It’s something every parent has surely found themselves wondering from time to time: I love my kids, so why do I shout at them?
If you don’t have children, there’s probably another example you can think of.
You adore your partner – so what was with those sarcastic words that came out of your mouth when they asked an innocent question about your plans a few weeks ago?
Or maybe you find yourself responding with surly monosyllables in conversation with your Dad one Sunday afternoon. Are you forty, or fourteen right now?
I’m sure you can think of an example from your own life where you found yourself lashing out at someone you know you care very deeply about. It can be so frustrating. You know you’re a capable, confident woman deep down. So where on earth does she disappear to at these times, and what can you do to get her to return?
You’re not alone
First things first, you are most definitely not alone. Sit down for a glass of wine with any mother and she’ll probably confess to moments when she really wasn’t proud of the example she was setting to her kids.
Sit down with a glass of wine with me, and I’ll confess to moments of the same.
We all have times when we slip into a mode that’s not really who we are, or who we want to be…
One client I talked to at one of our retreats told me abut a recent time when she’d totally lost it with her husband. “I was cruel and mean,” she told me, thinking back to the way she’d lashed out at him. “And it wasn’t even over anything big.”
At One of manywe refer to these unhelpful responses as coming from disempowering archetypes, and there’s three that most of us identify with at one time or another.
3 ways we lose it with our loved ones
1. There’s the Bitch – cutting, maybe even sarcastic, and always unkind, she’s the sharp tongue that snaps at your kids when they’re taking far too long to get ready; the tone that has your partner running for cover, or the look that makes your colleagues wish the floor would swallow them up.
2. The Victim is that stroppy teenager part of you – the girl who just thinks life is so unfair, but that there’s absolutely nothing she can do about it. In victim mode, we throw up our hands and declare that everything’s out of our control. It’s all other people’s fault, and you might as well just curl up in a ball and give up. Nothing you can do could possibly make a difference anyway, right?
3. The final sister in our trio of despondency is the Martyr. Her signature is to pile up her plate with task after task, responsibility after responsibility, sacrificing her own wellbeing for everyone else – and simmering with resentment about it. She’s the last one to leave the office and the first to volunteer for an extra duty, with a big sigh to make sure everyone knows how hard she’s working.
Breaking free of the disempowering archetypes
Crowning all 3 of these is the archetype we call Superwoman. She’s the woman trying to juggle everything: her home, her relationship, her work, her self-expression… doing it all, by herself, with no one else’s help. She simply doesn’t have a stop button.
Superwoman runs on pure adrenaline, most of the time, and it’s no surprise that when we push ourselves to be in superwoman mode for most (or all!) of the time, we can find ourselves heading for exhaustion, sickness or burnout.
What’s going on?
Knowing these archetypes is a really great way of starting to be able to get to a more resourceful place – one where you can actually begin to anticipate times when things are going to get tough, and maybe even change your behavior ahead of time.
In our BePowerful program we use an exercise called “trigger tracking” to begin to notice exactly when we tend to move into the archetypes that least serve us.
For my client who’d shouted at her husband, she identified quickly that she was moving into”bitch” mode. And the trigger was nothing to do with her husband – it was a looming work deadline that sent her into a tailspin of stress that was directed at her nearest and dearest.
What you can do
So if you find yourself yelling at your kids, it’s likely that you’re moving into one of these disempowering archetypes – and that might well be because Superwoman is showing up in your life.
Here’s how to gently retire these ladies from your day-to-day life.
1. Forgive yourself
When you’ve shouted at your children or said something unkind, it’s easy to let that drag you into self-recrimination: “I shouldn’t have said that”… “I’m a horrible person”.
Start by forgiving yourself. We all have off days; we’ve all said things we wished we could take back from time to time. Apologise to the person you snapped at, if that’s appropriate, and then move on. This is a prompt for you to take a closer look at yourself and see if you can change the pattern.
2. Notice what happened
Get curious about what it is that flared up, and what happened just before it to prompt it. Was it, like my client, a reminder of a pressing work deadline that had you worrying you might fail – a touch of “imposter syndrome”? Or did your partner inadvertently remind you of an insecurity about feeling accepted?
Kids can be great at pushing our buttons, completely without meaning to – and with no idea of the reaction they’re going to get.
Identifying your “triggers” isn’t about going into victim mode or blaming others for setting us off. But it can help you give those closest to you clues about times you’re likely to feel tense, and give you a heads up that it might be time to prepare for stress to come up.
3. Take care of yourself first
The bottom line when temper flares is that your needs aren’t being met in some way. Perhaps you’re run down and exhausted, and you just need a rest. (If you’re completely overwhelmed, our overwhelm first aid kit might be just the thing).
Or there might be some historical emotional patterns that are asking for your attention. Working with a coach or through a program like BePowerful is a really gentle, supportive way to take a look at any area where you know you’re not feeling at your best, and learn new strategies to make changes.
How about you?
Do you know you have a tendency to flare up at certain points? What are the triggers for you, and how do you work through them – letting the people in your life know when you have a pressing deadline, perhaps, or giving yourself an extra time buffer in between appointments so you (and the kids) can decompress? Share what works for you in the comments below.
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