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By Nathan Chua
I can’t remember the last time I was going to write an article, that I felt will be too long for a single blog post. This is a topic that many of my clients find to be surprising and liberating.
I often meet people who have trouble with their thoughts. Many of us imbibe what we had been taught to fear in childhood. This is what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm referred to as our authoritarian conscience, as opposed to our humanistic conscience. We may think it is our own conscience dictating what is right and wrong to us, but it is actually the voices of people in our past still ringing in our minds.
Here’s an example from another psychoanalyst, Nancy McWilliams:
“When one of my daughters was a preschooler, a nursery-school teacher promulgated the idea that virtue involved “thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds.” This troubled her. She was much relieved when I commented that I disagreed with her teacher and felt that thinking bad thoughts was a lot of fun, especially when one could do good deeds in spite of those thoughts.”
I often self-disclose to my clients about what this quote means to me. I tell them how many jeepney, bus and taxi drivers I have assaulted in my mind. What we confuse most of the time is that we do three things every moment. We think, we feel and we do. Most of the time we do as we think or feel. We become our thoughts and feelings. It is important that we separate the three activities. What we feel or think does not make up who we are. It is what we do that matters in the end.
Emotions are not bad. They spur us into action. Our anger helps us defend ourselves against predators and abusers. Our fear and shame tell us to stay away from harmful situations. Our guilt stirs us towards doing better in the future. Our sadness helps us say goodbye to people or things, that were not meant to be forever.
Let me end this post with a quote from the champion of unconditional positive regard, Carl Rogers:
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience – that we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.
by Nathan Chua
Parents often end up in a quandary about what they had done wrong to their kids. They never saw it coming. Why has my child become rebellious or turned into someone I hardly know? From the loving child who saw me as someone who meant the world to her, she has now turned to other things, or people to find love and solace. There are also cases when a child becomes unmanageable even at an early age. We witness this when we see parent and child engaged in a battle of wills, with the child having no other recourse but to cry her lungs out.
If there was one factor that can influence the child’s emotional quotient or EQ, it is the level of validation that they get early from their significant caregiver. I say caregiver or guardian because it matters less who gives the care, than how the care is given. Validation means that a child feels precious and worthwhile to her guardians. It allows a child to develop a self-confidence that her voice will be heard when she needs something. Validation overcomes shame and withdrawal. The child realizes that her efforts to get her needs met as well as to change her circumstances, can be effectual.
Now the question is, how can a toddler experience this even at an age when they seem unable to understand the consequences of their early experiences to their later life. We must understand that early childhood experiences can already create indelible memories in a child. The best way to validate a child is to give her the proper attention she asks.
You have probably watched scenes where a child approaches a parent who is tired, working or talking with another adult. It is common to observe a mother losing patience with her child incessantly tugging at the seams of her blouse. “Can’t you wait?” “Don’t be disrespectful, I am still talking to someone!” are some of the common responses in these situations. This experience, believe it or not, is invalidating for a child.
A better response would be to stop and look at the child straight in the eyes and tell her, “Yes my child, I understand that seems important to you. Please give mom a few minutes. I just need to finish what I am doing, and I would certainly love to listen to what you have to say.”
Make sure though that you exhibit the kind of body language that allows the child to infer that she is just as important as what you are engaged in at the moment. In fact, she should feel that she is first and foremost in your priorities. Offer her that loving gaze that assures her you value her.
What can you expect from your child if you do this? Although it is still dependent on other factors, you will probably see a child grow up with confidence, persistence, trust and initiative.