When King Triton discovers that Ariel has been visiting the surface and the human world, he forbids her to go back there again. With all his masculine strength and power he pronounces that she will not do that again. With special light and sound effects, he makes his point heard, his decision final, his determination clear and his power known. Ariel responds by moving towards someone who will listen, understand and try to help her. She moves forward with her plan independently, unaware of the risks that await her. Later in the show, Triton will try to save her soul from Ursula the sea-witch.
Power plays and controlling circumstances are lose-lose scenarios. While the parent (or teacher, manager, leader) may win her way in the short run, it is usually at the expense of the child’s sense of self and/or trust in the relationship between the parent and child. Sometimes a parent may seem to win, but the child just continues doing things secretly just as Ariel does. Other times, in slow subtle ways, the child retreats from doing much at all. Most often when the adult chooses control and authoritarian rule, the choice for the child is powerlessness or anger and rebellion. So what is a parent (teacher, manager, leader) to do?
Leah: It’s nice to meet you King Triton. I’m truly honored for the opportunity to coach you. So, what is something that’s been going really well for you? Maybe something that inspires you?
Triton: My daughters are the jewels of my kingdom. They light up the dark seas, and bring joy to my life. They bring light and laughter to the court!
Leah: (Catching the light tone of his voice) How lovely to hear you talk about your daughters with such delight! Your voice lightens when you talk about them.
Triton: (Laughs) I suppose it does. And yes, they are delightful. And, with six of them, I have no challenges. They are sweet, obedient and easy to predict…
Triton: Yes. I really struggle with the seventh. Ariel. She seems to have a mind of her own and it’s not any place where I can find it! I found out she’d been to the surface and been with humans. She’s been collecting a lot of human stuff! She has no idea what a danger humans can be to us. I’m so afraid for her.
Leah: It sounds like you care deeply about your daughters and their safety.
Triton: Yes! It’s my job to protect them. How can I protect her when she goes beyond the boundaries of the kingdom. She doesn’t understand… (his voice trails off)
Leah: (after a pause in case Triton has something to add) You have used the word understand a few times now. You want to understand Ariel, she doesn’t understand the dangers.
Triton: Hmm, yes. If I could understand what she was thinking, or if I could make her understand the dangers…
Leah: So, how could you do that?
Triton: Well I told her that she is forbidden to go to the human world again! I used my King voice, my trident and my powers to show her I was serious and I meant it!
Leah: And did that help her to understand?
Triton: Of course it did!
Leah: Really, that’s great! ….How do you know?
Triton: (Silence) Hmm… Now that you ask me…I just thought it was obvious that she heard me. She did react…
Leah: Just now when you said that you forbade her to go to the human world, and showing that you were serious, your whole tone changed. It sounded harder, brasher.
Leah: It didn’t have the love in it that I heard earlier in our conversation today.
Triton: Ohhh. (Quiet as his brain starts to make connections) So, are you suggesting that she only heard the anger, not the protection?
Leah: What do you think she saw and heard from her father in that moment?
Triton: Hmm (Starts to laugh) I guess I sounded like my own father, pretty angry. He could be scary. I didn’t really understand him until I became a father…
Oh. I see. She might not really have understood at all. Then what do I do? How do I help her to understand? (He gets quiet again thinking…) ….I don’t want to tell her all the things that have happened to us because of humans… Unless…. maybe that’s how she will understand?
Leah: It sounds to me like even though fear of what could happen drives the way you communicate, you don’t actually communicate the fear.
Triton: I never thought about it that way. But! A king is supposed to be strong and obeyed! Not fearful and….vulnerable. I’m not supposed to show her my fear.
Leah: (playfully) Hmm, I wonder which rule book says that? I haven’t seen it…
Triton: (his voice lightening) True, true… (Laughing ) That’s because nobody ever had seven daughters before!!
(They laugh together.)
Triton: Okay, so if I want her to understand, I have to find a way to tell her about the danger and that it makes me fearful. Ugh, I don’t want to talk about my feelings! (Some light laughter…)
Leah: Do you have to?
Triton: Hmm…Can I tell her about the dangers and get her to understand it without telling her how it makes me feel? I could do that. I’ve never taken her to the museum of the sunken ships and showed her the canons and guns humans carry…
Leah: Sounds like you are starting to have some new ideas!
I was on a coaching call with a client who in addition to recovering from a traumatic car accident needed to replace her car quickly. She was stressed and not able to decide between two possible car purchases. At first, when I listened it sounded like she thought they both had merits and was torn between two different, but equal choices. Further, into the conversation, it became clear that she did favor one car over the other. If she had a preference, why was she stuck with indecision?
Why was making a choice so hard?
As I listened, she described the advice that she had received from relatives that conflicted with her own instincts. It became clear that she was stuck because she feared various criticisms and judgments that would follow the purchase of the car that she favored. She knew exactly what each member of her family would say. She also had her own imagined criticisms she heard in her head. The expected negativity from others paralyzed her.
Finally, I posed the question, “What if you could trust that everything would be fine whichever choice you make?”
There was quiet. Then a much calmer and lighter voice responded. The Volvo. The question had released her from the arguments in her head and helped her to see what she wanted with more clarity.
How often do we all get stuck because we fear what’s ahead?
