You know how everyone has that one thing they do in the face of deep stress and overwhelm?
Well, I yell. That’s my thing. I can let out a howl and it totally regulates my nervous system.
It doesn’t have to be at anyone but sometimes it is. Sometimes it is in the face of my triggered self and directed toward my children. While it may feel good to me to have that release, the look in my children’s eyes signals that it feels scary to them. From their view, I imagine I must look like some big, looming bear towering over.
No one hears me better just because my voice gets louder. In all reality, they probably hear me much less. Children who feel unsafe cannot think logically because they are busy thinking about how to survive.
Yelling is not a great way to model emotional regulation, but I grew up with yelling in my household. A little package like Amazon Prime - at the click of a button, it was delivered fast. My body became wired for it, and let me tell you, it is pretty dang tricky to do something different when you don’t have the skills.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is not the learning. It is the unlearning.
It is becoming aware of what makes you tick and why. It is choosing how to release narratives that no longer serve you and swap out for those that do.
As such, my question became clear. How do I channel what feels good to my nervous system and write new pathways for emotional regulation without passing on the generational wounding to my sons? That’s when I got creative.
3 Successful And Unique Alternatives To Yelling
When yelling is your natural impulse, these three tips can help you channel what you are feeling in a healthy, productive way. Note that this is not an attempt to deny or suppress your emotional sensations. It is a way to work with them, to hear their wisdom, and chaperone them down and out of the body so that Mother Nature can do with them what She will.
1. Growl, Not Howl
Based on my early experiences, I became sympathetic dominant. This is the oldest part of our brain meant to amp up our heart rate, breathing, and blood flow to the limbs so we can fight or flee in the face of stress. When life came too fast or felt unsafe or overwhelming for me in my adult life, my body responded with yelling. It was unconscious. While there is nothing wrong with releasing energy in this way, it isn’t the most productive.
My mission was to become conscious of this impulse so that instead of being the program, I could be the programmer. This is when a dear friend and mentor told me about this tool.
Stand in a wide-legged chair stance, similar to a chair pose in yoga. Begin to rub your thighs in an up and down motion, growling down into the sacrum rather than yelling up into the chest. In doing so, the rage becomes regenerative instead of discharging.
I won’t lie, the first couple of times I did this, it felt awkward as hell. But it worked. On a day where I couldn’t carry any more of a load and parenting felt like it was swallowing me whole, my old familiar comrade came creeping back, inviting me to yell. Instead, I paused and noticed this sensation and subvocally named it.
I am feeling triggered. My body feels explosive.
Without a word, I took my stance and began rubbing my thighs. This helped me go deeper into my body instead of popping up out of it. I inhaled through my nose, and then with my closed-mouth exhale, offered a deep humming growl-like noise. After three to four breaths, I opened my eyes and my kids were watching me curiously. My oldest son smiled at me and said, “Mom, look, peace lives in you.” And he was right, peace did live in me. I have used this method many, many times now to channel my unpleasant feelings and it has proved to be a beautiful template for my children to emulate. I call that a win-win.
2. Play Games
They say play can attune the brain. It has the power to take us from our primitive, survival self to our conscious, responsive self. So one day, I decided to notice what I felt and play a little game.
I am feeling triggered. My body feels explosive.
And then, I got curious, asking:
- I wonder if I will feel this emotional intensity in two minutes? In five?
- How unpleasant does this feeling feel? How much space would it take up? As tall as this room? As long at my arms’ reach? The entire neighborhood? Does it even fit on this planet?
3. Thank Discomfort
Here’s the thing about rerouting patterns - it is uncomfortable. We have been locked into our attachments for so long that we forget that we are now adults with the power to be the parent that our child-self always needed. And so, as we experiment with new ways to re-wire circuits, our body may give a little push back.
It says, “Hey, I see you doing these things. Don’t do it. Based on past experience, this isn’t safe.” This is how your body shielded you when you were a child dependent on your family system.
We often think that comfort means we are doing it right, but our body is wired to seek what is familiar and comfortable, even if it fails to be what’s best for us because familiar and predictable give the illusion of safety. Many times we unconsciously rely on other people to live out their emotional wounds so we can live out ours. We tend to seek relationships that mimic our youth so that we can continue to play the attachment roles that we have come to identify ourselves with. This is the way our ego protects us.
So, when we are here, becoming conscious, breaking cycles, healing wounds, and showing a particular survival mechanism that we no longer need it to survive, it creates an internal tug of war that leads to a sensation of discomfort.
Discomfort is often your body’s way of saying that it is carving out a new circuit. While our brain is 75% wired by age three and 90% by age five, it is plastic - changeable and adaptable. We can go back and pave a different track. Our body’s resistance to going down a different track - a track it has been using for most of its life - is a sign that your body is changing. Emotional growing pains, so to speak.
Below is a short exercise to embrace your discomfort for when your old circuits are no longer working for you in your current-day relationships:
- Notice: Where is your discomfort?
- Acknowledge: Place your hand where the discomfort is and breathe into that space.
- Validate: I see this discomfort. It is real.
- Permit: I give myself permission to feel this discomfort in the full capacity I am feeling it.
If you notice that you can’t feel discomfort or that your body doesn’t give you signs, take time to reflect. Were the signs your body gave you when you were young taken seriously? If your intuitive self answers no, know that this is a survival response all on its own. Your body learned to adapt by becoming a little quieter. It will likely need time and practice to work up to trusting that it will be heard.
You are whole and complete just as you are. The shadowy parts of your psyche are not damaged or broken. They are incredibly smart and adaptive. They got you here, to this exact moment in time, and that is pretty remarkable. We aren’t attempting to divorce our child-self but to give thanks to these parts of us.
I see you, little one. Thank you.
As you notice, give gratitude and witness your inner child, you make it possible for your adult-self to transmute. Slow and steady. Step by step. We are healing and growing.