The Biggest Game Changer in My Emotion Processing


You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 176. It is a rebroadcast of episode 78. I used to go through life ridden with anxiety, right? So I would start to have an anxiety attack and then I would tap into a coping mechanism. For me, it was often like organizing or creating my to-do list or checking things off my to-do list or going shopping, hello Target, or Amazon. I can fill a cart like it's nobody's business. I sometimes scroll through my phone, just like, distract myself from it, what I wanted was to make sure that I was just going to stop feeling a little. Right. And I would tell myself like oh if I did this thing, I would feel better than I would have control, it was this lie that I was telling myself and honestly, I can say to you, truthfully, at this point, I do not live with anxiety, but it has been quite a journey to get here. Now this episode isn't about anxiety but for me that was a huge part of emotion processing, was learning to process fear. That's my hardest emotion to process. Most folks have one emotion that's really hard to process for some people it's sadness for some people it's anger for me, it's fear. And one thing happened in this journey for me, there was one moment and I can literally remember, like, when I heard this for the first time and all that jazz. But there was a game-changer for me where I was like, aha. That is how I can start to reframe this like it just clicked and it made so much sense for me. And it also just made my life easier with the tiny humans because I started to realize, like this thing was at the core of so many hard emotions. Both for me for people around me for the kiddos, and we're gonna dive into it today. I'm not going to say what it is yet because I want to really like go in and depth in the episode. And I think, if you just hear one word right now, you're going to be like, what say, what karaoke. So let's without further Ado, let's just dive on in. 


00:02:09    Alyssa

Before we dive into this conversation, did you know that our Village Membership is open today? Our Village Membership, only opens a couple times a year and it opens today until June 17th. You have one week to come join us in the village. A space where we dive into all of your biggest parenting questions. We guide you in doing this work. You get access to our two signature courses and we walk alongside you in how to implement them in your everyday life. You get access to our membership community app where people pop in questions every day and we answer every single one, you get weekly calls with our team, a monthly Zoom hangout. So many goodies within this Village Membership. It is the space where if you have questions about your tiny humans or your family life that you want to dive into. This is the space to do it, and the membership is only open for the next week before the doors close again. So, come join us at All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:03:22    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 


00:03:51    Alyssa

Perhaps the biggest game changer for me in emotion processing is something that I learned from a four-year-old. He said to me, "Oh, that wasn't my expectation." I was like whoa, that is truly the root of so much of the hard stuff that we feel. When we can break it down and really look at, Am I mad? Why am I feeling sad? Why am I disappointed or embarrassed often times it comes back to, "that wasn't my expectation." That's not how I expected that to go and man has this changed my emotion processing, because I've realized that either, when I can recognize what my expectations are going into something and say hmm I wonder if this is a realistic expectation or at least just knowing what they are so that then if things don't go that way, I know I'm feeling disappointed because I expected this to go another way. It doesn't mean I won't feel disappointed. It doesn't mean I won't feel scared or sad or mad or embarrassed or frustrated. What it means is that I know why I'm feeling it and it helps me increase my self awareness around stuff. So we were building this cardboard cruiser which if you tuned into the trust episode you heard about my nephew was using like old boxes and water bottles and tape. And he was making like a raft that could float in their pool and he made it and he put it in and it tipped over and he got a little upset and he was like ugh, you could tell in his face he was bummed and I was like, oh, were you expecting to put it in and it was going to float? And he was like, yeah, I was like yeah, it's so frustrating when it doesn't work. When the way that you thought it was going to. What do you think we could do? And he like, sat in it for a minute, he's like, yeah, it is frustrating. He was like I don't know. I wonder if I could...and then he was like ready to go into problem-solving mode. Sometimes we just need to be heard and validated and for him what I could have said was like oh you can try it again or I could have gone right into problem-solving and he may have responded differently by starting with oh, is this what you were expecting to have happened and that's not what happened? And letting him know it's okay, like that is frustrating. Just letting him be seen, man. Like, that's what so many of us want, is to be seen and heard, my niece was asking me to come play with her a lot throughout that weekend. We hadn't seen each other in a while and we have a nice loving relationship. We have a nice connection and we were playing backyard baseball. The whole family was playing. And she was like in the middle of the game, she was like do you want to stop playing and just come play with me on the playground? They have a little like swing set and I said, you know what, babe, I have played so much with you and I love it so much. I haven't said yes to playing with your brother a whole lot because I've been playing with you and I told him that I would play this game and so his expectation is that I'm going to play the whole game. I'm going to do that. I'm going to stay and play and then after this game, we could go and play on your swing set. So, I'm setting that expectation for her. That after this game, we can go play on her swing set. The important part is that I follow through with that but I wanted to set her expectation. Because at that point, her expectation had been, oh, Aunt Alyssa will just come play with me because I want to do it. And so I validated for her. Like, I know it's really hard to wait, and we will get a chance to play again. Here is when you can expect that to happen.