If you could look ahead with trust that it can and will work out okay, what would that change?
How might that change the way you show up? The way you approach the situation? How might that offer new possibilities and new solutions?
Sometimes just moving from fear to trust can change everything!
When we are afraid, we contract inside ourselves, we live small. Similar to how a deer freezes in the headlights, we stop moving.
When we allow ourselves to feel the positive emotions that might come from having what we want, or when we allow trust and faith, we open ourselves to more possibilities.
Who could you be right now if you trusted yourself? What could you bring to this situation if you knew it would be okay?
How does a woman who couldn’t even lift herself out of a chair, stand or take a few steps on her own start to teach herself to eat and walk all over again? How does someone whose income disappeared get through each day and find resources to survive? How does someone who hits rock bottom, find the will to climb back up?
The person in the story might say, “I had no choice. I had to keep going. What else am I going to do?”
If there is “no choice” than what is it? Somehow despite feeling that one has reached a physical, mental, or health disaster point, something within can sprout new life prompting drive and perseverance. Could it be a similar energy to what pushes a sprout through the ground into the light?
Maybe the energy that moves through living beings is always there, always dynamic just not in ways that measure change. Perhaps a tree is not as still as it looks, nor is the image we see in the mirror that seems to be the same day after day. Maybe things that we perceive to be separate and apart, a tree, a person, an animal, are interconnected through the life energy that moves within and between us, or simply that it’s something we all have within us.
I wonder if we are so focused on our day to day problems that we miss noticing the energy that holds us up against gravity, moves us forward, keeps us wanting, yearning, and looking ahead. Instead we think hard about what we need to do, about our problems, about the things going wrong. Ultimately, the thoughts themselves about our problems become the biggest obstacles we face.
Our bodies know how to sense danger and react, they know to be hungry, to feel full, to fight colds and disease, how to feel love, how to feel happy and sad, how to keep moving, how to sleep. Our bodies will do all these things. Like the baby who wants to walk, like the sprout in the ground, our bodies connect to a system of energy that wants to keep going.
What if we could trust that system just a bit more, and let go of the need to feel fully responsible for everything that happens to us? To trust that our bodies have a deeper wisdom?
Research shows that our minds and bodies are more connected than we have thought previously.
You know when someone smiles at you in such a way that you catch it and smile back without even thinking? That feeling of connection that lights you up? It can be sharing a funny story with the check out person at Trader Joe’s, getting together with a friend, or smiling at a neighbor on the street.
Creating moments of connection with another person creates what researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls “positive resonance” that can boost your positive emotions which contribute to your overall health and well being. “Under the influence of positive emotions, your sense of self actually expands to include others to greater degrees.”
Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle” or “love hormone.” It is a key player in establishing our attachments and bonds to other people, but it also has immediate benefits for hugging. It calms anxiety and stress, increases trust and connection. It’s what makes holding a baby and cuddling with someone we love so relaxing.
According to the National Institute of Play, play relieves stress and builds resilience. “It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” So, you’re never too old to play. Let loose a little, play pretend, tell jokes, and make people laugh!
Do something you love at just the right amount of challenge so that it captures your attention, time disappears and you get lost in it. Research shows that this state of “flow” improves your emotional regulation and your productivity. You may experience more confidence, self esteem and find more meaning in life.
We experience awe when we encounter something so vast and exceptional that we struggle to comprehend it. It can be seeing the starry sky from the desert on a clear night, watching Niagra Falls, standing on a mountaintop, encountering a breathtaking work of art, or watching someone display Olympian skills that surpass our imagination. The positive emotions experienced through awe can promote health and well being.
Whether or not we are moms, many of us are caregivers of some sort and could derive happiness and long term benefits from these five experiences.
I was still in the parking lot when my distressed daughter called me. One of her costumes had not made the trip with her to the theater for the final dress rehearsal of her upcoming dance recital. We lived 30 miles away, and had just slogged our way through rush hour traffic to get there. I had plans to eat dinner with local friends and didn’t want to cancel for this.
Inventorying the choices, I couldn’t help but register the various parent voices and opinions that exist in the parent-sphere. I thought about the parenting paradigm of not helping, letting the child deal with the consequences as a learning experience.
What am I enabling if I go home and get her costume?
Why not let the child learn to remember by negative example?
Was I hovering and protecting too much if I got her costume for her?
Years ago, as a new mom holding my infant daughter, I had the realization that what I most wanted for her was to learn to trust herself. I knew that meant cultivating that trait or skill within myself first.
So, that’s what I did.
After some disappointment, heavy sighing, and hearing all the arguments in my head, I decided to follow my instinct. I told my friends I’d be late for dinner, and got back on the highway. (Thank you friends for waiting for me!)
Later that evening, in the car ride home, my daughter thanked me and said that it made her feel good that I had helped her. It made her want to reciprocate.
That’s when I understood what my instinct had meant. I had lived my values of kindness and compassion in the way I treated my distressed daughter. Listening to her, I knew that for who my daughter is at this moment, for who I am right now, I did what felt right. Hopefully, she will remember the event as a positive example of caring and kindness.
By now, you probably have an idea of what you would done in a similar scenario with your child.
Would you like an opportunity to reflect on your values, and how to align your parenting goals with them? Join us for our next webinar, or contact me for a complimentary coaching session.