If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.
– Richard Rohr
When my husband and I talked about growing our family, one of my biggest fears was that I would pass along the pain I was still carrying from my own childhood.
That, despite my greatest desires, a harmful default would win at every impass, and my children would learn that they had to hustle for their worth, and believe they were responsible for my emotional state of being.
And so, I did what anyone in their 30’s these days might do in this situation– I called my therapist (shout-out to one of my fave people on this planet) and checked out a ton of parenting books.
I did not come out of each therapy session as a more perfect human being. But, I did begin to grasp concepts like self-compassion, empathy, boundaries, seeing multiple perspectives and a truly deep sense of agency in my own life.
I didn’t know all these could live together in the same house, let alone the same street or city (they didn’t in my childhood home).
This was (and is) one of the hardest seasons for me to walk through. So many times I’ve felt like I was betraying my own family by admitting this work even needed to be done. And yet, I also felt more empowered to do the hard things; to transform my pain. For me, and for this next generation of my kids, nieces and nephews.
One of the pieces of Brené Brown’s research on wholeheartedness that has shifted the way I love and lead is this: the most compassionate people have boundaries of steel.
In Rising Strong she writes, “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” (applause!)
A tool she uses to help people internalize this concept is the acronym BIG:
What BOUNDARIES do I need to set in order to stand in my INTEGRITY and have the most GENEROUS assumptions about this person?
You and I are on a journey that isn’t finished yet, but I hope we both find joy and hope in doing the work to transform our pain.
I hope we do our own work so that we transmit less pain, and find peace amidst boundaries and generosity. Because, truly, we’re all just doing the best we can, right?
Where do you notice yourself transmitting (vs. transforming) pain in your life right now? With your partner, parents, colleagues, kids?
Where can you practice living BIG this week?
It is so much easier to cause pain than feel pain.
Stop working your shit out on other people.
– Brené Brown