You know that moment when you go from calm and happy to totally pissed off?
You know when you find yourself blaming, shaming or criticizing others?
When your body is hot and tense and logic has left the building?
Yeah, that moment.
Lately I have been referring to this as the “Emotional Freight Train.”
Imagine this train, this big, noisy, speedy fast, train that we are hanging on to for dear life… Hanging on and letting it take us wherever the tracks may lead.
My personal emotional freight train takes me to a place where everyone else is at fault… Everyone else (generally my kids or husband) is making my life hard. No one respects me or cares about all the things I do… People always leave their shit everywhere and never help out…
My emotional freight train takes me to Victim-town. Victim town is all about me… And the inner voice that shows up there validates all the emotions I am feeling, urging me to just hang on and ride it out, no matter who I hurt on the way…
We all have our own personal emotional freight train that shows up when we are feeling afraid, overwhelmed, embarrassed or out of control. It allows us to avoid the pain of discomfort and transform it into something that is easier to dish out – rage.
Oh and the release of that rage is a powerful experience, isn’t it???
Yeah, except that when the ride is over, when we have finally exhausted the rage, or the self pity, or whatever showed up, we are left to clean up the mess.
You know what the mess is, don’t you? The hurt feelings, the broken relationships, the broken plates (well, I haven’ broken any plates, but I know some of you have gone there ;) )…
We have to wade through the guilt and shame of our actions and get it together so that we can make things right again.
The emotional freight train is no joke.
Lately I have been talking a lot about the train with my 9 year old son. His train shows up when he is disappointed, when things don’t go his way, when he is embarrassed, when he needs to turn off the screen and brush his teeth (some times you would think I was ripping his arm off...).
His train has been showing up for a long time… And it shows up quick and sometimes unexpectedly.
Maybe he is building something with his Lego and becomes frustrated, the next thing you know he has collapsed on the floor howling about how stupid everything is… Or perhaps he is in just the right mood and his sister decided to poke him as she is walking by (ugh, this will often trigger my train to show up…).
Regardless of what happens, rarely does a day go by with no visit from the train.
The awesome thing is, my son is really open to working with this. When I talked to him about the train, and how sometimes we may notice that we are holding on and allowing the “train” to decide how we behave, he knew exactly what I was talking about.
Here’s what we grown-ups forget – just like it feels bad for us to notice when we are emotional and out of control, it feels bad for our kids too!
And you know what? Just realizing that we are on the train gives us the awareness we need to decide to get off.
Once my son and I had a conversation about being on the train, we had new language to use. A new way and very simple way of communicating how we were feeling.
This is what it looks like to teach and develop emotional intelligence, my friends!!
Our kids don’t come understanding how to handle the shockwave of emotions that can show up in their live. I mean, how many adults do you know who can’t manage this??
Ross Green, in his book Lost at School, invites adults to shift their thinking from "kids do well if they want to," to "kids do well if they can." What a concept, right? Kids want to do well, and are lacking the skills needed to get there.
We must meet them where they are at and teach them…
We must talk about and model our own journey on the emotional freight train (I'm sure even the Dalai Llama finds him self riding it every once in a while...) And we must recognize that it takes practice to learn how to get off…
And because it takes a village to parent, please share how the emotional freight train shows up in your house, and how you manage to get off, in the comments below! Lets remember to support each other and always strive for improvement and growth!!
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