“I’ve got 99 problems, and 86 of them are completely made-up scenarios in my head that I’m stressing about for absolutely no logical reason!” – Anon
Feelings are facts! …for about 30 minutes.
The trouble with emotions is they’re everchanging, subjective, and sometimes even reckless. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings, identifying emotions that you have when you think about a person or a situation, but how we feel about these things is not necessarily (capital) Truth or Reality. Your perception is yours alone, and each person has their subjective interpretation of situations and events. It’s messy and complicated, which is why we have to be acutely aware of ourselves and our perception—particularly when it comes to family matters.
Some of us are more emotional than others; we cry at sad advertisements or in rom-coms, we’re easily offended when a sister negatively comments about our new haircut. Others are concentrated on clear, logical facts: my sister is 28 minutes late for lunch. Both of these are rich and wonderful ways to exist. Still, we need to be careful not to conflate our emotionality with reality, particularly when there’s the chance it could escalate a conflict. Family dynamics are frequently delicate; when you look at the relationships you have with your parents or siblings, the exchange is usually more heightened. We forget to stop and think through our feelings and recognize that our perception is not the only existing truth in the family unit. Nobody likes to be wrong, but it's essential we step back, look hard at ourselves, and separate our way of regarding things and the state of things as they actually exist.
Owning your truth begins with getting realllyyy honest with yourself (gulp), so slow down, take your time, and understand that this process could make you feel exposed and vulnerable. But what is better than understanding yourself more! When you can give a really honest assessment of yourself and the things that make you tick, your biases, sensitivities, triggers, you’re better equipped to deal with any conflict that arises. If you know that deep down, you’re slightly jealous of your brother for being stronger at academics, you’ll perceive any reference to your academic performance as being loaded. Immediately you’ll feel slighted and might react in a volatile way. But your perception of comments regarding your academic performance is not truth. When you’re aware of yourself and own your partiality and feelings, you can enter into conflict with respect for others, recognizing internal distortions that inevitably occur when you’re emotional. It’s no longer about being right but about expressing your truth and validating the other person’s truth. How different would family feuds be if we separated feeling from fact!
Awareness of self means you can legitimately teach your own kids an awareness of self, and children need words andaction—they emulate our behaviors. The beautiful thing about children is that they have 100 billion neurons (roughly as many nerve cells as there are stars in the Milky Way!), so learning is a piece of cake for them. Children know something’s important when we take the time to talk about it and walk the walk. One way to start helping your child understand fact from fiction is to ask them to give you an example of something real and imaginary: Unicorn/Car Dragon/Grandma. Clarifying their understanding of real and imaginary things is a great, clear start. Then perhaps you could ask your little one to identify a negative feeling they had when something happened. For example: Mum didn’t let me stay up late, so I felt she didn’t care about me. One of these is a fact, the other is perception. Our children are smart and intrinsically know which one is reality and which non-truth damages a relationship. This way, kids can see that they are marvelously complex beings, that their feelings are not facts, and need to stop and own their own emotions, just like adults! When they understand that their feelings about the situation adversely affected the relationship in that one circumstance, they’ll understand how their emotions can affect every single one of their relationships. The better we separate our perception from reality, the better our cognitive semantics and family conflicts.
And maybe the truth, the Truth truth, is that owning our emotions and putting ourselves aside is challenging and confronting and takes lots and lots of mindful practice—for all of us.
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