You know what I don’t understand? When people say things like,
“Don’t worry about it!”, or “Don’t feel guilty, sad, angry, etc.”
Newsflash: We cannot control what we feel. And you cannot change your emotions.
For instance, when we have a rough morning, and something has triggered anxiety in The Boy to the level that he is refusing to leave the house, I get angry. I am not angry with The Boy, and as long as I don’t aim my anger at him, it is perfectly OK for me to feel that way. I am angry because I fear I will not get to work on time, and I fear he will have a rough day at school. Reasonable, given the circumstances.
For instance, when I feel guilty that The Boy has no pets, but clearly has a love for animals, it’s OK for me to feel that way. I can’t control it. I feel guilty because I fear that I am not providing him with opportunities to develop his interest in animals. As long as the guilt doesn’t overpower me, as long as I use it to spur thought about how I could help him more in this area, the guilt I feel is OK, and can even be a positive force.
The challenge is having the self-awareness to understand the basis of the emotion: where is it coming from? Can I do anything about that right now?
The other challenge in my life experience is to make sure that my emotions are not escalating The Boy’s emotions. If he is anxious, and I am angry (and I express that anger), he will only get more anxious. Therefore I need to (quickly) figure out my own emotions, so that I can avoid negatively affecting him.
Rather than telling somebody, “Don’t feel that way!”, try expressing your own emotions. “It makes me sad when you feel sad,” is a much more open, accepting, and constructive way to show how much you care about the other person, and sounds much less flippant and judgmental than “Don’t worry about it!” or “Don’t feel sad.”