Where are you willing to put your energy?
Updated: Jan 4
I’m going to drop my husband in it here… (sorry in advance Az)…but with the assertion that he’s an amazing husband and father, and exponentially more patient than me!
Our kids have started habitually annoying one another when tensions rise. Last week we hit our limit. We’d spent money going to Skyzone, had an amazing time, and when the kids got tired they started sniping at one another. The last straw was when one of them stepped on the back of the other ones’ shoes and all hell broke loose.
Fast forward to my husband and I’s conversation (out of earshot of the kids) and he said, “I don’t think they understand how frustrating and annoying these behaviours are for other people. Should we start doing the same thing back to them when they do it to each other?”
(Bear in mind, he was frustrated)
There must’ve been some sort of celestial event because, for once, I was the one feeling more calm and I thought to myself, ‘That’s going to take a lot of energy’. I thought about how annoying it would be to stop every conversation to, for example, step on the back of the kids shoes until they ‘got it’.
I said, “I don’t think that’s the problem. They’re tired. That place is overwhelming - so much noise, older kids pushing and shoving, learning new skills. He’s been watching his sister play with her dad while he can’t even see his dad due to border closures. She’s being jealous and trying to cut in every time we speak to one another. They get it. They’re doing it because they’re wanting us to react, not because they don’t understand what reaction they’re getting.”
This got me thinking about how willing we, as humans, are to put our energy into doing ‘negative’ things rather than putting energy into ‘positive’ things - even if it’s the same amount of energy.
Realistically, it’s going to take the same amount of energy to hug them, help them articulate their feelings and understand the purpose of those feelings, and reassure them, as it is to annoy the hell out of them… but somehow it feels easier to choose the annoying route (except for unicorn parents with endless patience… which I am not).
So, back to humans as a whole…
How many habits at this moment do you keep doing to try and beat yourself into being better?
How much energy do you put into telling yourself to change?
How much energy do you put into criticising yourself for not ‘just’ fixing yourself?
(And how much energy do you put into doing this to other people?)
Does it work? Do you change? Do your kids change? Does your spouse change? Do your parents change?
We rally against industries that promote criticism as a marketing strategy - diet promotion, health supplements, and body shaming - but we use the same strategies on ourselves and others.
Excessive criticism takes a LOT of energy, but it feels easier because it’s our Order.
It’s what we know. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable - for those of us with critical parents, it’s our internalised narrative… it’s normal for us to try and beat ourselves into submission.
It probably takes the same amount of energy to speak to ourselves kindly, to listen to our unconsciousness and inner child, to reassure someone, to hold space for ourselves and others… But it doesn’t feel as easy to do these things because it’s not what we know: It’s our Chaos.
Our Chaos is unpredictable and uncertain. It’s frightening because we don’t have as much experience with trying x to achieve y - so we try and talk ourselves out of putting energy into that Chaos (in this case, kindness, reassurance, and an attempt to understand & process emotional experiences).
It’s normal for me to yell at my kids. It’s normal for me to use shame. It’s normal for me to give the silent treatment. Those things were done to me… so it made perfect sense why my husband suggested “annoying the kids into submission” (and I’m sure we’re all guilty of doing something similar). But the consequence of having those things done to me was extremely low self-confidence, being terrified of being ‘an inconvenience’, fear of expressing how I felt, and real difficulty processing/coping with uncomfortable emotions.
If you find yourself saying that kindness (etc) “won’t work”, recognise that this is likely you talking yourself out of Chaos and back into Order. It’s how we justify repeating the same patterns and staying comfortable. It’s how we justify keeping our energy in what we know, rather than shifting our energy to something we aren’t sure about.
…But what would’ve been different if your parent chose kindness instead of shame or aggression?
…What’s different about a friend who accepts you and holds space for you?
…What would be different if your spouse met you in your anger, stopped what they were doing, and focused their attention on helping you articulate, understand, and process that emotion?
The act of noticing what I’m choosing to put effort into has a powerful effect on subsequent choices, emotional states, and behaviour.
This discussion has been centred on how we speak to ourselves and others, but the theory applies to areas across many spectrums of life. If you want to change your inter-generational patterns and traumas, here’s some Top Takeaways that you might want to start Journalling around:
(1) Check in with where you are willing to put your energy
(what you think “will work” and what you think “won’t work”)
(2) Notice where you behaviourally put your energy
(what you actually do with your energy)
(3) Label these as My Chaos and My Order
(start to notice your learned versus chosen patterns and narratives)
“6 Weeks to Resilience” Online Course - Learn to hold space for, articulate, and process yours and others’ emotional experiences.