00:08:08    Alyssa

This happens with our tiny humans all the time or they'll throw a tantrum. I was leaving the playground with a three-year-old and he was throwing a tantrum. He didn't want to leave, and I just got on his level and I said, oh, were you expecting to play longer before it was time to leave? He was like, yeah, I was building and he had been in the like, sandbox with the construction truck and he was building something. And I said, you know what, buddy? I know you were having so much fun. It's so hard to leave when you were expecting to finish what you were working on. We don't have more time today because we have to get home and do some things before dinner. We will come back another time, but I know you're feeling really disappointed right now. It's really hard to leave when you weren't expecting to have to go before you were done. And this happens as an adult too. Oh man, one, there are so many that, like, just jumped out to me, but with Zach, all the time, when we find ourselves having, like, hard feelings with each other and where we might be like entering conflict mode. We both have gotten into the habit with a lot of freakin work but we've gotten into the habit of pausing and like looking at what each other's expectations currently are or were of the situation. So that then we can adjust from there. But starting with like what was your expectation for today without judgment? Just let me know where you are and what you were expecting to have happen? We, I love slow mornings, like I love waking up and taking my time in the morning. I love to like do a Sudoku or just like chill. Even with kids around like to slowly like to play games and to not rush into like tasks or to-do list or whatever, I like to like have a cup of coffee and read a book with a kiddo in the morning. I love slow mornings. And sometimes Zach has things he's really jazzed about on the weekend that he's like pumped to dive into. And so I came to a Saturday morning and I had like, gotten up, I was on the couch, I was cozy in a blanket. I was reading a book. I was drinking coffee and I could tell, like, by Zack's energy that he was just like raring to go. He was like, I'm gonna go shower and get ready for the day whenever and at that point I realized like, hmm, we might have different expectations for what's about to happen. Like let's start by clearing that up before someone finds himself like disappointed that their thing isn't happening right now. So I just paused and I was like, yeah, that's fine. Like you can shower. What's your expectation for today? Like, what are you planning for the day? And he was like, well I wanted us to like go run to the post office and then run to the store and get this and then like get groceries and do whatever. And I was like okay yeah that all sounds great. I wasn't planning to move off of this couch until like 9 or 10. Like I was planning to chill and hang out and just like, be cozy this morning and then do those things. Is there a reason that you wanted to do them sooner because sometimes like there are things we just haven't told the other person like oh yeah. Yeah, I wanted to potentially go to this thing later or whatever. And so he was like, oh well, there's a show, there's like some live music over at there's like a little place here that I was thinking of maybe going to if we still wanted to later, but if we do stuff later in the day that I don't think we will have time to go there and I was like, okay cool. That works for me. I was like, how about? And then we then we could come up with a plan, but it started with us, like, laying out what our expectations for the day were and then looking at the whole picture. In the past, what would have happened was he would have showered and gotten ready and been like ready to go. And I would have been laying on the couch and he would have been annoyed because then it looks like I'm just like not moving but I wouldn't have known his plan and he wouldn't have known mine and we would have ended up in a fight about it or at least like that annoying tension which for me can just like throw off that morning. And so instead when we could like stop it in its tracks and say hey before we move any further. Let's just chat about expectations here. It's such a game changer and it's the same I find with our kiddos too of like, what's your expectation around this? Well, I do it with my parents, with my mothers-in-law, with family with friends. Like, what was your expectation here? 


