I realized today just how fragile my resolve can be. I refuse to see myself as a victim, but today, I couldn’t put my ego away. I allowed myself to play the victim.
Feelings versus emotions
So many of us confused about the relationship between feelings and emotions. They are often mistaken as being equal. However, for most of us, there is a fundamental disconnect between what we feel and what emotion we express when it comes to our reaction. There is no real connection between them unless you mindfully make one.
In a desperate attempt to protect a feeling that we cannot process, we often emote anger to lash out and deflect any possible additional pain. We throw blame, resentment and contempt out to anyone around us. We hope with our protection wall of anger in front of us, we can buy ourselves a little time to process our misunderstood pain.
Today, I blew up at my son
My son, Chase, is 11 years old. He is still learning how to use his emotions to express what he feels. Like many grown-ups often do, he defaults to an angry emotion when he feels emotional and physical pain. On this particular day, I was not receptive to this anger, and I counter-reacted with my own.
Chase was working on a school project that required him to use a hot glue gun. During his haste, he burned the tip of his finger. Not one to typically hurt himself in this way; he didn’t know how to react. Lucky for him, he had never experienced any real burn before. The resulting blister confused him, and in an attempt to soothe himself, he chewed a hole in it. This “fix” made the pain even more intense. In his physical pain, he began to get angry and exuded a very rude attitude.
My reaction was the improper emotion for the feeling
I’ll admit, I am not an overly empathetic man. Likely due to my confusion over feelings versus emotions, I have a hard time with any bedside manner when it comes to those around me hurting themselves. So when Chase burned himself, I didn’t react with much empathy. After scolding him for opening the blister and his reactions, I told him to run his finger under cold water and put a band-aid on the open wound.
As you can see, I am responsible for starting the emotional game of blame. Instead of empathizing with Chase, asking him how he felt and then helping him use the genuine emotion, I immediately switched to doling out guilt and shame with an angry undertone.
Our exchange of words continued over supper. It culminated into me refusing to go to Chase’s basketball game because I didn’t want to watch him act like a victim with a sore finger while playing the game. I felt as though I needed a break from him.
Putting aside the ego
After he and his mother left to go to his basketball game, it hit me. I am sitting here alone, playing the victim, all to prove a point that playing a victim is wrong. I was a complete hypocrite. I had to get over my ego before I missed my one shot at being a dad. I jumped in the car and went to his game.
Later that evening, after the game was done, I still had a lot of confusion between what I was feeling and what I was emoting. I understood that this day was not my finest, so I decided to go to bed and cut it short. Upon hearing my wife put our son to bed, I had another shot to be a dad, was I going to take it? Do I dare be vulnerable enough to admit my fault? Do I dare apologize?
I had no choice, I am not a victim, and he is not a victim. It was then I sat at the end of his bed and apologized for my emotional outburst. I explained to him how I turned myself into a victim to him, that I gave up my control over my emotions to him. It was my fault that we were in this mess, I knew better, and I didn’t take the time to help him learn how to feel and choose the appropriate emotion.
I took my shot as a dad. I couldn’t miss that opportunity over a bruised ego.
So often as parents, heck even as friends or family members. We allow our ego to become exposed to threats from others. Then, we play the victim game and place blame all to deflect the soreness of our bruised ego. Instead of inflection, we choose deflection and make all those around us feel sore.
I don’t have enough time to nurture my fragile ego and teach my son the difference between feelings and emotions at the same time. I have minimal scenarios where I can show him how self-victimization destroys us and beats up the very ego we try so desperately to protect. While I’m disappointed in myself for wasting a few hours with my poor reaction, I’m grateful to have found self-awareness at the right times before it was too late.
I only have one shot at being a dad, and I have to make it count.