The Gift of Listening
Being a teenager can be extremely challenging. Adults tell you what to do and where to go. You have to make major decisions that can affect your entire life, at the same time that your body is changing, your hormones are raging and your feelings are often running the show.
As the mother of four daughters, I have repeatedly learned that the best gift I can give to my children is to remember that their feelings are simply feelings. The greatest way for me to say I love you is to be able to hold the space and listen to them as they move through their emotions—without taking it personally. Most every parent would agree that it is considerably easier to listen to other people's kids than their own, especially when the kids are ready to explode. So, throughout this process the only thing a parent needs to remember is to listen, love and ask, "What else?"
Giving a session is an art, requiring that one person intentionally listen while the other empties his or her emotional balloon. To do that, it's best to set a "container" solely for the session. The container serves two main purposes: the first is to establish a mutually agreed-upon time boundary for when it will end; the second is to be clear that in this container, and in this container only, the person "sessioning" has explicit permission to share anything and to express all his or her feelings in healthy and safe ways. The only thing the one offering the session needs to remember is to listen, and if needed, genuinely ask, "What else?"
When I give a session, I kind of split myself in half. One part of me is the outer or human part that just listens, while the other part is my higher self, the wisest part of me who silently coaches me through the process. It can be difficult to not chime in with my stuff or to jump in and fix things. I need my inner voice to remind myself that my job is to listen.
I remember this particular session with my daughter because of the many times I wanted to stop her pain and make her feel better. I longed to say, "You are not fat! You are not dumb!" At the same time, I struggled to keep myself from getting too defensive. I had to allow her to attack me and hold firm in knowing that I would be more proud of myself by taking it, than by becoming defensive, no matter what. In the end, my daughter was able to break through because I had proven that I was a safe refuge in which she could completely release.
I liken this process to the difference between pulling the weed out with the roots versus just cutting off the top. I went for the roots. My daughter was able to vent all of her feelings and completely empty her "emotional balloon." And I was able to let her know she'd done it perfectly by holding her when she was finished. That was one of the things I craved during difficult times as a teenager. I wanted to be held and rocked but I never asked because I thought I was too old or too big. Still, I longed for that kind of nurturing. The phrase, "Just humor me," has become a great tool. Saying it then allowed my daughter to surrender as I tenderly rocked and mothered her.