Interrupt Unwanted Emotions with Power Steering

Drive-wheel-sunflowers

What are your unwanted emotions? Fear. Panic. Anger. Disgust. Shame.

Without our awareness, emotions can take over. When emotions take the steering wheel, you are in for a wild and hilly ride. Emotions can be really motivating, but sometimes they are more of a detour.

How do we take back the steering wheel from our unwanted emotions? Interrupt unwanted emotions by initiating your thinking power steering.

Interrupt Unwanted Emotions Using Thinking Steps

A frazzled and brave woman walks into my office. She sits down with a sigh. Her two young, curious children trail behind her. She pleads with me to “please do something about my kids. They never listen to me!”

Knowing the challenge of parenting, I offer to be her coach, instead of her kids. I share, “I can’t promise to fix anyone, but we can talk about how you can feel more calm and confident as a parent.”

Reaction

I ask, “give me an example, a time when you are frustrated with your kids.”

She continues in desperation. “I ask them to clean up their toys. They just laugh and get out more toys. I beg and prod them to listen to me. I’ve tried everything from spanking to taking toys away to doing it myself. It can even bring me to tears.”

I reassure her, saying “we all have automatic reactions. Times when things really get under our skin.” I take her to the next step, asking “are there times when you are more or less frustrated with your kids?”

Awareness

She pauses, “I don’t like getting this angry and upset with my kids. It’s worse when I am really tired, or if I’m mad at their father. I’m tired of being the nagging maid of the house.” She sighs, looking down.

I ask, “so how does your husband fit into this battle with your kids?”

She rolls her eyes and says, “he thinks he’s the better parent. He hears me yelling at the kids, and tries to take over. Some nights I welcome his help, and other nights it just makes the situation worse. Makes me want to buy ear plugs when we are both yelling at the kids.” She smirks at herself, getting more comfortable on the couch.

I encourage her, “You are really aware of your feelings, and what increases and decreases your emotions. And, I agree that you are not the whole problem. You only need to work on your part.”

Choices

I continue, “What choices do you have when it’s clean up time?”

This mother of two responds with, “I don’t want to get this worked up over toys on the floor, but I really don’t want to clean by myself. I guess I never realized that I have a choice…I can either ignore the toys or pick them up myself. I don’t like my choices.”

I look her in the eye, saying, “Great, you are getting to your choices, and you want to try something new. What are the choices your kids have at clean up time?”

She looks at me curiously, “None, to do what I say. But, I see where you are going.” She sighs, responding, “I guess they have a choice, to pick up their toys or to leave them on the floor.”

Options

I respond, “I think you are getting the hang of sorting out choices. I  hear you…you don’t want to do the work for them. So, what are your options?”

She reflects. And, as if a light bulb has goes off in her head, she looks at me with some hope in her eyes. She says, “I think I have tried too many things. Trying them all at once just leaves me feeling more desperate and ineffective. I would like to pick one way, and stick with it, no matter how these rascals respond to me.”

I encourage her, asking “So, what are you thinking? What is your plan?

This newly, hopeful mother shares, “I will try giving my kids a token when they pick up their toys. I will only ask once. If they complete their job, they can trade tokens for fun time with me. And, some how I will find a way to get okay with leaving the toys on the floor, because if I do it for them, I will really lose it.”

Repeat

I congratulate her hard work, sharing “Emotions can get in the way of where we want to go until we learn how to interrupt them. It takes continued practice to rev up your thinking powers. So, don’t give up, just keep at it. You may swerve off the road, but you are learning how to get back on track.”

She smiles with relief, “After yelling at my kids, I feel so guilty. Now, I feel less like a bad mom. I’m a mom with choices.”

What helps you interrupt unwanted emotions? Please share what helps you get back in the driver’s seat.

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Photo Credit: Razvan Caliman

6 responses to “Interrupt Unwanted Emotions with Power Steering

  1. That’s amazing Marci, you just kept asking questions and affirming and clarifying her responses. You didn’t TELL her what to do – you empowered her to figure it out for herself!

    Personally, I deal with unwanted feelings by exploring them until I understand them. If I explore them deeply enough, it makes a big difference. Sometimes (most of the time?) we don’t know why we feel what we feel, do we?

    Thanks for this great post!

    • Thank you Lori. I do see myself as counselor in coach clothing. 🙂

      I, too, try to bring my emotions into my awareness. I can usually figure out what’s triggering them (internal or externally) once I am calmer. The real work for me, comes in finding where I have choices, and following through on my plan. A lot of time people try to skip the awareness step and go straight to the doing step. That usually doesn’t work out…

  2. Hi Marci,
    Love sunflowers and your example of the mom. Oh how I can relate! Where were you when my kids were little! Don’t answer that.

    Have you hear of Jim Faye, author of Love and Logic and so much more? Great resource.

    • I have heard of Love and Logic. Great tips. My only problem with his info is it is a little technique focused, and not enough thinking on the part of the parents. He’s teaching parents how to encourage their kids thinking, but not encouraging parents to do their own thinking. I do better, stay calmer, when I think my way through it using these steps, then trying a L&L technique. We probably get to the same outcome, just knowing what works for us. And, my kids would be the first to share, that I’m not always calm! In fact, my daughter has music she listens to when I’m mad at her…

  3. A wonderful illustration of choices unfolding amidst a cloud of emotion. Good job helping this frazzled mom!

    I have the enviable trait (!) of seemingly being equally feeling and thinking. Everytime I take the Myers-Briggs, I’m right in the middle. Anyway, I tend to automatically calibrate feelings with thought processes that help me not get overcome with emotion (unless I’m reading a really good book, poem, watching a movie or listening to a really good speaker, then I’m moved to tears). I think it really helps to ask questions like: “So what?”, “What happens next?”, “Why does this bother me so much?” Because they can take us on a path to better understanding and away from simply stewing with anger and frustration.

    • I think we have all been this frazzled mom at least once.

      Belinda, you sound like you have questions that trigger your own thinking amidst a “cloud of emotions”. Thanks for sharing your ideas.