Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ecstatic Alternatives to Punishment

When I first put the words "ecstatic" and "mothering" together, I did so because there was just something about that combination that resonated with me. I am just now realizing what ecstatic mothering truly means to me, and how it guides my entire experience of parenting (and living).

Ecstatic communion is a state of being we can experience in any relationship with any living being during our lives. It is most commonly felt as the blissful high when we first "fall in love" with a lover... it is like we are transported to another dimension where everything is right and perfect, and the whole world is our playground. Ecstatic communion is characterized by feelings of deep attunement with another being, wordless understanding, a blissful dance of energetic entwinement, and being unspoken allies who are always inspired towards their shared highest good.

Ecstatic communion is my guiding light, my highest aspiration, for all my close relationships, especially my children (since their entire experience of relationship is initially defined by their relationship with me). This type of all-encompassing love is our most cherished desire as living beings... if we are lacking in this, nothing else in existence is good enough to replace it. Helpful hint: we can give this to our own selves too, in fact, we must if we are to truly receive it from another.

I feel sad when I see a parent spank their child, or verbally/emotionally manipulate their child, humiliate them, bribe them, or use any other form of "love withdrawal" to control behavior. My sadness comes not from seeing the spanking/anger/manipulation itself, but because of what it implies: neither the parent nor the child are experiencing the nourishing, blissful state of ecstatic communion with each other. They are experiencing disconnection, frustration, emotional pain and despair, although they may not recognize them to be that because those are such normal feelings for so many. The parent does not understand the child, and is not softening their opinion of what is happening and questioning deeply enough to hope to reach an understanding of their child.

Many parents think their child does not know how to act in the world, and it is their job to show the child how to act, by whatever means necessary, for the child's own good. The end justifies the means. But think... which is more innately perfect, the "ways of the world" (meaning our cultural routines and unquestioned traditions), or your child who just entered the world and looks upon it with pure eyes, and interacts with it with pure, highly sensitive and huge feelings? Your child has not yet created an emotional stone wall between the way they feel about an experience they had, and the way they are told they should feel about it. Hopefully, they will never have to.

Of course, it is beneficial to accept the world as it is, even if there are many things you wish to change. But that does not mean you have to compel your child to conform to the "ways of the world" using stern and angry feelings. You certainly can, and that is okay... but how do you feel when you do that? Is that how you desire to feel?

What I do instead, simply because it inspires my experience of ecstatic communion: I remember that my child is more perfect than the world... and will certainly improve the world by their presence, if their higher-vibrational purity is allowed and encouraged. Then from this place, I am my child's ally, and show him around the world he entered with all its nuances, willing to patiently demonstrate and explain anything he requests a deeper understanding of. Example: I ask myself, is he ready for the responsibility of carrying a glass over a hard floor? If not, all the glasses stay out of his reach, and if he sees me with one and wants it, I explain why I am going to hold it for now, so he becomes familiar with the concept long before I feel he is ready and willing to take on the responsibility of caring for something as fragile as glass. If he throws a fit about it (which is likely, since his desire for experience is so strong), I acknowledge his feelings (usually just with my peaceful, loving presence) and offer him a more appropriate activity to direct his energy into. There are many more examples, some simpler and some more complex in their most harmonious approaches. But examples aren't necessary if you let ecstatic communion be your guide.

If you desire to experience more ecstatic communion in your relationship with your child, here are some aspects of ecstasy consciousness I value the most:

Be in Your Bliss, All-Ways. Live for yourself, not for your child. You can't be centered in someone else... so be self-centered. If you ever feel depressed, lonely, exhausted, irritable, etc... it means you are not doing what you are meant to be doing at that moment. This is of such vital importance to parenting. Your child looks to you for their primary example of HOW TO LIVE. Would you rather them see you enthusiastic about each day and all the amazing things in your life... or trudging along and living your life for someone else, mood swings and all? You know what it is that fills you with life. If you are feeling unfulfilled, ask yourself, "if I could do anything right now, what would it be?" ... then consider how you can restructure your life to bring you more of this element, and all others that inspire you. Your child will see that life is grand and beautiful, and that it is to be lived fully and with appreciation.

If you feel anger or frustration about your child behaving differently than you desire, immediately assume that the core of what initiated their behavior was a desire for something good, important and essential. Even if you don't know what it is at first (sometimes it is buried deep under a seemingly unrelated behavior), knowing that their core, hidden desire was for something beneficial, will change the way you respond to them, and you are more likely to seek harmonious resolution, express acceptance and loving kindness, and return more quickly to ecstatic communion with them. Extend this same assumption to yourself whenever you feel moody or "act out", and you will experience so much more self-love and self-understanding.

