I hope we’ll get to look back at this time and be like “Wow, remember when….”, but right now we are into the second week of “social-distancing” or “quarantining” due to the Covid-19 virus.
During some moments I think “I got this” and during others, I’m completely overwhelmed and experience waves of anxiety. Today, was a particularly hard day, not sure why it ended up that way, maybe I was off, maybe because it was snowing and felt even more cooped up, who knows? but it was hard.
I have mentioned before that one of my daughters has extreme anxiety when taking tests. Today, she had to take a makeup test and boy oh boy, it did not go well. I really thought that this time we were going to get through it positively. We reviewed for a few days, made charts, wrote summaries and even talked openly about her test anxiety and how to manage it… She was ready. She looked at her test today and everything we practiced, everything we worked on, went out the window in an instant. It’s hard to describe what that looks like. It’s so primal and she just loses control, screaming, yelling and crying for hours. In the beginning I did a pretty good job with trying to hold her emotions and offer her support, but she just wasn’t in a space for anything rational. After going round-and-round for a long time, I lost it, and did not act in a way that makes me proud.
Now, with the house quieted down and the kids in bed, I can reflect. I realize that I do have some tools I’ve learned that I didn’t use when it was needed most.
Many of you have either read or heard me talk about Brad Reedy. He’s the clinical director of Evoke Therapy, the wilderness program our daughter Shoshana attended, who has written some amazing books (You can see his books here: https://amzn.to/2UkS8fM. One of the most valuable tools I learned from working with the Evoke team and Shoshana was the “I Feel” statement. It is crazy how powerful this communication tool is, and I want to share it with you. Just remember, initially it may feel awkward, so be kind to yourself through the process and slowly but surely it will feel more natural. As I just told you, I didn’t use it today when it could’ve been really helpful, but it’s not too late because tomorrow when we’re calm, I’m going to ask for a do over and give it a try.
I figured this would be a great time to talk about this concept.
The life circumstance we are all experiencing is so=unique and challenging. Most of us are stuck at home, in a confined space, without an end to this shutdown in sight. Having a communication tool in our back pocket can’t be a bad thing 😊
So here I go, what’s the “I feel statement “and how does it work?
The “I Feel” statement allows two people to connect but also remain separate. It’s the ideal healthy relationship, it’s connection and separation at the same time.
“I Feel” Statement
I feel _______(emotion)_____________________________________
I feel this when_________(description of event)__________________
I feel this way because I think_ (beliefs/ interpretations/perceptions)___
What I hope that is within my control____________________________
What I hope that I cannot control_______________________________
One of the most common mistakes that we make in the first part of the “I feel” statement is adding the word “like” or “that”. So “I feel like….” Or “I feel that….” Using “like” and “that” is a thinking exercise, not sharing a feeling. So, keep it simple to just an emotion. The next part of the statement “I feel this when….” allows you to add your thoughts, giving context to your aforementioned feeling.
It can be helpful, to consider yourself almost like an outside observer of the event you’re describing, otherwise we can be tempted to try to influence or manipulate the listener. After you’ve described the event dispassionately you will have a chance to explain why you’re feeling the way you do in the next step.
For me, this is one of the hardest things to keep in mind; ensuring that I don’t sneak in a lecture or repeat/emphasize the same ideas in different forms to get my point across. Doing so would be an abuse of the spirit of the “I Feel” statement. It would be an error to use the “I feel” statement to control behavior rather than expressing yourself authentically and creating an emotional connection.
The next step is to make the internal distinction of what is in your control and what is not. And it gives you a chance to focus on your wants, hopes and needs. For parents, this can be really difficult, as we spend so much time focusing on getting our kids to change or deciding what their needs and wants are, that we don’t even know where they end and where we start.
When we start to figure out that over which we do have control and what’s out of our control, it will go a long way in freeing us up from guilt and engaging in power struggles.
The final step allows us to express our hopes and desires without being manipulative. It’s like a demand-free wish list with no expectation that the other party comply with your wishes.
I will share two of my “I feel” statements I shared with Shoshana so you can get an idea of how this works. BTW you can use this when you want to express something positive or negative.
I feel hurt.
I feel hurt when you don’t let me hug you or get close to you.
I feel this way because it feels like your rejecting me and have a problem with me.
A hope inside my control is to let you know how I feel when you shut me out.
A hope outside of my control is that you can accept the love I want to give you.
I feel joy.
I feel joy when I see you being a great and loving sister.
I feel this way because nothing warms my heart more than to see my children get. along. Especially with the unique way our family was created.
A hope inside my control is to take one moment at time, enjoy the times you love them and be okay with the times you don’t.
A hope outside my control is that you’ll always able to treat your siblings with respect and recognize how much they look up to you.
There is obviously so much more to say and talk about in connection to the “I feel” statement, but I hope this is a good start
This is an amazing communication tool for anybody in your life! It is not specific to a parent child relationship.