Yesterday the brilliant Martha Beck posted something on Facebook about how when she’s suffering she looks for the lie. She knows she’s probably telling herself a lie somewhere in there.
Byron Katie talks about questioning the truth of your thoughts and looking at how those thoughts make you feel and how you’d feel without them.
It can be so hard to step out of ourselves enough to ask if the thoughts we have or the stories we tell ourselves are true because they feel so real to us. It’s almost unimaginable that we could think differently.
To put it in concrete terms imagine this:
You’re suffering, meaning feeling stressed, angry, sad, frustrated, scared, etc., because your child is not going to sleep when you want her to. Here is an opportunity to look at what you’re telling yourself, to look for the lie.
Maybe it’s that your child must go to sleep at a certain time because you’re ready to be off duty for awhile. Maybe it’s that she must go to sleep because otherwise she’ll be tired and grumpy tomorrow. Maybe it’s that your child must go to sleep so you can get laid. Who knows.
As true as your thought may feel, that doesn’t mean it is. Or even if it is true it doesn’t mean it feels good when you hold onto it.
How does it feel to hold on to the belief that your child must go to sleep so you can be off duty? If your child isn’t going to sleep and there is therefore, a battle going on between your child and your thought then I’m guessing you’re not feeling so good. Why torture yourself by holding onto the thought?
A simple alternative to “My child should go to sleep” is “My child isn’t going to sleep.” This small tweak can help you release your grip and even move into compassion and/or curiosity. “Hmm, I wonder why my child isn’t going to sleep?” you might think.
Is it absolutely true that she’ll be grumpy if she doesn’t go to sleep now? Have you ever gone to sleep past your “bedtime” and not been grumpy the next morning? Probably.
So what’s really going on here? For most moms it ties into the need for their lives to feel easier, more predictable, more controlled, more manageable. Knowing you can’t actually control how other people act and that you only have control over you, what can you do to feel more ease, or more of whatever your desired feeling is?
This is all about getting to the root of what’s going on for you. What your needs and desires are. If you’re stressed at bedtime then it’s a clue that some need of yours isn’t being met. You can then change your story—stop believing the “lie”—so you can meet it.
Please don’t get me wrong though. I’m not glossing over the struggle. I know it can completely suck when you’re desperate for your kid to go to sleep.
I also know what it’s like to not attach to the story that he or she should. It can make bedtime much easier. My daughter, before she was even two, would tell us when she was ready for bed because we didn’t attach to the thought that she should go at a certain time, and she always ended up going to sleep at a “reasonable” time. (Full disclosure: Because we’re human and got lost in our struggles and stories just like everyone else we didn’t always do this.)
As always, there is a choice here. If this doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t align with your highest self, then ignore it. The goal is for you to feel better. How you go about it is inconsequential.