#4 The Mentally Strong Don't Get Stuck In The Past
Wanda's son is having serious behavior problems. It's the third time this month that school officials have contacted her and she's had to leave work. Repeated unpaid leave can be financially devastating to a single mother like her. After each incident she confiscates his electronics and grounds him from social activities and sports. Unfortunately, Wanda has a habit of not following through. Her son usually talks his way out of the punishment after convincing her that he was provoked. When she is strong enough to follow through with the consequences, he's allowed to rapidly earn back his privileges with good behavior. The situation is getting worse. Wanda is exhausted.
Wanda is a dedicated mom who clearly loves her son. She disciplines him the only way she knows how. Why is this happening? Unfortunately, Wanda is stuck in the past.
Recognize the problem.
Wanda was emotionally and verbally abused by her husband for many years. She'd finally had enough and decided to leave him after discovering he'd been unfaithful for the better part their decade long marriage. Wanda's ex made a choice not to be involved in his son's life after the breakup. This was a devastating blow to both her and her son. Fast forward to the present and Wanda is experiencing a very different kind of pain. She blames herself for the divorce and her son not having a father in his life. She is unknowingly taking responsibility for her his behavior problems. Discipline is especially difficult and confusing for both her and her son. This pattern is ultimately destroying her ability to parent. She is unable to move forward. Left unchecked, the cycle will eventually stunt her son's development in a myriad of ways.
Accept the past, then move on from it.
Trust me, I've experienced my share of Mom Guilt. My mind ran wild with all the reasons I'm a terrible parent. It's my fault she doesn't have a father in her life. My child is paying the price for my failed relationships. I'm a horrible mother for exposing her to a toxic relationship. Blah, Blah, Blah and the list goes on. It's such horse shit! Just like Wanda, I made a hobby out of mentally torturing myself for things that were completely out of my control. Therapy brought me to the realization that the only thing I can change is my future. Once I understood the concept, I slowly began to let go of the past. It's impossible to focus on the past and the future at the same time. We are forced to make a choice. Today, if I find myself drifting back to those old painful memories and habits, I fight back by making concrete plans for the future. I push myself to visualize my dream life.
Today, Wanda and her son are in therapy. The counselor told her that she was right. Her son's behavior did have lot to do with her. But it wasn't her past choices or mistakes that were negatively affecting him, it was how she chose to live her life today. As a parent you can't show up for your kid today if you're still living in an alternate reality from years ago! They now attend counseling separately. Home is becoming a peaceful place. After a tough but necessary adjustment period, her son's behavior is much better. Life is improving in many unexpected ways. Wanda has future plans to hire a parenting coach for continued support.
"You can't drive forward if you keep looking in the rear view mirror." Steve Harvey
Forgive others and forgive yourself.
It's difficult to forgive others, especially those who have hurt us or our children. It's even MORE difficult to forgive ourselves. This is another one of those tough choices that must be made. One thing we can learn from Wanda is that we can't move on until we forgive ourselves for all the life circumstances that didn't go our way. Wanda's son experienced some tough and heartbreaking situations. More importantly, he watched her fight endlessly to build a good life for the two of them. His father may have been absent but he witnessed his mother's unwavering faith and her fierce determination carried both of them through it all! This is a life lesson that no one can take from him. Wanda turned her life around by learning to view her past from a different perspective.
A changed mind changes behavior.
Becoming aware of destructive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors increases mental strength. The self awareness muscle grows stronger with regular mental exercise. Decision making based in the present instead of the past, investing in self care that includes therapy and/or life coaching and developing a strong support network of like minded people are all key parts of the healing process. The first step to a new beginning is to work through the pain of the past. It's like ripping off a band-aid so the wound can heal. One small decision to partner with a qualified therapist can change your life forever! Be patient and don't expect old thinking habits that took years to develop to improve overnight. The vicious cycle of accepting false blame and guilt will take hard work to change. The key is to start somewhere. You can do it.
Once you've spent time working through past hurts and feel inspired to move forward, consider a Coach. As a Transformational Life Coach, we will uncover the places in your life that you long to see change. We will work together to articulate your passions, goals and dreams. I will provide a safe, judgement free environment to share and explore all the beautiful possibilities life has waiting for you.
(Wanda's story is based on a series of true events but names and details have been changed to respect the privacy of others.)
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