An Answer from Google

I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who responded to my blog yesterday, whether to give me an idea or just let me know I’m not alone. Knowing you’re not alone is half the challenge of parenting I reckon – well it is for me. Writing blogs about my moments, experiences and thoughts is extremely cathartic and often just the process of putting the words together helps me to dig deep and look at things in different ways. But so does everyone responding – in whatever way they feel appropriate. The advice I got from several people is to stop, talk quietly, take deep breaths, find my stillness, etc.. which is all spot on, because when I do this, the results are ALWAYS amazing. It’s just hard to remember when you’re in the middle of emotional fireworks.

But this morning I also found a more structured answer in a book I’m reading – ‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Chade-Meng Tan.  It won’t be for everyone, but I figured the other parents who feel like me might enjoy knowing this, and I’d definitely recommend the book because there’s a lot more to it than this section. Meng is an engineer with Google, and he co-created (with some of the greatest minds in the world) the Search Inside Yourself program within Google. I bought the book because I was intrigued how one of the world’s greatest companies has implemented something many would consider ‘a bit out there’ – especially in corporate America. How inspiring that a company has taken these ideas to heart.
I’m not done with it yet, but it’s a brilliant book, with lots of guidance and practical tips, written in a language anyone can understand (but especially engineers) and it’s all about emotional intelligence, being present or mindful, as well as being choc ’o’ block full of really practical ways to meditate and control the mind, plus not let your emotions control you.

The bit that got my attention this morning is how to deal with emotional triggers, and in my case, that’s being ignored by my little lads. Meng and Google entitle this “Siberian North Railroad,” with the five aspects including:
  1. Stop
  2. Breathe
  3. Notice
  4. Reflect
  5. Respond
The first two I try to do when I can remember, but my interpretation of the five steps are:

Stop
First and foremost stop whenever you feel triggered emotionally. We all know that ain’t easy with kids, but stopping for just a moment to experience “the sacred pause” is step one.

Breathe
Then you’ve got to breathe, which reinforces the scared pause, but additionally, breathing calms the body and mind.

Notice
Now you’ve got to pay attention to your body. What does the emotion feel like in the body and where is it? When I get angry with the boys, I feel it swirling around in my chest. He also suggests noticing where the tension is and if there is a temperature change – yep, I certainly get hotter. The important point here is to experience the emotion and its impact, all the while observing that it is not a case of - “I am angry.” It is a case of - “I am experiencing anger in my body.” This concept is explained in more detail in another section, because learning to recognise that we are not our emotions helps us to control them.

Reflect
When we reflect we’ve got to seek to understand where the emotion is coming from and the history behind it. I think in my case it’s six years of frustration that I haven’t been able to effectively communicate with one of my children and the enormous impact this has had on all of our lives. It’s also contributed extensively to the fact I haven’t been able to do what I want to do with my life, so when you throw that in the mix, my own personal frustration doesn’t help.

When anger arises, because another person is involved, Meng suggests considering these statements as part of the reflect stage:
“Everybody wants to be happy

“This person thinks acting this way will make him happy, in some way”
We then need to bring perspective and not judge anything as right or wrong – it just is.

Respond
And then we respond, trying to do it in a way that will bring a positive outcome. He suggests you don’t actually have to do it but “just imagine the kindest, most positive response. What would that feel like?”

A lot to remember, but practise makes perfect, so I’m going to work hard to do it and keep my cool. I’m not an angel, as the boys’ push buttons I never knew I had, but I want them to grow up in a happy home, and just found this structured approach really positive – ‘cos it’s the outcome I want anyway. I know I’m the responsible party here as the grown up, so let’s see if this works. Also if you buy the book, this section is followed up by a structured meditation, where you can go through your emotional triggers step by step.
So for other parents out there tearing their hair out, perhaps this might help if these ideas are your cup of tea? I certainly read it at the right time in my life, and they say you get the thoughts you need at the time you need them. Thanks Meng – right on time AND I’m also ready to hear it, so a double bonus.

Not to mention, it’s awesome to know there is a big corporate company embracing such ideas. I’ve never ever had the pleasure of working for a company like this and reckon it would be a pretty amazing experience to have at some point – working in a place where employee happiness is valued more than anything else. Nice one Google.
Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea
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