As a child, you were taught to conceal your feelings, to hide your emotions, and to go along with what adults were demanding.
As parents, we do the same. When our children say « I don’t want to go to bed », or « I’m sad that you leave mommy », we try to offer solutions, we look for closure « you have to sleep », « I’m coming back »,…
In truth, what really matters to young children is that they are asserting their identity. It is not the content that matters, it is the « I », what it says about who the child is.
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How You Were Conditioned Not To Feel Emotions
If your feelings were not heard, if your angers and fears were not validated, if nobody ever told you that it was right to feel emotions and that you had a right to express them, there is a good chance you learned to suppress them, negate them, or project them on the other.
Philosophers, since antiquity, have claimed that logic and reason were the components of a good decision. Only in 1994 did we discover that emotions are an integral part of the neurological process of decision-making. If you were to make decisions with your rational mind only, you would need the power of a computer to analyze every possible outcome. Emotions filter possibilities, thus reducing the number of outcomes.
The key to consciousness is the emotion. – Isabelle Filliozat
Nowadays a lot of people have issues making decisions, from simple things like choosing a restaurant to big decisions like the purpose of our life. That is because we grew up learning not to listen to our emotions.
Another consequence of a childhood hiding your emotions is the effect on identity. The emotions we feel when facing a situation tell something about who we are, about our values and beliefs, about our identity.
Not given a chance to experiment with this as a child, you started to react the way your parents wanted you to, rather than exploring who you truly were.
This explains why we are so disconnected from ourselves, why it is hard to listen to our instinct, or knowing what we truly want. There is a reason why your children’s emotions angers you or make you uneasy. You were raised this way, and they mirror your childhood’s misunderstanding and frustration.
Re-learn to Feel To Set Yourself Free
It seems pretty logical then that all we have to do to set ourselves free is to learn again what we knew naturally: we are supposed to listen to our feelings, for they give us important information about ourselves and what we need.
The problem is that you spent years trying to express those feelings, and your parents wouldn’t hear them. At some point, the child gives up and understands that to be loved (which is the most essential thing a child will try to achieve regarding their parent), it’s better to silence feelings.
Look at your own parenting. You hear the content of your child’s question and you answer, but have you listened to the emotion? Young children saying « I want to play more », « I don’t want to take a bath », are experimenting with who they are and letting us know.
When we answer regarding the content « it is time to go home », « you have to take a bath every day », we are denying the « I » like it never existed. You are telling them that their feelings don’t matter. You are not attentive to the emotion behind the message. Remember that children can be clumsy at expressing themselves. They don’t have the right words to say what they feel.
And on our side, we do something very adult-like: we rationalize.
We were given the exact same answers as a child, and as an adult, we might be afraid to let those long-buried emotions come back up. Our children are mirrors and they send us a disturbing image of a child whose feelings were ignored.
We should be able to say: I am what I feel inside. Are you the person you feel you are?
You Were Conditioned To Quiet Your Feelings
Conditioning happens when a negative experience is repeated several times. This will make us more sensitive to anything similar in the future. We become hypersensitive (Your husband might say you are “touchy”) to some triggers.
For instance, if as a child you were very sad every time someone would leave, but your parents would tell you you were silly and ask you to quit the drama, as an adult you might have become very detached and emotionally distant when having to say goodbye. And you might react strongly to your child being emotional in the same situation. For you, it is not good to feel sad when someone leaves.
You cannot go back in time and explain to your parents that it is important to respect your feelings, that your emotions help you build your self, and are not a negative thing.
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But you are an adult know, in full capacities of their brain and mind, and this gives you the power to change things.
In NLP, we use a pyramid to understand the mind. Every level influences the ones below. As you can see, identity is pretty far up and that is why it is important to be able to build a healthy one.
When you grew up learning that feelings were not appropriate, you developed skills to conceal them, deny them or distort them. This influences your behavior and the way you interact in your life.
The good thing is, as we learned about conditioning and its effects, we also learned about how to undo them.
A Method To Accept Your Feelings And Set You Free
Let me explain to you the 6 steps ‘reframe’ technique. When we are conditioned we have undesirable behaviors (for instance, not listening to our feelings), but the intention is good (I want people to love and accept me). That is what makes it tricky.
The idea of this method is to offer a change of perspective, to give more possibilities, and to let you experiment with the idea that there is more than one way to achieve your goal.
This technique can seem awkward to some, but it’s been used with tremendous success for years, so trust the process and don’t overthink it if you want to get the most of it.
The 6 step technique to reframe conditioning
1 | Identify the troubling behavior
Let’s say for instance that you want to accept your feelings instead of suppressing them. Find your own words to describe it, the ones that resonate with you.
2 | Establish communication with the part creating the unwanted behavior or response. Communicate with it.
Be gentle with yourself, feel the sensations, agree on a yes and no signal within you.
“Is the part of me responsible for denying feelings okay to communicate with me?” (The answer can be a sensation, a picture, a voice,…)
” Can you give me a cue for your yes… and for your no?” (Again, it can be a sensation, a picture, a sound,…)
3 | Find the positive intention
Ask this part of you “Can you tell me what you are trying to achieve?” “What is your positive intention?”
In our situation (to accept your feelings instead of denying them) it may be to be loved, to prevent rejection, to protect yourself from emotional overload,…
The point here is to identify what this part of you is trying to achieve and what it does to achieve that goal. Our unconscious is trying to help, only, its strategies aren’t always the ones we would choose consciously…
4 | Create alternative behaviors
With your creative mind, come up with alternative behaviors to realize the same positive intention. You can make a list of ideas and choose 3 alternative ways to get the desired outcome.
For our example, our subconscious mind rejects feelings, let’s say because of fear of rejection. Alternative behaviors would accept the feelings but still protect ourselves from rejection: speak in “I” not to hurt the other feelings, take distance from people’s opinion, dissociate yourself (your ‘self’) from your actions.
5 | Evaluate those new ways
Get back to speaking with your protective part, and run your alternative strategies with it to see if they could work out. If your protective part isn’t part of this process, it will undermine you.
“Are you ready to experiment with these new behaviors?” “Are they acceptable?”
It is important that you feel your protective part agreeing to give it a go. Motivation has to come from within you. It’s like talking to yourself. I like to picture my inner child because a lot of my wounds come from childhood. If the behaviors don’t meet consent, get back to point 4 and come up with other alternatives. Trust your creative part, possibilities are endless.
6 | Make sure all of you agrees
This is fun. Because not only this exercise allows you to get free of some conditions, it also gives you an opportunity to practice a more intuitive way to make decisions. Here, you make sure that you, as a whole, are ready to go with these new behaviors for, let’s say the next month.
“Does a part of me have a problem with one of the 3 solutions?”
Reframing is a powerful tool and can work wonders. It is all about trusting the process and taking the time to go through with it. This can be pretty fast actually. Or maybe it will take you a few tries to establish communication with yourself.
It is easier if you take a few minutes to meditate first. Simply sit in a quiet place and focus on your breathing. Imagine the oxygen reaching every part of your body, one after the other. You will be focused on yourself in no time, and you’ll be able to talk with the deeper parts of you.
And remember how you got there, having to earn back your freedom and be attentive as a mother not to repeat the same mistakes your parents (unconsciously) did.
Thanks for reading this article! As always, I hope it gave you some line of thoughts to explore as well as ideas to act and create a positive change in your parenting life.
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I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment, so never judge yourself harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
See you next week for another exciting article!
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