Children are the Mirror
I have often said to myself and others in the last 5 years that whatever we are triggered by in others is usually a reflection of something we are unwilling to face within ourselves. Of course, I wasn't the first person to say this. Many spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, espouse such a belief.
Over the last several years I’ve struggled with my relationship with money. This struggle has been on-going throughout my life, but when I worked in my career as a university administrator, I was often able to keep it at bay.
When I left the “safe” world of the institution where I received a regular paycheck, I’ve had to confront this struggle at a deeper level. I’ve known that I am constrained by my fears and beliefs about money. But for whatever reason, I haven’t been willing to look at it until recently.
As the youngest child in my life has grown, he has been my mirror for all the challenges I have about money and the decisions I made as the person who used to be (and often still is) the primary income earner in our family.
I made a decision to challenge myself to squarely face my fears and what I believe about money within myself. When I go into that place of being fearful, I usually feel it in my stomach. So when my stomach starts to hurt and I tense up around some financial issue, this has been my cue to take a pause and explore the beliefs and feelings I’ve been avoiding.
One evening, he began collecting spare change and asked me to give him some money to go get a toy. I asked him to give me a few minutes to think as I began to feel that familiar pain in my stomach.
I lay on the bed and decided to invite the fear to come out of hiding. I just said to myself things like "I need to let myself feel this" and "I invite and welcome this feeling and fear into my consciousness."
It took about 10 minutes of embracing the feelings of fear and the pain in my stomach for the answer to break through the surface.
By inviting the fear in, I realized how I believe that I always make bad decisions about money. Growing up I would hear my mother say this about my father. I feared that I was like my father and couldn't handle money.
The fear that whatever decision I made about money was a bad one was one that constantly lived in my subconscious. Whether it was giving him $10 to spend on a toy, or my decision to buy something to eat for myself when I was out of the house and hungry, or my decision to add a second bedroom onto our small house.
Every decision I made about money, no matter how trivial, was connected to my belief that I always made bad decisions. I even remember how as a teenager, I would question my own decisions believing that I was bound to screw it up.
These decisions were not always about money. I’ve lived in this confusion on a daily basis. I remember many times how I would ask for clarity from others. I would call Rob on the phone or talk in person with him about a decision I was trying to make.
I would question every decision I made no matter how small and he would show up and be my mirror. He would mirror back to me my belief that I could not do it right.
And in that fear and lie, I would be triggered.
It kept me from seeing what he was doing was just the desire of a four year-old child wanting money to buy a toy. Instead I saw his actions as a confirmation of how much I had screwed up in my life. That is quite a burden for a four year-old to carry.
Realizing that I lived in fear of making a decision about money, because I knew I would mess it up, was a big one for me. And, as soon as the realization hit me, my stomach pain went away. I felt this weight lifted off of me. I brought out from my subconscious this belief that undermined me and which I used to punish myself. By bringing it out of hiding, I released a lot of its hold on me.
This break-through allowed me to be present with him around his desire to go buy a new toy in a way I had rarely experienced. I could make a decision and not have it be clouded by my self-imposed confusion.
I could make a decision and not have it be tied to my underlying belief that I always made bad decisions. And, because I made bad decisions, I would pass this trait onto him. That's a whole lot of twisted crap floating around!
Your issue may not be money. But there may be ways in which the children in your life reflect your fears. The situation you hate to enter into with them, because it is rife with conflict, may be because you are holding on to some deep beliefs (or lies) that keep you from being clear and present.
What are the lies you are holding onto about yourself and how do those manifest in your relationships with the children in your life?
It can be a challenge to go deeper and allow the fear to surface. The fear may be rooted in some very traumatic experiences you had as a child. The depth of that pain may make us even more afraid to allow it come to the surface. You may need some support to allow yourself to go there.
But, if we choose not to go deeper, how might we be impacting our current relationships? How might our actions today be influenced by what we choose not to look at in our past?
When we avoid the pain and fear, it maintains it's hold on us. The people in our lives, especially children, bring that fear and anxiety to the surface. If we choose not to face it within ourselves, we can easily project it on to them.
Our lack of clarity, our confusion, our unwillingness to go deeper and expand our awareness of ourselves, directly impacts our relationships with children.
Our work, then, is to face our fears and uncover the trigger. This "work" is really not work in the traditional sense. It is about love and acceptance of all the parts of our experiences, past and present. It is an honoring of those things we have hidden away. It is a love of what those experiences and feelings have to teach us.
Ultimately, it is about loving ourselves unconditionally, just as we hope to do with the children in our lives.