Something I find hard to accept is having needs or desires. This is a common thread in many mental health issues, from depression and self-harm to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addiction. Somewhere I have learnt that emotions – particularly negative ones – are unacceptable. This can be, but isn’t necessarily, the result of abuse. I may have learnt it from other people – whether directly, (‘Oh dry your eyes, you big girl. Pull yourself together’) or indirectly, (‘Ach, it’ll all be fine. No sense in worrying’). It might not be verbal – perhaps within my family, there’s an unspoken understanding that anger is dangerous, or ungodly. Or in the cut and thrust of office polticis, gentleness may be viewed as inappropriate, a weakness that severs any chance of promotion.
So why are my desires so threatening? Well, they’re part of what makes life messy and unmanageable. They’re too big. I don’t deserve to have them met. Or else I fear that they can’t ever be satisfied. So what do I do with them?
All too often I’ll run with them and they rule me. The time for example, when Glen came home to find that I’d ordered a litter of puppies and booked an appointment for hair extensions. This is one of the few examples I feel I can share, and I’m not joking. Secretly I still feel things would be better with long hair and puppy love, but that’s another post…
At other times I try to crush them – but it’s a bit like trying to keep the lid on a boiling pot – the water has to go somewhere. Similarly, those repressed feelings leak out – whether in the light of the fridge at 3am, an inexplicable surge of anger at the supermarket queue, a gnawing discontent that nibbles away at my peace of mind or a total meltdown on the bathroom floor. What do I do with them? And how do I avoid passing them on to another generation?
I’d love to know your thoughts on this.
Lizzie Jank gives us a great starting point in the following article: http://www.feminagirls.com/?s=spirited+rider. I can’t seem to access the whole article at the moment, so I’ll post a good chunk of it here. She’s discussing raising “spirited” daughters but it has application for all of us…
“Say it is someone else’s birthday. Say your child wants a present too. Say they start fussing about it. Imagine then that then you say, “Don’t do that. That is bad. Don’t be a fusser. Deal with it.” How did that help anyone? The child is taught that if the feeling comes over them, they have already failed. That is bad! But what am I supposed to do with it? It doesn’t just go away by itself. Little girls need help sorting out their emotions – not so that they can wallow in them, but so they can learn to control them.
We tell our girls that their feelings are like horses- beautiful, spirited horses. But they are the riders. We tell them that God gave them this horse when they were born, and they will ride it their whole life. God also set us on a path on the top of a mountain together and told us to follow it. We can see for a long way – there are beautiful flowers, lakes, trees, and rainbows. (We are little girls after all!) This is how we “walk in the light as He is in the light, and have fellowship with one another.”
When our emotions act up, it is like the horse trying to jump the fence and run down into a yucky place full of spiders to get lost in the dark. A good rider knows what to do when the horse tries to bolt – you pull on the reigns! Turn the horse’s head! Get back on the path! We also tell them that God told us that if we see one of our little girls with her horse down in the mud puddle spitting at people who walk by, it is our job to haul them up, willing or unwilling, back to the path. The ways that this has helped me as a mother are pretty obvious, but I will share them anyway if you will bear with me.
First of all, the horses are not the problem. There is nothing wrong with the emotions. If we have a little rider who is woefully unprepared to control her horse, well then, we had better start with some pretty serious riding lessons. Talk to your daughters about how they might feel, and what you want to see when they do. Give them some practical hand holds, be a coach. Anticipate moments that might be hard, when the horse might bolt, and help them learn to anticipate it too. Take a little break to say, “Hey sweetie, we are going in this store, but we aren’t going to buy any toys today. If you start feeling like you want to fuss about it, what are we going to do?” Make a plan. Use code words. Wink. Encourage. Give lots of praise when you see her overcoming little emotional temptations. Be right there with her as she learns to recognize what is happening. Little girls can be scared out of their minds when their emotions charge off with them. They need the security of parents pulling them back.
The goal is not to cripple the horse, but equip the rider. A well controlled passionate personality is a powerful thing. That is what dangerous women are made of. But a passionate personality that is unbridled can cause a world of damage. If you see a lot of passion in your little girls, don’t be discouraged. It is just wonderful raw material. Our house is pretty near full to overflowing with this kind of raw material! But don’t treat it lightly either – runaway horses can be a very real threat to your little girls.
This article has hit home with me. Does it resonate with you?