By Jaime Davila, MA, LPC, NCC
Becoming a father can be a great and frightening experience all at the same time. Once the household settles down a bit – well, at least to the new normal, we are quickly physically and emotionally consumed beyond what we previously thought was possible. As we grow into this new role of father and our partner into his or her new role, we witness many enjoyable and challenging life events – from the transition from foods that don’t really resemble food to solid foods that the dog is willing to help clean up, to watching our child go through the process of emotional and physical development.
As our children grow and become who they are, we serve as witness, all the while trying to guide them as gently as possible to be the best they can. So then comes the question, “Why is so hard for us to stay focused on the good?” or “Why is it so hard for us to get the words ‘good job’ out of our mouths?”
An emotional block, really?
I found that at times I was really proud of my son but then realized that I couldn’t say the words. Things that seem simple – like “good job” or “I am proud of you” – would literally be stuck inside of me, as if there were a physical barrier keeping them in. I knew I wanted to say them but I just couldn’t say them. There was some internal block to my being able to praise my son. Now don’t get me wrong, I did praise my son; but there were certain times at which it was extra difficult for me to do so. This left me feeling confused and guilty for withholding this praise.
The old stuff that haunts us
At some point, through all the experiences we have had, we find ourselves with a narrative that is our life. Our story allows us to know where we stand in relation to others and within ourselves and contributes to our identity. From this story we adopt certain values and beliefs, sometimes without even being aware that we have. An example of a belief that would cause us to “feel stuck” when trying to give a compliment might be, “I am never good enough,” or “I must strive for perfection.” Such beliefs can cause us to apply our self-imposed standards onto our children. So if I grew up receiving the message that “I need to do better,” I might be very driven and want the best for my family, but fail to realize that I might be pushing this message onto my child. It’s as if we have a default path in which we operate. So when I try to do something different, like praise my child, it feels foreign to me. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with a lot of praise so now I don’t know how to provide it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to provide it to my loved ones and to myself, it’s just that my default way of being, driven by my old belief system, provides me with an emotional block.
It’s normal, but lets make it better
If you have felt this block or something similar I want to let you know that you aren’t alone. Rest assured that just like me, you are completely human. It’s simply life.
The good news is that just how we adopted our original set of beliefs and values we can learn and adopt new ones. While it might sound simple this process takes a little time and a big willingness to explore old emotional wounds and beliefs. It only works if you work at it.
Jaime Davila is a bilingual therapist specializing in men’s issues. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-340-2799.