Today I’ve been thinking about how we are biologically programmed to learn, for better or worse, to define acceptable partnerships by how our parents treat us. If our parents nurture and support us for who we are, we will seek that in a partner. But if our parents demonstrate conditional love, that is all we will accept. If, as daughters, we see our fathers exhibit uncontrolled rage, we will lose interest in the “nice guy” (or gal) and will instead seek an angrier, more controlling partner. If we witness violence regularly in our childhood home, our adult lives will feel incomplete without it. This is why our choices as parents matter so much. If we love our kids, as the vast majority of parents really do, we make decisions about how we care for them based on wanting what is best for them. Surely this includes wanting them to be capable of happiness as adults, to form healthy, lasting relationships, and to refuse abuse, to not fall victim to others who would treat them poorly. But if we do not control our own anger, if we destroy property or make threats to “teach them a lesson,” we are sending our children a very negative message. We are effectively saying, “Might is right.” We are telling them, “I don’t value your opinions, your feelings, or your possessions.” Our words are nothing compared to our actions. Our outbursts tell them, “I only accept you when you do as I say; any independent thought that disagrees with my views earns my contempt.” Do we want our children to choose friends and partners who talk to them this way?
Then we have to stop. We have to be the adults who act from loving kindness, instead of reacting in anger. If we need help, we must seek it. This Valentine’s Day, I’m taking action to end the violent outbursts in my own home, beginning with myself. I am disembarking from the angry train, and I invite you to join me.
Be the change. Begin now.
My horoscope via Twitter today:
“You may be attracted to an emotional drama today because the expression of feelings resonates with something buried very deep inside you. You’re reminded of an early childhood experience that has relevance to the present moment. But don’t get lost in nostalgia; what happened previously is not as important as what’s going on right now. Fortunately, the current intensity will settle down as your memories widen your perspective.”
I’ve been thinking, perhaps excessively, about buried emotions for a while now. I have endured panic attacks, and at one point suffered enough for my panic to qualify as panic disorder. Panic gets a person’s attention when nothing else can, and that is exactly its purpose: it is a powerful motivator. I learned to be vigilant about nutrition, especially omega-3 fatty acids, and to recognize my signs of stress earlier and earlier so that my body no longer needed to escalate to the adrenaline dump of a full scale panic attack. I also gained substantial control over my runaway trains of thought so that if something extra stressful occurred I could literally grab my panicking mind and move it to something else positive. I had become very skilled in anxiety management and it had been a very long time since I had a true panic attack. Then I got lazy. My anxiety was creeping up, and I knew it, but somehow I just wasn’t finding the time for self-care. I kept forgetting about my supplements and failing to make time to exercise. The holidays were flying by with all the extra stress and commitments they bring (even though I worked hard to keep all that to a minimum). My four-year-old daughter got bitten by a brown recluse and I knew I needed to work on lowering my stress level but I just didn’t do it. Finally I had a tiny health scare of my own (which was absolutely nothing, and a fabrication of my own creation) and I full-on freaked out. A three-hour panic episode left me rattled, afraid I had returned to square one, fearing the next attack, feeling completely out of control. A chance comment from a trusted friend gave me new direction: it seems to be time to take my processing of life’s traumas to a new level. Fear is stored in my bones, and I’m ready to let that out (safely!), to release old fears and be done with them. I’m unsure at this point to what degree these old fears of mine (or anyone else’s) can be completely released– injuries do leave scars, after all– but I know there is a great deal of progress that can be made, and I know from how I react to things that I have plenty of stored emotions that I can air out and shed light on so they won’t be so scary. We’ll see what I do with all this.