Default Emotions – parents dancing with anger

A mother shares a story about her struggle with hate. Specifically, she is troubled by the thought that she hates parenting and, possibly, her preschooler.

She’s not alone.

Living with someone from birth to high-school graduation, I expect to feel every emotional state.

Hate, anger and rage are powerful, and unpredictable, emotions. In Boulder County, they are socially taboo when directed at children.

Therefore, as a parent, you’re likely to remember when you feel these emotions around children.

You are feeling everything.

You are remembering hate.

What’s your default emotional state?

Thinking about the five people closest to me. We default to…

  • Tears (flight)
  • Confrontation (fight)
  • Fear (flight)
  • Emotional shutdown (flight)
  • Anger (fight)

Within a preschooler, I can see all of the above within a ten-minute span!

Combine a rainbow of powerful emotions… with a lack of sleep… it’s easy to drop into my default emotional state.

In my case, I tend to pause and address later, when the energy has left the situation.

Take stock of your consumption of external emotions.

  • Media
  • Situations
  • Peers

How do the above make me feel?

Replace the negative with self-care.

  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you are feeling hate?
  • Are you sure your child is the reason for the emotion?

Frustration at my lack of skill can feel like anger.

How do skilled teachers feel about my child?

Negative emotions (hate, anger, rage) indicate a need to up-skill for the essential and out-source the non-essential.

Your mommy-guilt might be leaving you tapped out.

Being tapped out means your children, and your marriage, never see your best self.

Tapped out is a tough way to spend a decade.

 

It wasn’t enough

When I follow my own advice, life is better.

At the back of my mind, especially with kids, I have a desire for life to be “easy.”

My desire makes me chuckle because my “easy days” are often boring.

Based on eight years of parenting… easy is not going to happen so focusing on “better” is a smarter option.

From time to time my appetites come up with ideas to make my life _even_ better.

  • These ideas might be small — five beers, two burgers, large fries and couple desserts
  • They might be large — a vacation property with a cost of ownership that doubles my core cost of living
  • Many fall in between — clothes, vacations, sports equipment, alcoholic beverages, risk-seeking friends

These desires pop up as an emotion associated with pleasure, excitement or release.

Certain choices, situations and people are associated with bad outcomes.

Despite an association with pleasure, excitement or release… many of my desires are highly-likely to lead me to bad outcomes.

To tame my appetites, I pause and consider the last time I gave into that specific appetite…

I ask myself…

Was it enough?

It was never enough. Not even close!

I remember always wanting more, even while I was getting what I wanted.

My desires are frequent, but my specific desires are fleeting.

They come and they go.

If it wasn’t enough then maybe I should find a better way to live….

…and that’s the system that I’ve been sharing.

=====

What’s your system?

Is it working?

Seven Positive Steps

2016-11-15-16-04-05Seven positive steps…

1 – unfollow the two most prolific sources of agreement in my life – top right hand corner on FB

2 – dial down pundits, forecasters and experts

3 – add sources from outside my circle (Taleb, MartinezAdams)

4 – slowly read a book about manipulation and another about high-conflict people (15 minutes per day) – choose one tactic, apply it for a month

5 – make time each day to use nature to slow my mind down (deserts, oceans, forests, mountains) (twice daily)

6 – teach a kid while demonstrating grace (2×20 minutes per day)

7 – improve my ability to listen by being still and not responding

Simple, not easy.

Parenting – Define Better

2016-09-30-16-53-02I was at a wilderness first aid course and a fellow student asked me if I thought parenthood had made my life “better.”

I gave a wry smile and shared that the challenges of fatherhood have made me a better man.

I further shared that it has been hard to detect any improvement in the quality of my day-to-day life.

+++

However, it gets easier.

Our youngest turned four last month and that marks a key shift in our house. The younger kids (4 and 5) still get worked up but we have the skills to avoid making the situation worse.

+++

Later, I had the realization that I’m basing my evaluation by looking at a single thread of my life.

You see, we only see the life we live. When I think more broadly, I’m certain that there are many threads that are tougher than living with three loud kids that love me.

For personal happiness, it pays to ask around, get out of the house and serve the community.

+++

I have accepted that I am a good parent but I might not be good at parenting.

What I mean… I can provide the kids what they need but there isn’t the ease, and joy, that I see with mastery.

I shared this observation with my parenting mentor and she gave me a wry smile!

+++

After eight years, I’ve come to the realization that my limitations are OK and I pay attention to them.

My motto…

When I am struggling with someone then it’s a sign that I’m spending too much time with them. So, it’s better for me, and them, if I stay under the irritation threshold.

Keeping a little in reserve can be easier for a guy (see my piece on Mommy Fatigue) but my wife sees the benefits (for all of us) of acknowledging limits.

High Finance

2016-09-24-10-14-55Keep your ears open this week. There will be a rare opportunity to learn about finance.

