When I feel really angry, or hurt, or scared, it's hard to remember who I really am. I sometimes fall into a belief that I need to protect or defend myself, or push back at the person I'm feeling upset by. What I say or do in these moments is not wise, helpful, or kind for me or the person I'm with.
For many years, emotional reactivity has been at the heart of my mindfulness practice. As I have practiced, the part of me that watches my reaction has gotten stronger. The part that reacts--trying to control one of my kids' behavior, to convince someone they're wrong, to save face when someone has been unkind--is still strong, too, but it's not alone. The witnessing part is usually in charge, bringing some curiosity about myself or the other person, turning my attention to my breath or body, and when necessary just getting me out of the room.
There is true power in this witnessing part. It isn't the power of eradicating the reactive part of me. It's the power of mastering whether or not I act on that part.
We don't need to get rid of our anger or hurt or fear, but we do need to learn how to slow down, cool off, and choose wise actions. Especially as parents, our words and actions have a big impact both immediately on how our kids feel and over time on how they learn to handle their own feelings and impulses.
Learning to stop and cool down is essential for parents (and everyone in relationships). We can stop and take 3 breaths before speaking. We can check in with our bodies, noticing what we are feeling. We can go to the bathroom, staying behind a closed door for a few minutes to cool down. We can purposely and intentionally turn power over from the reactive part of ourselves to the wise part.
As a mom (to 2 teenage sons), wife, and person in the world, I have been on a long imperfect journey. I have made many mistakes, but with mindfulness, emotional reflection, and lots of support I have learned enormously from those mistakes.