Controlling the World of Emotions
By Nicole MacKenzie
The world of emotions includes: alienation, anger, being the victim, competition, defiance, doubt, frustration, inequality, lying, negotiation, opposition, pressure, self pity, whining...
To children, using their emotions really means playing a game. Children early on learn to take calculated risks. These risks enable them to learn how far they can go; where the boundaries are. The thrill of the game and the sensation of power when they get the desired result are worth the risk of punishment. They may not be aware of the emotional manipulation game until you point it out to them, when you bring awareness to the situation (without judgment) they can usually very easily see the game. They know it gets them what they want. Which is most of the time just power.
Playing the emotional games doesn't bring out the best in your kids, so as adults it is important for you to give your kids a great gift for their journey through life; give them the tools they need to control the emotional world. Teach them to be "curious" about their emotions. This is one of the most important things you can do for your children.
Your goals are to...
- Teach them to be aware of, and to understand the world of emotions.
- Teach them how to use their emotions productively.
- Help them realize that they have a choice in using, or not using their emotions.
- Provide feedback on their use of the emotions without any judgment.
- Hold them accountable for the emotional games they play to get their way.
- Help them see how the use of their emotions impact those around them.
When Mia was seven years old, she watched a movie one evening. I was not watching, but I could hear teenage kids running all kinds of manipulating games in the movie. I even told Mia, who was fascinated with the movie, that I wanted to watch the movie with her one time and just see how many games we could detect. That night, after giving her the usual hug and kiss, she called me back into her room with already a whiny voice and asked for another hug and kiss.
I responded from the kitchen table: "Not right now. I am doing something else!" That was it. It blew her right into the emotion of self-pity. She started crying, yelling, "You don't love me anymore."
I could hear her complete involvement in the emotion, and I was curious about her reaction. I asked her to come to the table, which she reluctantly did. I took out my body chart and showed her where she was on an emotional level. Then, I started to help her understand the feeling that emotion created in her body. I asked her: "Where do you feel it? What shape does it have?"
She started to get somewhat curious and said it was black and round, sitting right in her heart area. I told her that I actually saw where she just learned about that emotion. I pointed out the scene in the movie she watched earlier, and I told her that she was just trying it on to see how it felt and to see the result it would create.
I then added, "Now here is how I look at it. You can have that emotion and go to bed, or you can snap out of it and go to bed. It will not really matter to me. All I want you to know is that you actually have a choice of what you do."
She looked at me with her big brown eyes and said, "Well, that was interesting." She gave me a big hug and was happy as she went back to bed.