00:13:15    Alyssa

In fact, a friend was recently up here in Vermont for a wedding, and I went down and helped with her kiddo because she was in the wedding, her husband was officiating the wedding and her daughter was a flower girl. And so I was there to just like be a set of hands so that they could both be in the wedding and not have to worry about their little girl. And so when I got there, the very first thing I said, was like, what's your expectation for today? Like, how do you see me best supporting you through this? And so, she was then able to lay out, like, here's what would be helpful for me. I was expecting, like, for us to go do pictures and while I'm doing pictures for you to, like, play with her, give her a snack or whatever, like we could go through the day together, so that everyone's on the same page with expectations here, Man, there are also times where like I've had a long day and I come home and I've had a whole like expectation made up in my head that I didn't even know yet and I come home and it's just like not met right? Where I walk in the door and I expected dinner to be ready at this point because I knew that Zach was home before me or I expected the laundry to be thrown in or one night Zach, it was. he did his master's fulltime and was working full-time for five years and he had done like got dinner ready and I was just like I was like exhausted and emotional, potentially on my period at that point like it I was in a pretty emotional state and I also was working at a job that was really emotionally exhausting for me and so Zach had made dinner, so nice and we were sitting at home and he says, hey after dinner, could you just do the dishes? I'm going to do some work tonight in the office and I just started immediately sobbing. Like I just broke down in tears and he was like, okay, I guess that's a no on the dishes. And I was just like, oh my God, like my expectation had been to do really nothing that night because I felt so drained, but I didn't even know it until he suggested that I do the dishes, right? Like, a very normal task that any other day of the week, of course, I could do. And in this moment, I just couldn't even do the dishes, but I didn't know that until he suggested it, and then I started crying and he was like, okay, I can adjust my expectation. Like, I can do the dishes before I do work, like, you just chill tonight and take care of yourself. And so sometimes it's being able to, like, in the moment, be like, oh man, I'm just realizing I had a certain expectation for how this was going to go. And now I need to talk about it. I had a mama reach out for Sleep Consulting recently. And she was like, you know, when I was pregnant and I was like, dreaming of this babe, I expected to have one of those kids who could just sleep anywhere. She was like, I looked at all, these people was like, uh, like they're all like planning these schedules around their kiddos sleep. And she's like, I just wasn't going to be one of those parents. Like, I was going to have a kid who slept anywhere, because if I, if we just brought them and we showed them that that was the expectation, then they would do it and she's like, it turns out that's not how this works. But so part of her getting into like a new sleep routine with this kiddo and all that jazz was just adjusting expectations at first that you know what most kiddos don't just sleep anywhere on the go, most kiddos do thrive with a routine. In fact, most adults if you, we were just having this conversation the other night where my mother-in-law was saying that like she's like, oh I she needs like pretty specific sleep environment to sleep well, and I was like, oh man, I feel like I can largely sleep anywhere. And we went around the room and I was the exception, most people like wanted their certain pillow or slept best in certain temperatures or in certain places or on certain mattress like firmness. And I am the person who like, can fall asleep in the movie theater at a movie that I enjoy. Like, I can fall asleep, pretty much anywhere, but I'm the exception right? We look at tiny humans and we expect them to fall asleep in a busy restaurant or out at a party when people are hanging out and they want to engage. And so when we like dove into expectations, then mama was able to like, adjust hers. And we could dive in then to, like sleep patterns and what we were looking at. But first is adjusting expectations. And you know what? Like for me this is also a huge part of enjoying kiddos company. My expectation for them is that they will speak to me with kindness and respect. My expectation isn't that they're going to follow every rule that I set or obey every boundary because I've never once set a boundary for a kid and they were like, great, can't wait to follow it every single time. They push it because it's their job to see like is this real? Are you going to hold it? And it's my job to say. Yeah, I'm going to, but my expectation is that they're going to push it. I do, however, expect them to be kind and respectful and I will bring the same thing to the table. I will be kind and respectful to them as well. 


