Monday, October 12, 2009

Child Rearing Metaphor

Oftentimes, therapies are aimed towards changing emotions. And while change is necessary, there seems to be a slight negative slant on the perception of emotions (though as I read through some CBT text, I am noticing that the same terminology could also be used to describe a child – ‘getting in the way’).

What I find these texts lack is a means of personally connecting with the process of understanding and changing.

The metaphor is quite simple; Treat your emotions, as sensitive and fragile and competent as they are, like you would a child (in order for this metaphor to work you must like children. If there are unresolved issues resulting in this not being the case, than choose something else such as a puppy).

Put your emotion first. If you start feeling anxious, stop and deal with the situation instead of putting it off until later when your emotion may become more difficult to manage.

Set boundaries for your emotions. Let them cry for a certain amount of time. Let them speak their mind without necessity of action. Allow them to punch a pillow, but not a wall (or a person).

Listen. If your emotion is anger and it wants to hurt someone, stop and ask it why. Let your emotion tell you what it really wants.

Comfort your emotions. Empathise (without becoming affected) and sympathise. Find ways to ease their discomfort.

Discipline your emotions. When they overreact or over-respond (say, if your sadness results in self harm), let them know such behaviour is an inappropriate or ineffective response. If you feel ‘punishment’ is called for, then choose a punishment that corrects maladaptive behaviours (if your sadness resulted in staying in bed all day, than force your sadness the next time it occurs to get out of bed).

Teach/ Educate your emotions. Make sure they understand why maladaptive behaviour is damaging and ensure they learn more effective responses. Use language that is clear and easy to comprehend (in some depressions, cognitive processes are diminished and there may be a need to use simpler language than you would on an unaffected day).

Monitor your emotion’s media exposure. Perhaps there is an overabundance of depressive television being watched (e.g. the sad story that was The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Sorry, Summer Glau. But I still love you). And watch for ideas that are being passed on in vulnerable states as well as direct emotional content.

But all of this is done under the umbrella of love. This might sound a bit cheesy, but I mean to distinguish between discipline as punishment and discipline as teaching, etc. That said, raising a child, like nurturing an emotion, is a complex and difficult endeavour which has numerous variations in the details of how exactly it is carried out. In fact, this metaphor, to me, seemed overly simplistic and I thought I must be missing something so I Googled “raise child” and wikiHOW has a ten step manual which is strikingly similar.

A word of caution: This is intended only as a metaphor and not as a facilitator for dissociation.

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