If we have had any kind of success in our parenting adventures, I would put our success down to three things: Faith, Food, Feelings. Today I want to write about feelings. My husband was in a men’s group that taught him how to “feel his feelings”. Learning this skill had a profound effect on my husband’s life and in turn, our family life. This group based its teachings off a book called Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd.
Chip Dodd identifies 8 core feelings present in every human heart:
Many people have commented, “Why are there 7 bad feelings and 1 good one?” In reality, all 8 core feelings are good. They are simply the language of the heart. How they are heard or ignored is the key.
Where are you?
This is “How it Works”: At any given time through out the day, often when one of our kids is having a problem or acting out, I will ask them, “Where are you?” I am not obviously asking where they are physically, but where is their heart. That is, “What are you feeling?” I have asked my kids this question hundreds of times over the last five years. When asked the question, they must stop what they are doing and look inside themselves and identify which feelings they are experiencing. Sometimes it is only a couple of feelings that they can identify, sometimes they will identify all 8 feelings. I am asking: What is going on? What is fueling these emotions? It’s amazing how a simple trigger can tap into a much greater need or depth of feeling.
Shame on you!
Often times our culture shames us into not having our feelings. Our culture is very good at shutting down our feelings before they get “out of control”. We are born to express our feelings until we are taught not to. Look at a baby, who has no shame in expressing (through crying) what he or she needs at any given moment. Yet, by the time we are adults, we have been taught or given permission to ignore our feelings. I think the biggest reason for this is that when our children have feelings, this causes the adult to have feelings. And feelings can be very difficult to walk through- whether you are an adult or a child. You may have heard common phrases from adults to kids like: “don’t be sad, don’t cry…big kids don’t cry…I’ll give you something to cry about!…shame on you!…you should know better…you need to be more grateful…kids are to be seen and not heard!” There are countless examples of the co-dependent dance-I’ll take care of you to take care of me.
Don’t try and fix the problem.
Before I learned how to process my feelings, sometimes I too would fall into the trap of shaming my children. An exchange might go like this: “You shouldn’t have sad about not getting invited to the party, think of all the other parties you have attended this year.” More often then not though, I would try to fix my children’s problems so they didn’t have “bad” feelings any more. For example I might say, “We’ll have our own party, with treats and a movie!” Our children don’t need to be “rescued” from their feelings. What they need is to be able to identify the feelings they are having about not being invited to the party and to walk through these feelings with a safe heart. As parents, it’s important for our children to be allowed to feel these feelings. We don’t have to fix the problem, or shame them out of their feelings. Walk with them through it. “Gosh, I hear your sad and your hurt and I’m sorry…tell me more about that…what do you need?…what do you need from me…?”
When our kids hurt, we hurt.
While processing with your children, check in with your own heart. It’s equally important to know “Where are you?” while your children are sharing their own hurts with you. Knowing what you are feeling and what you need enables you to be authentic and not “care taking”. When our kids are hurt, we hurt for them. Acknowledge that hurt in your heart. Tell a trusted friend (a safe heart) how much it hurts to see your child (children) suffer.
3 Step Process
It’s called processing and it involves 3 simple steps:
- Feel your feelings (Identify which 8 core feelings you are experiencing)
- Tell the truth of your heart (share with a safe heart what you are feeling)
- Trust the process (trust that sharing truly matters and that expressing your feelings will help you move into the gift of your feelings)
God Owns the Process
Remember-God owns the process. This is how we were created. Our hearts have a language that expresses our desires, our needs, our longings and our hope. The gift of processing is to simply be what we were created to be: weak, needy, vulnerable, dependent creations of God-made in His image and likeness. By answering the question: “Where are you?”, we journey towards knowing, who we are! Then and only then, can we begin to understand- What we are about.
Below is a video link of my husband and our daughter processing her feelings. I think it’s so helpful if you can see an example of how this process works.
Video Link: Processing with Mattea