Friday, February 23, 2024

The Mask We Live In: watch this for your children and LOVE YOURSELF

May 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

Three Easy Steps to Raising Emotionally Whole Boys and Girls, and to Waking Yourself Back Up!

Tonight I saw “The Mask We Live in” at The Knowing Garden Community School.  Yet another reason I am grateful for our socially intelligent community school in South Redondo Beach and the beautifully aware people who comprise it.

I had a few thoughts which were inspired by this amazing and thought provoking documentary: (you have to see it!):

I often think of my “emotional” self as something separate from my “real” self.  I don’t know when I first learned this.  I think I was probably just a kid.  I imagine my parents teaching me, afraid for me, to squelch my outcries (go hide your face; the neighbors will hear!) and curb my desires (tone it down!)  

 I eventually began unlearning it in adulthood, but the journey in between was tricky without my heart and head in communion for some really important decisions along the way.  My marriage, for one.

This vivisection of heart from mind is the first act of violence I learned to commit against myself.  Most people are socialized in this way.  A metaphorical suicide, it statistically foreshadows a variety of common physical expressions: eating disorders, substance abuse, bullying, a plethora if ‘isms, and of course, suicide.  (percent) of teen boy commit suicide.

When I have urged my children to control themselves, it was sometimes done with the very best of intentions: I wanted my children to survive in that sometimes harsh world.   But sometimes, it is something else entirely:  my children’s emotions are often inconvenient, and uncomfortable.  Their emotional exclamations dredge up my past pain and unresolved trauma (which is actually linked to my future fear for them and their viability in the world.)

I noticed that when their emotions are lighting up my past unresolved trauma,  I teach my children to control by sending them the message that they should douse their emotions, and vanquish them to a place where they won’t cause trouble.  My reactions teach my children to judge their emotions.  And because our emotions are part of who we are, when I do that, I am teaching my children to judge themselves.  Hence the first act of violence, taught by me to my own children!

Out there, we are expected to be “calm, cool, collected;” in other words, controlled.  I struggle with the notion of teaching my children to “control” their emotions.  Is my son really having a “hissy fit,” or is he needing to be supported?  Control is admittedly important, but with regard to emotions, perhaps dominion might be a better concept, like a farmer over his plantings.  Maybe it’s really just a concept shift I need to take.  I wondered how I could overcome this dilemma? I SHOW my children that emotions are not something to judge;  that emotions are here to teach us something: just like sirens and warning lights, they give us signals about our personal state of affairs, so we can keep our own ship running on a peaceful and bountiful course.

I started accounting for, rather than discounting, my emotions.  Emotions are important.  I now stop and ask myself what my emotions are telling me about myself, and about what is important to me.  

I began to practice this with my children by slowing down and discussing feelings as they happen, rather than deferring to a later, usually fictional, time.  Time is passing with my children, and the moments are creating the person they are becoming.  I decided to start being a co creator of their healthy and emotionally whole identity right now…. even when ‘right now’ means the middle of a busy airport with people streaming past and irritated at the “hissy fit” my son is having.

When we get “lit up” about something, it is a lesson.  We brought that lesson in for a reason.  We can observe and learn.

A good way to learn about who we are is to pay attention to how we feel inside our bodies throughout the day.  We spend a lot of time disassociating from our physical experience here on planet earth.  It is survival of the fittest, and the resulting challenge is how to reunite our minds and our hearts?

The goal is not to stop feeling, but to notice earlier: to begin to catch it at the moment we start to escalate or go numb, and then use tools to process those big feelings.


How can we move this alien energy out of our space?

BREATHE rather than SEETHE, (seething pumps us up when we are scared and feeling inadequate; it helps us feel (falsely) more powerful in the world when we feel alone and against it.

Feel the soles of your feet on the ground

Blow roses


Kneel down and look into a child’s eyes and listen


Pop imaginary balloons with imaginary arrows

Spend time in nature every day

Take care of an animal

Find what fills you up and do that every day


How can we shape our world?

Listen to and respect your child, without trying to steer, change, or fix

Help them write a letter to someone powerful

Listen Empathetically

Bring light to the issue (create a you tube video, write a letter, a fundraising drive, an essay, an illustration)

Talking with your family and create new or more aware family values to support the issue at home

Listen Reflectively

Listen; and when you cannot listen, love yourself just as you are and know that you are the perfect parent for your child, perhaps for reasons not yet revealed to you.


We are the change….let’s start by changing ourselves to be more open to who our children are, rather than what we want them to become.   And while we are at that, we can shortcut the process by starting with our own self acceptance and self compassion.  We are each a perfect light upon this world, and the only way to shine is to see that.

Lots and lots of Love,

Linda Shannon

Linda is the single parent of 3 young children, she is an avid gardener, a builder, a writer, an artist; she is bilingual in Japanese, an unexpected potato farmer, and she loves people.  The founder of Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, California, Linda is a transformational speaker and coach, working with children young and old to reach their highest potential and find fulfillment within their lives.

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