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Denial Of The Child's Emotions. How To Talk To Children About Divorce - Society
Denial Of The Child's Emotions. How To Talk To Children About Divorce - Society

Video: Denial Of The Child's Emotions. How To Talk To Children About Divorce - Society

Video: Denial Of The Child's Emotions. How To Talk To Children About Divorce - Society
Video: Voice of the Child of Divorce 2023, March

By denying the other person's emotions, you tell them that their feelings are not important or wrong. Anxiety, fear, sadness and anger are not easy to experience, and even harder to see a child going through them. Therefore, we often make the mistake of calling them "bad" and trying to rid ourselves and our children of them. This is a denial of emotion

Denial of emotions

We say, "There is nothing to worry about here!" or "Don't go crazy, that's not what he meant to say." Phrases like these are spoken with the best intentions, but they deny the other person's emotions. The person decides that his feelings are "wrong" or "bad", that they should be suppressed.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that relieves painful emotions. But if avoided or suppressed, they will return with renewed vigor and manifest in a different form. When your child is upset about what you think is “not worth it,” you challenge their thoughts and feelings.

Emotions cannot be questioned. When you say, “There’s nothing to be upset about,” you deny the child’s emotional experience and the child becomes even more sad

Feelings are not "right" or "wrong." It is a natural source of information about the environment. Emotional denial exacerbates psychological distress and emotional problems. The pain will never go away without admitting it. Denying emotions ruins marriages and other interpersonal relationships. Alcoholic families thrive because children are not allowed to admit that a parent is drunk and out of control. Everyone pretends that there was no inappropriate behavior at all, and this drives the child out of himself.

Denial is a symptom of emotional, physical and sexual abuse

The child experiences feelings of discomfort, pain or fear, and adults call them "wrong", thereby not acknowledging or confirming them. This is the origin of gaslighting - the victim's emotions are deliberately denied in order to make her doubt her own reason. The term comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. In the story, the husband deliberately drove his wife to madness with noises in the attic and flickering light, and then claimed that all this was exclusively in her head. Denial also occurs during parental alienation, when the child's natural love for the parent is not recognized. Because of this, he begins to doubt his own emotions.

Children whose emotions are not acknowledged feel humiliated and weak in comparison to others. Denial prevents the child from learning to deal with his feelings, and then he chooses to flee, dodge or suppress. But these strategies fail to understand that even the most painful emotions can be experienced, that they will peak and diminish. Such children do not know how to accept their feelings and treat themselves with love and compassion.

Peace and denial of emotions

Consider the situation of six-year-old Mira. She had just been told that her father would pick her up from dance class. Mira says to her mother, Helen: “I don't want my dad to pick me up! You won't know what I did in class, and I won't be able to show you new moves. " Helen is plagued by feelings of guilt and irritation at the same time. She thinks: "How difficult it all is!"

Helen says to her daughter: “Come on, there’s nothing to be upset about. You can call me in the evening and tell me about the lesson. " It seems that the problem has been solved and Mira can stop complaining. But she makes the following lessons:

  • Feelings cannot be expressed.
  • My sadness and anger are nothing, and it is stupid to feel something like that.
  • Frustration and frustration are abnormal and unacceptable.
  • My grief makes my mother's life more difficult.
  • I better not feel this anymore.
  • I shouldn't be upset or should pretend it's okay.

Now Mira is upset that she will not be able to see her mother after the dance lesson, and she is tormented by a sense of guilt for creating the problem. She considers herself stupid because she did not come up with another solution and behaved like a child. The girl is unlikely to tell her mother about this or any other problem.

Over time, Mira will even learn to shy away from, avoid, or suppress her sadness and any other feelings that she has been taught to consider unacceptable. In the future, she will pretend.

Emotions should be accepted, not avoided

Psychologist Stephen Hayes's book Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change is about accepting emotions, not suppressing and challenging them. The theory is based on the idea that painful feelings are like quicksand - the harder you try to break free, the deeper you sink.

Acceptance and commitment therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders. Instead of shirking, avoiding, suppressing, or changing negative feelings, the therapist advises to allow yourself to experience them. This therapy is very effective for those who have unsuccessfully applied cognitive therapy, which causes a person to change their thoughts.

You can learn to accept your feelings and help your child do the same. The goal is to detach from the emotion and watch it rise and fall. It's like watching your own mind, telling yourself, “Oh, this is anxiety. Wow, it grows and grows. Peaked. But now it is weakening. " This can be done with any emotion that makes you or your child uncomfortable

Commitment in the theory of commitment and commitment is the ability to live the life you want despite negative emotions. For example, you cannot get rid of the feelings of sadness and anger associated with divorce, but you can focus on parenting. To do this, you do not have to first overcome negative emotions. It is much more helpful to acknowledge these feelings and start doing positive and rewarding things. You might be surprised, but acceptance will lead to weakening of negative emotions.

Peace and emotional acceptance

Remember Mira and her dance lessons? Here's how one might deal with this situation by focusing on emotional acceptance.

When Mira expressed her feelings, Helen leaves her business and looks her daughter right in the eyes. She says, “I'm sorry that you're upset. I understand why you don't like it: now everything is different. " The mother does not say that this is bad, that it is useless and does not make sense. But she acknowledges Mira's feelings and makes it clear that they are important and natural. In a few minutes, the daughter will definitely feel better or even start to come up with her own solutions to the problem. If this does not happen, Helen may ask: "Do you want us to think about how we can improve this situation?"

Mira will agree or not, but in any case, she will feel heard and understood. Emotions are not suppressed, which means they will peak and begin to weaken. Mira will understand that there is nothing wrong with disappointment and that it can be experienced.


Read more: Rodman, Samantha. How to talk to children about divorce: building healthy relationships in a changed family. - M.: Eksmo, 2020.

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