Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Ask for What You Need

365.177 by Dyanna Hyde, cc license
My last five posts have been dedicated to finding ways to remain gentle in stressful circumstances. I've been in crunch mode, working on my thesis, and the stress has definitely gotten to me. It has been incredibly helpful having this space to reflect on the importance of self-care and to remind myself of the practices that will strengthen my ability to remain gentle. However, I have also come to the realization that there are going to be those times when I just can't do it without the help of those around me. And, until all of my loved ones are able to perfect their mind reading skills, I have to ask for what I need. And then, of course, in order to ask for what I need, I need to know what that is.

There have been a handful of times over the past couple of months that I really lost it; that I felt my emotions were out of control. Inevitably, it would be at the peak of my exasperation that Jason would ask, "What can I do to help?" Poor thing. At that point in time the additional stress of trying to figure out and articulate what I needed did nothing to help the situation. Typically, the first thing that would pop into my head is that I wanted him to reverse time so that we could avoid the current situation altogether. Typically, the first thing that would pop out of my mouth was along the lines of, "You could stop pissing me off." Sigh. Not so gentle.

In calmer moments of reflection, I remained stumped as to what would really help me in those downward-spiraling moments. It was finally watching one of Cadence's toddler meltdowns, and noticing my reaction to it, that gave me some insight. Being a toddler can be tough. They experience emotion in an extreme way and are just beginning to develop the skills to handle those new, strange, intense feelings. The tiniest bit of frustration can quickly spiral into full on sobbing. I've found that just holding Cadence and offering comfort has been my best tool for helping her regain composure and for decreasing the frequency of her outbursts. In responding to one of her meltdowns one day, I had the thought, "I feel ya, kid." I realized that when I've been losing it, I feel like a toddler. Much like a toddler, who feels a strong negative emotion, reacts, and then feels further distress from the reaction, I too begin to feel worse and worse as I realize how ugly I am in my own outbursts. In this case, bad begets bad and the worse I feel the worse I act.

I laid this out for Jason and asked him for what I needed: a hug. A sign that, even at my worst, I was still loved and safe. He appeared dubious, but was game to give it a try. And it's been pretty amazing. When I feel my rage bubbling up, the sight of Jason coming at me with open arms is completely disarming. The beast within is quelled.

I hope this encourages you to ask for whatever it is that you need from those close to you. And if you need some encouragement or guidance on submitting those requests, please leave a comment or drop me a line.

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