If you happen to find yourself in a state where your stress threshold is near its tipping point (most of us have been there at some point... always a result of not being in our Bliss at that moment), and your child just triggered you, and you have an urge to yell or hit something, this is an important moment where much learning can occur. You can turn around and yell away from your child, and/or hit a pillow or the floor, or something similar... and your child will see that it is not about them, it's about you. They will learn that strong emotion, when it is OWNED (rather than projected onto another with anger or blame), is a powerful energy capable of great benefit. They need to see how to handle strong emotion, since they have so much of it that is seemingly out of their control when they are young. After you vent some and are feeling a little calmer, sit down next to them (so you are at their "level"), make eye contact, and talk to them about your feelings. For example, "I feel so angry right now, because you are doing this thing and I have yet to find a way to influence you in the way I desire. I feel sad because it seems like you haven't been listening to me, and I desire to be heard! How can we strengthen our communication so you can understand what I desire? I realize I have also been feeling sad lately because I haven't been with my friends as often as I desire... let's plan a time where we can be with friends soon" etc... let all the passion you feel, your desire for illumination, come through your voice with authenticity. This is MUCH more beneficial than either suppressing your feelings, or projecting angry opinions towards them. This way, you are acknowledging that your anger is a personal transformative energy, and you are up for the challenge of transforming in the heat of that moment. Then an experience that was seemingly just stressful and frustrating becomes a very powerful learning experience for both of you!


  1. Courtney,

    Some how I knew what this post would be about. I see what you are saying and I agree with much of it. I never discipline out of anger or frustration. To me that would be as detrimental as an action I don't approve of (Jagger throwing a fit or him hitting another being in his anger). When I do discipline, I try to always make sure I am explaining why. I want him to understand what actions might cause a specific reaction. There are certain instances where I feel sad in spanking/disciplining Jagger. When I do discipline him, it is my aim to always do it out of love. I have been in many scenarios growing up, seen people who have been disciplined and who haven't. In my experience, the ones who haven't been disciplined come out not as responsible, exhibit many behaviors seen as negative, and generally have a lack of respect for others. Compared to those that have been disciplined at appropriate times (when acting out) and in love, those have become more compassionate people as well as more respectful of others. I would love to expand upon our thoughts on this issue further. I feel that perhaps in person, we could better communicate. I would love for you to show me ways in which you interact with your little being. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thank you for commenting, Rachael. Yes, I desire to talk more with you about it... I am feeling my way along with Cedar, too, and how to influence him in the healthiest way possible. Sometimes I respond in ways that result in me feeling peaceful and satisfied, and sometimes I have done or said things that have made me feel really awful afterward. I believe our feelings are our guidance system... if we are feeling sad or stressed after having done something a certain way, it means there is a better way. I felt sad when I saw you spank Jagger. He seemed really sad, like he was not feeling understood.

    The people you speak of who were not disciplined, I'm not sure what that means in their case... that their parents just didn't care enough to connect with them and be a good example? That is certainly harmful. I think that's what most people think of as "not disciplining", and that their only alternative is to correct all "wrong" behavior without even trying to understand it or see things from their child's perspective.

    Yeah... it's challenging to even talk about this in this way, because it's all about the energetics behind the actions, and every moment is different.

    I look forward to seeing you again :)

  3. I just changed the name of this post... "Punishment" is a much more appropriate word than "Discipline" in this case. Discipline can be very beneficial, in ways like these: http://attachmentparenting.org/blog/2011/07/27/ap-and-spanking-dont-mix

  4. Spanking adds injury to insult. Where a child, not knowing how to express themselves in a way the parent would understand, gets frustrated and lets out the frustration in the only way they can, the society-conditioned parent sees irrational behavior to correct. Or, as the child grows older, behavior which seems consciously "perpetrated" yet still is asking for heart to heart communication in a last resort way (crying didn't work, screaming didn't work, logical reasoning has yet to mature in the young mind...so the growing child resorts to appeals to the subconscious of the unconscious parent). However, the incident could have been avoided altogether by a difference in the Parent's actions and attitudes. We should be spanking ourselves when our children throw a fit :) I actually did this a few times (hit myself on the arm with a stick pretty severely) - and it actually helped me see how ridiculous I was being with the children in not understanding them!

  5. Thanks for this one. I'm starting to seriously think about my conception and motherhood, and this post definitely inspired me. I've had a lot of anger management and depression issues growing up, and it wasn't until the last five years or so that I learned to love myself. I feel that the love for myself has grown to a capacity that I can help another person love themselves as well, but there is still that fear in me. What if I just lose it? What if I fall into a depression again? What if I want to hurt my child?! Unacceptable. This advice you've blessed me with is invaluable. It's good to hear from someone else that it's ok to have the "negative" emotions, and to let them come in their full power. It's good to hear that I can redirect them away from the innocent, and explain it to them after I've let it all come out.
    I'm really taking this to heart. :)

  6. You had a great 2 part post on Debbie Pierce's blog. I have an article saying that all relationships are governed by this saying-- "Misery loves company." So the happier that you are, the more delightful your child is. Children learn by imitation. So if you want your child to be ecstatic, then you should be ecstatic.

    That is the purpose of your life, anyway-- expansion of happiness. Children are like a reflection of yourself. When you love being with your child, it does wonders for their self-esteem. When you do not enjoy being with your child, it is bad for their self-esteem.