For my international friends, many of the American techniques (in the news) are available in your home countries. I have been applying finance, across four continents, for more than 25 years.

2016-09-25-18-48-42The overall financial system works great. However, when I try to explain certain shortcomings to my friends, their eyes glaze over and I lose them.

I wish I was more skillful.

Whether your favorite billionaire is a Cuban, a Koch, or a Buffett, we can learn a lot from insiders. A constant refrain from wealthy insiders is “complexity creates opportunity for the system to be gamed for economic benefit.”

Finance is a complex system. The system has been gamed extensively.

  • Offshore accounts (Panama Papers type stuff)
  • Thinly-capitalized investment vehicles, with lots of debt
  • Applying non-cash losses today, while deferring cash gains to tomorrow
  • Receiving preferential tax rates on gains associated with financial work
  • Using trusts to avoid estate and generation skipping taxes
  • Using special accounts to shelter income and gains across generations
  • Income reclassification to avoid income and payroll taxes

If the collective wants to run the system like that then I’ll bow to its will. However, I’m not sure the collective knows what’s up.

2016-09-28-10-43-49-1Like professional sports, my beef isn’t with the system. What irks me is the lack of integrity when insiders pretend the system is different than reality. The politics of the people I named above are different but their observations are often similar.

I’m grateful I can explain my personal reality without fear of banishment or loss.

Living a life you can disclose saves a lot of suffering.

Reaching For Success – Young Families

2016-08-20 10.51.46

What makes a successful family system?

If you ask around then you might hear love, kindness, tolerance and forgiveness. All good but, with a room full of youngsters, these “higher states” often seem unattainable.

Let’s focus on specific tactics.

2016-08-17 17.20.34Renunciation – As an elite endurance athlete, this was a strength of mine. However, what serves a high-performer’s goals is unlikely to serve one’s family.

What happens when deeply help beliefs get in the way of being a good father, a good parent, a good son?

Most of us have past habits living inside of us. Feeding these desires as a single adult have limited repercussions in our lives. As a father, self-indulgence leads to misery.

What beliefs/habits are holding me back from being a better man?

The difficulty of change is completely worth it.

2016-08-17 10.52.28Intangible Assets – What is peace of mind worth?

What price are you willing to pay for a happier spouse?

How much is it worth to teach a three-year old conflict resolution skills?

I promise that you will undervalue the intangible benefits of greater serenity and you will greatly overestimate the pleasure you receive from hard assets.

In my family budget, “luxury” spending is focused on two areas:

  • Pre-K for the kids
  • Childcare for your marriage

At the end of 2012, we downsized our home to ensure we could fund the above.

2016-08-16 11.24.53One-On-One Time – It takes one-on-one time to get inside your child’s world.

Spend the same amount of time (overall) with your spouse.

Hold sacred your daily quiet time with yourself.

With kids, spouse, self, job, PTA, laundry, parents… we have endless demands on our time!

It is “ok to say no.”

Get more comfortable doing enough for the family, rather than your best for yourself. You might never be fully comfortable with time compromises. Discomfort is OK.

2016-08-14 12.26.58Patience – it will take work, over time, to learn skills to maintain your sanity, within the natural chaos of a new family home.

Give yourself 1,000 days to see where you need help.

Go get help!

Experienced preschool teachers have a wealth of knowledge you can tap to become skillful at home.

Most my “problems” are created when a lack of skill meets my emotional habits of anger, retreat, sadness, aggression and revenge.

2016-08-13 21.00.46Renunciation, self-care, connection and patience.

 

What To Do

2016-06-26 12.45.44We can be trapped into thinking that one person can’t make a difference…

…that there’s no point in bothering

…that we will be punished for good deeds

A bias towards inaction enables the enemies of a civil society to screw things up for personal gain.

+++

This is what I got done in June:

  • Sent in my naturalization papers
  • Wrote an elected official
    • Introduced myself and my kids
    • Told him where in his constituency I lived
    • Pointed out an issue where he had done a particularly good job
    • Told him my #1 issue for his consideration
    • Thanked him for his service to us
  • Continued my home-based practice of de-escalation — when my family watches me improve myself then our entire community is better off
  • I selected a political group and a politician that “don’t get it”
    • I picked an area from each where they “do get it”
    • I shared my areas of agreement with my wife
  • Consumed less violence – whatever your favorite source… MMA, NFL, CNN, hate speech, movies, video games – choose less – I pay particular attention to visual violence as well as violence I can feel in my body – the NFL scores uncomfortably high in terms of pleasurable, tribal violence
  • Generated less anger – I can hold emotions, rather than feeding them – my mantra is don’t act on anger – the “holding” is done while breathing calmly because speaking when angry merely feeds it

Each of the above was inconvenient but, collectively, improved my life.

I need to remind myself of the overall improvement because it takes sustained effort to create the life I want to live.

Indeed, it takes sustained effort to create the mind in which I want to live!

Do we care enough to change?

One small step, daily.