One evening, after a day of challenging interactions, my daughter had what I call a meltdown. This is a moment where she can’t communicate what she needs and her body seems to be in turmoil. These moments are the toughest for me because like many parents, I have a hard time responding to her in any helpful way. The meltdown usually comes out of the blue and does not appear to be rooted in any particular problem that I can help her solve. Frustrating doesn’t even cover it.
On this particular occasion, after about 30 minutes of trying to sort out what was wrong, I arrived at a point where I was completely taxed and was ready to walk out and let her work it out on her own. But right at that moment, words from Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, popped into my head and I was inspired to try a different approach.
I took a deep breath and said, “What does it feel like when you get like this?”
She stopped for a brief second of contemplation and said ‘I can’t sit still, I feel yucky inside and I’m upset and frustrated’. As she relayed this she seemed to become more agitated. With extra emphasis she carried out the standard meltdown motions of placing her hands over her face, running them through her hair and across her forehead, rocking her body, and eventually dropping her head into the pillow.
It was painful to watch and I began to waiver on my course.
But then, what I asked her next changed the whole situation. I said to her, “Do you want to know what that is when you feel like that and what causes it?”
Well darling, its called your pain body.
“How do I get rid of it?”
I could feel her excitement.
I asked her if anything bad was happening to her right now. She thought for a moment, looked around the room and said, “Well, no.” I then asked her what was happening right now in this moment, where she was, and who she was with. As we explored the answers to these simple questions she began to see that what was bothering her and causing her pain at bedtime had nothing to do with what was actually happening, but everything to do with worrying about what might happen and thinking about what occurred in the past. When you are eight this means thinking about what happened at school that day and what might possibly happen tomorrow.
Eventually, through a moment of togetherness that I will never forget, we arrived at this.
When you get angry, frustrated or sad, ask yourself, ‘What is causing that?’
My pain body.
Where does it come from?
Negative thoughts and thoughts about the past or future.
How do you make it go away?
Return to the present. It has no power in the present.
What is the only moment you have?
I am so grateful to be her mom.