So sometime last week I read this amazing article from Hands Free Momma called “How to Miss a Childhood”. It made me wanna cry. The website was started by this mother whom decided that she had missing out on the important things in life because of daily distractions. So she committed to going “Hands Free” and was going to admit to one daily distraction a day that she was going to overcome to live the life she wanted. This particular article was about people’s relationships to their cell phones compared to their relationship to their kids. How easy it is to miss a childhood, or even other important relationships, when you are too involved in other distractions.
For this mother to be able to start her website she first had to overcome a harsh reality she was feeling. This reality for her was that she was doing stuff that was causing her to miss out on the most important parts of her life. She had to overcome the denial. She had to sit in her darkness. If you can not sit in your darkness, you will NOT be able to heal properly. You will NOT be able to change. You will NOT be able to grow.
There are three types of denial. Simple Denial, Minimization, and Projection. When using Simple Denial it is hard for you to actually see the problem all together. One can point it out to you but you denial the problem even exists at all. Minimization is when you recognize the problem but minimize the seriousness of the problem. This is paired with rationalization. And Projection is when you can identify the problem, admit the seriousness of it, but fail to take full responsibilty for it. In most cases, trying to push, aka project, the cause of the problem on other people.
My Story: This article hit me really hard on the head because it was really close to home. I have a problem, not only with my cell phone, but with technology in general. My addiction to these things have also been causing me to miss out on a childhood. That of my son. I remember when my son was about 6 months old and I had been living with my mother for about three months at the time and I was searching for a job. I remember I would sit my son in his jumper, turn on cartoons, and sit on the computer practically ALL day. My excuse was that I had to look and apply for jobs. Which yes I was indeed doing but I was also doing a lot of other things that were just wasting time and distracting me. I remember for a short moment one time looking at my son and thinking that I was a bad mother because I was sitting at home every day on the computer while I just sat him in front of the TV and that I couldn’t continue to do this everyday BUT at the same time I really did have to look for a job, while also facebook/myspcae, download music, make CDs, write in my blog, etc. I wasnt taking advantage of the time I had not working to actually spend more time with my baby and playing with him and taking in his growth. I got a job but then shortly after had moved to LA leaving me again without a job. So back to the old drawing board. Sitting my son in front of a TV while I sat on the computer all day “looking for a job”. This lasted about another two months. I got another glimpse of what was going on caused me to join a mother’s group in order to get out of the house and start meeting people and take my son out to make and play with other kids. This was great as long as I was out of the house, but again, every time I was home I was back on the computer. I had used the work excuse so much that even when I wasn’t working my son thought. I then got another job and my son was back in daycare. When I would come home from work, my son and my boyfriend would be home and I would sit on the computer while my boyfriend watched TV and my son would be in another room watching cartoons. This went on for a long time. I remember “knowing” the problem but I had spent so long minimizing it that I just continued to do so. I remember one day literally thinking about how when he was 6 months I had thought I need to pay more attention to him and here he was now 3 years old and I am thinking the same thing. MY SON WAS ALREADY 3 YEARS OLD. I then moved in projection. I knew the problem, I knew the seriousness, but I denied the responsibility. I started projecting my issue my boyfriend for not being a good enough dad. I mean although I was on the computer all day, HE was also not paying attention. He was the one watching TV all day. HE wasn’t playing with him either. I’M not being a bad mother, HE was being a bad dad. I mean after all, I was “working” on the computer. Editing pictures for clients while he was just watching sports. Therefore I was justified.
Do you think that projecting the problem on to him was changing the problem? No!!! Was it changing the fear of how I was feeling about myself? NO!!! I was taking responsibility off of me but the problem continued to exist. Maybe we both did have a problem with the TV and computer, but how was focusing on HIS problem changing THE problem. The real problem was that my son wasn’t getting enough attention he deserved from both of us. The real problem was that I was feeling like a bad mother. The real problem is that I was escaping some part of my reality with my addiction to these things. Regardless of the justifications on my part, there was a darkness I was trying to avoid.
