In a society that reveres strength and independence, but is less enthusiastic about vulnerability and openly expressing needs, many parents understandably find it hard to show their true feelings and needs. Parents often feel more shame than self-compassion in relation to their unmet needs and consequent struggles. And consequently, find it difficult to reach out for these needs to be met. What about you?
It’s hard to give from an empty cup. As a nearly unavoidable symptom of lack of emotional support and stress relief, most parents struggle to not resent all that they pour out to their child when inside they’re screaming out for their needs to be met. Parents often struggle to not pressurize or guilt-trip their children when they feel worn down and under-appreciated. There’s only so much a person can contain without gaining relief and release from their frustrations.
Parents put so much energy into helping their child feel seen, heard and appreciated. Yet, parents also have a need to feel seen, heard and appreciated. Most parents I speak to in my work don’t feel they receive enough appreciation and don’t feel truly seen and heard in their challenges. They find it hard to feel deserving of having their needs met.
Even though meeting our own needs as parents can be very hard to achieve, our needs tend to be very high and very important because of giving so much and we have a big, and often daunting, responsibility to maintain our balance. This article is just a gentle reminder about the importance of caring for your needs.
Being more aware of what we’re truly feeling and recognizing our unmet needs makes a huge difference. That screaming frustration that so often spills over onto the children actually needs and deserves to be heard. Not to just stop or disappear, as that’s probably not realistic. But to be heard, recognized and honoured.
And very importantly, to reduce stress and heal, we need to cultivate kindness and compassion towards ourselves, we need to learn to bring our awareness inward and give ourselves genuine messages that we are listening and honouring and caring and accepting our emotions in their raw state.
Misery is easy, happiness takes a lot of work. I heard this expression lately when watching a film called “Odine” set in the west coast of Ireland, a beautiful film about a widowed father who was struggling to get back on track with life. It really struck me as being so true. There’s a certain gravity about unhappiness, a weight that can pull us down and it takes a lot of work every time to lift ourselves up. To look up. To connect. To reach out.
Ironically, there’s a much greater chance of gaining the support, the relaxation, the relief, the time, the fun, the connection, whatever it is that we need when we bring our awareness mindfully to the stress of unmet needs. When we take our awareness of our inner frustrations and conflicts from the back of our minds to the forefront with an intention of consciously feeling those uncomfortable feelings in the body and applying some kindness towards self, we shine a light on the feelings and needs that are calling on our attention.
Tuning in to our feelings gives us very useful information. Tuning in to those feelings inside can bring essential information about what we know deep inside, insights about what’s needed to bring ourselves more into balance, to bring ourselves into greater peace and harmony with ourselves and our world. Those insights lie within each individual, but we need to give caring attention and become still enough to listen to our inner voice.
Tuning in to our inner world and truly listening generally means becoming very aware of and willing to honestly confront the uncomfortable feelings. Yet many of the answers lie in those irritating feelings that we so often wish we didn’t feel.
Did you receive the message as a child that you needed and deserved to feel appreciated? Did you receive the message during childhood that you needed and deserved to have your vulnerable feelings seen and heard? Were your needs for connection, reassurance, appreciation, listening, empathy generally spoken to and recognized? Or not so much? (Notice how you feel as you read these questions, those feelings always offers interesting information about the messages you received.)
As an adult, have you been learning how to truly care for your feelings?
If you largely did experience that these needs were recognized and largely met, how has that affected you? If you largely didn’t, how has that affected you?
- If you’ve learned to kindly care for your feelings and needs as an adult more than they were kindly cared for as a child, has this made a difference to how you are as a parent and as a person?
- What has helped you to better honour your feelings and needs?
- What can you share of your journey of learning to better listen to and care for your feelings and needs that might help others?
~ Genevieve Simperingham