00:19:13    Alyssa

And when I go in, with this, if they are like being rude to me, or they're whining at me or they're throwing things, then I will step in and say, I'm not going to let you throw things or I want to help you solve this problem. How can I help you feel calm, so that we can do this together, letting them know, I'm on the same page with you. I will treat you with kindness and respect and then afterwards, I will tell them you can be so mad. You can be sad. You can be disappointed and you can be kind, and when you're feeling mad, here's what you could do instead of hitting me, instead of throwing this thing, instead of whining at me, here's what you could say, here's what you could do. So that, they know a kind respectful way to communicate with me, but my 


00:20:11    Alyssa

If our expectation is that we're going to say, like here's the rule and they're going to just follow it. I think you're just going to constantly feel disappointment around that because it's not how tiny humans work. It's their job to push those boundaries to see if they are real. And you know what? Like it's, they're also going to like fall or make mistakes or enter failure and that has to be the expectation too. My expectation is not that everything is going to be perfect. In fact, when I was watching that little girl at that wedding, when her mom came home back to the, like, the place they were staying and she was asleep. I was like, just FYI, we had a great time and she has a scratch on her arm, because she almost fell face-first into this table. She's learning to walk and I caught her but my fingernail got her arm. So she has a scratch and she was like, oh yeah, cool. Like, but the expectation can't be that they're not going to fall down and get hurt, that everything's just going to be perfect because we're going to constantly feel like we aren't doing a good enough job at keeping them safe or giving them healthy things or whatever it is. If every time they fall or they make a mistake, we feel like we failed. That can't be our expectation, perfection isn't real. We have to give them room to fall and to make mistakes and to process those emotions around that and then to try again. The expectation cannot be perfection, not for them and not for you. I had a mama reached out and was chatting about like food stuff. She was like, oh, how do I get this kid to eat? And she was like, I expected that he would like the broccoli because yesterday, it was his favorite food and this is so true. And so real man, and also, it is going to ebb and flow and change and it is so frustrating. When you're like, okay, I prepared a meal that I thought they would really like, I expected that they would have this and maybe even be full that I made a meal that they like and instead they threw it across the room or they refused to eat it. Expectation is huge. It's so huge. And it, you're going to, your expectations aren't always going to be met and so part of it is just knowing what was my expectation in this moment. When you start to have that hard feeling when you're feeling frustrated or disappointed, if you can walk away and pause and say man, what was my expectation? How did I expect this morning to go? How did I expect this afternoon or this nighttime routine to go. What was my expectation in this moment? And how did the reality differ from my expectation? Because now, you can look at it and say, oh man, I expected them to eat that broccoli. And it's really frustrating that I made this food that I thought they would like, and they don't like it, and they don't want it. And now, I feel like they might be hungry later because they're not eating, and that might throw off their sleep or it might throw off our night or they might get really cranky because they're hungry. So now I have this expectation that they might be cranky later because they might be angry or have an expectation that they might not sleep well because they didn't eat. And so now I am like dreading kind of what's going to come, right? And so just being aware of that as a game changer. Because then you can say, okay, well let's make a plan. If they're hangry later, am I willing to offer them a snack before bedtime? Or yeah, I mean would that affect their sleep too? What's my plan here if they wake up because they might be hungry? What's my expectation? And how can I set up a plan that might support what I'm expecting to have happen that I might be feeling fear around? Because a lot of times what happens is if we have certain expectations, like, if bedtime is a nightmare every single night, then you're going into it expecting to have a battle and oftentimes we'll see a spike in fear, anxiety, we'll call it here, when you're stuck in fear, before you even get to bedtime because you're dreading the fact that it's going to be a nightmare. So, if you can say, all right, my expectation is that it's going to be a disaster. What's my plan? How am I going to respond? So that it goes differently or so that I can experience this differently. My goal here isn't that kids, stop having big emotions. They're gonna feel disappointment and sadness and fear, and embarrassment, and shame, just like we will. And if we try to stop them from feeling those hard things, we are not preparing them for life. We are not giving them the tools to process those hard things so that they can get back to feeling calm and excitement and joy and happiness. But if our expectation is that they're going to walk through life, happy all the time, man. We're going to be bummed about this and it's going to be really hard to do life. So, the next time that you find yourself spiking cortisol, or you feel that rush of strong hard emotion, take a minute, pause and say, what was my expectation? Or the next time you're entering a new situation. A playgroup you're going to a family party. You're going to a birthday party. What is your expectation? What do you think's going to happen? How do you think your tiny humans going to respond? It can tell you a lot about what's to come and it can give you the tools to then when you're in it. If your expectation isn't being met, you can acknowledge that sooner, you can be self aware of what you thought was going to happen and then how that's differing. And then you can make changes. Like I said, I use this in communicating with everyone in my life. This was my expectation. What was yours? How can we solve this problem now? But first, it starts with what is your expectation. 


00:26:52    Alyssa

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