minds of parents everywhere that we not disempower or risk disconnecting them from their own senses of what feels “good and right”. That’s their most (and only) trust-worthy measure of what they should do, we can’t afford to tell parents not to listen to themselves.
I also want to be clear that our intuitions would never tell us that it felt the most “good and right” to do any of the coercive, manipulative, or down-right scary tactics espoused in some parenting books today. If we honestly check in with ourselves, what parent would really feel right about letting his/her child “Cry It Out” alone for 30 minutes; or about manipulating a child to get compliance; or about praising a kid to get more of a preferred behavior? Those tendencies are just the training we’ve been given to resist our instincts to nurture, and care for, and assist in the natural development of both ourselves and our kids. Those methods weren’t designed for those purposes — they were designed to control behaviors not development, and in dogs, not humans — but their effect has been to poison our ability to trust what actually feels like the right thing(s) to do.
We know it doesn’t feel good to punish our kids, but that’s what we were taught is the the correct method so we ignore our feelings, mistrust our guts, and plod along. Why? Because we want our kids to fit in society, and live happy, successful lives, and because we don’t want to be judged as incompetent to assist our kids in doing those things. We’ve been duped. And now it’s time we took off the blinders with which we’ve been fitted. It’s time we opened ourselves back up to trusting what we know and feel beyond all rhetoric and rules. It’s time to trust ourselves before anything or anyone else.
Remember our mantra: I trust me.
And “above all, to thine own self be true.”
P.S. Although I would prefer not to “have to” say this, I want to be mindful not to paint anyone into any corners… So, if you’re listening to yourself, and your intuition is telling you that the method you have been using isn’t feeling good, but you don’t know what other method(s) might feel better, don’t be afraid to get more information. But be true to yourself in deciding what information you are willing to accept!