I was always afraid to admit to my counselor that we push our kid into the room to watch TV all night. I didn’t want her to think I was a bad mom. I didn’t want her to judge me. So instead I spent some of my time complaining about how much my boyfriend wasn’t a good dad and judging him. Finally one day, after opening the fear about other things, I had finally admitted that I felt like a bad mom. Something I never wanted to admit before. The darkness I had avoided. I began to take responsibility for the issue I was causing. All this time I was blaming my boyfriend for being a bad dad, I felt like I was being a bad mom. Does this mean that my boyfriend TV watching wasnt also an issue when it came to the lack of attention to my son? NO I still thought it was an issue, but focusing on him only delayed what I needed to do to fix my part and heal the part of me I needed to heal. I had to utter the ugly words that I was a bad mom and that I had missed my son grow up. I had to admit that I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved. I had to see that he had been literally begging me for attention these years. I had to stop justifying the problem. I had to SIT with the bad ugly feelings I had tried to push down. I had to really be vulnerable.
By finally admitting that my fears about being a bad mother and the ways my issue were having negative effects on my son, it was only then that I was able to start dissecting not only the causes of my addiction, which im learning is the unhappiness of my life, but work effectively on ways to become better and feel better. I am now able to more actively pay attention to when the issue is taking effect and begin to commit to making the changes necessary to be the mom I want to be. Guess what happens when I start to focus on my problems, I can then inspire a change in my boyfriend as well. For the record, we have both discussed that we both have this issue and through recognizing and changing our own behaviors we in fact inspire each other.
The first step towards any type of healing is to get your head out of the sand. Denial. This is true for healing after a death, healing from an illness, healing from addiction, healing from pain of a past relationship. We ALL live in denial every single day of our lives. It has become a natural defense mechanism when one is faced with a truth that is too uncomfortable to accept. Sitting in the darkness will allow you to see the light. We all spend time trying to ditch the darkness because we can’t see the beauty in it. The first thing we want to do when entering a dark room is to turn on a light. What happens when you actually just sit in the dark? Your eyes begin to adjust and you start to see the natural light. That light bulb you turn is only temporary. When you turn it off what are you still left with? Darkness. When you learn you can see without the light bulb, you realize you don’t need it anymore. Now although true, I am only using this as a metaphor. I don’t expect everyone to start throwing away all their light bulbs and walking around in the dark. In this circumstance, the lightbulb = your denial.
It is time to face your fears about yourself. It is time to become vulnerable. What are those ugly, scary, thoughts about yourself that you fear saying aloud? I am hurting, I am not a good friend, I want to be loved, I am not good enough, I am scandalous, I am a cheater, I am afraid, I am a liar, I am an abuser, I am a jerk!! Remember just because you say them and feel them don’t mean they are THE TRUTH. Just because you can act a certain way doesn’t mean you ARE that way. The light that you begin to see after sitting with this darkness is the truth. But you wont be able to see the truth without facing your fears and overcoming the denial.
We all have ugly, scary thoughts about ourselves. We constantly live in denial about these issues. We justify why they aren’t problems. We project our fears and issues on to others. SO the question is, how do we recognize something if we are in denial about it? Well pay attention to what is going on around you. Pay attention to negative emotions. Sadness, grief, anger, stress. Pay attention to your thinking about yourself and others. Judgement, criticism, incessant thinking. Pay attention to your addictions. Watching TV, eating, drinking, sex, overworking. These things are an alarm. Every time you ignore them you push the snooze button. It might let you sleep a little longer but eventually, if you want to live a fulfilled life, you need to wake up. Until you recognize the reason the alarm is going off, you won’t want to turn it off. Do you want to wake up? One of the best things you discover from sitting in your darkness, is realizing that other people have their own darkness/fears as well and with understanding and relating to yourself you can then begin to understand and relate to others making all your relationships better.
My challenge for you is to pay attention to times in which you feel you NEED to justify something or the times you are projecting negative feelings towards someone else’s actions. Then take an HONEST look at what’s really going on. What are you covering up? Don’t punish yourself for feeling and acting a certain way, use this discovery and admittance as a push in the direction you need to go in to become a better you. Face it, without overcoming denial you will never be able to be the best you. Let me know what you discover!?