Resistance: The Value of Empathy in Parenting

How can we turn from resistance to empathy?

I was sitting in the waiting room at my daughter’s dance studio. Another mom had just arrived with her two daughters in tow. One of them was sobbing. After a lot of resistance, she finally got both of them into the dance class. Then, she sat down next to me and let out a big sigh. “She’s driving me insane!” she said, referring to her younger daughter. “The entire car ride here, she was yelling at me that she wanted a hug and kicking the seat! Why can’t she understand that I can’t give her a hug while I’m driving?!” I gently responded, “In my house, when there is an upset like that, it’s usually one of two things: hunger or fatigue.” The other mom dismissed these two possibilities, saying that she had eaten a snack and that she should have known not to act that way even if she was tired. 

Always try to put yourself in their shoes

I decided to try a different approach. I shared an experience from one of my own daughters’ tantrums. When Anna, my 10-year-old, would come home from school and melt down about homework, I used to say things like, “It’s just homework, it doesn’t matter!” Quickly I realized that responses like that didn’t help. In fact, they made my daughter even more hysterical. I went on to explain that in those situations, I now try to put myself in my daughter’s shoes with the understanding that there’s more to it in her world than my perspective of “oh, it’s just homework.”

Instead, I remind myself that in her world, feeling overwhelmed with homework is a big deal. And it’s not a good feeling. We can all agree that it sucks to feel overwhelmed.

“There’s a difference between validating someone’s pain and encouraging it. When you empathize with your daughter, you lay the groundwork that allows her to move through a challenge instead of beating herself up for it.” – Enough As She Is by Rachel Simmons (pg. 186).

One of the healthiest ways to help someone process upset and overwhelm is to make them feel heard and allow them to cycle through their emotions without being resisted. If you tell them that homework or wanting a hug doesn’t matter, you are creating resistance.

A moment to reflect can give space for empathy

After I shared this example of my experience with my own daughter, I felt the courage to add, “What do you think is really going on with your daughter for her to melt down in this way?”

There was a pause where the mother’s energy shifted, and I could tell that she had reached her own conclusion as to why it happened. She explained that she had just gone back to work as a NICU night nurse after seven weeks of leave. She was away from home three nights per week, for 12 hours at a time. She realized that her daughter was having separation anxiety.

In her daughters’ 7-year-old mind, it was manifesting as, “I WANT A HUG!” She didn’t have the tools or the words to express exactly what she was feeling and why.

Our resistance makes us blind

It’s our job as parents to take the time to understand the deeper meaning behind our kids’ upset and have an awareness of what could really be going on when they’re having a meltdown like this.

When we resist them, we become blind to this awareness. When we fight back, we fuel the tantrum. Instead, we can choose to give them space to express and hold space for what needs to come out and be processed.

I felt so much empathy for this mother, who was burnt out from the stress of her night shifts. She was pushed to her edge in the NICU, her sleep patterns were disturbed, and her anxiety was high. In fact, her anxiety was so high that she couldn’t sit still while telling me this story. 

Empathy Leads the way to love and understanding

As I listened to her, I didn’t resist or tell her that she was wrong. I empathized just as I would with anyone who is hurting. I listened with empathy, and I could feel her suffering. We all suffer in different ways, and this was what it looked like for her at the time. 

What amazed me about this mother was that it didn’t take her more than a few moments to snap out of it, see her part in things, and put herself in her daughter’s shoes. If I had resisted her feelings or made her feel like she was wrong, she might not have been able to shift and see these insights like she did. 

When we resist, we create a reality of feeling stuck. When we empathize, we make room for love and understanding to come through. This mother loved her daughter so much – it was tangible. She just needed a few moments free from resistance for that love to come back into the forefront of the picture. 

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Abdi Assadi is unlike any other healer or spiritual teacher ever encountered. He is an expert in martial arts, and a dynamic healer practicing a diverse array of Chinese and Eastern Medicine, indigenous shamanic rituals, and meditation techniques. With a clinical practice in New York City for almost 4 decades, Abdi has accumulated a vast knowledge of real life experience working with several thousands of individuals, guiding them through the most difficult times, and teaching them how to understand themselves. One of the greatest things about him is he merges the human psyche with the spiritual psyche.

Steeped in deep wisdom and insight that is rare to find on this planet in these modern times, Abdi has an extraordinary ability in perceiving and comprehending human souls and their individual psyche. Guided by the divine, Abdi guides you to open up and see beyond your limited Self, into your own soul. His impeccable discernment enables him to unleash personal remarks that pierce through your veil, statements that you will never forget and in an instant alter your perception of yourself and your reality.

– Quotes from Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi:

All spiritual masters teach us that love is an activity before it is a condition – and that love is all-encompassing.
Page 18

It felt like I was coming off a race track and driving in a school zone. He knew, years before I did, that my speed was my way of suppressing my early childhood anxiety, and that only slowing down could heal it.

Why do you need to use all these words like God and spirituality? It is right here Abdi, all around you, all the time
Page 40

one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Page 51

Ultimately it keeps grace out of our lives because we are using our will power to manipulate every event and person around us.
Page 74

His lesson, which I had begun to learn for myself, is that outside circumstances do not define our internal experience if we can surrender into them. Painful or undesirable situations will always arise; true suffering comes from our ego’s desire to resist life as it is.
Page 77

Note from Pernilla:
I met Abdi in the fall of 2014 and when I arrived in his office the first thing he said was, “It’s time that you stop carrying other people’s anxiety.” In the year that followed, my entrenched codependency patterns reared their ugly heads and I was confronted with a part of myself that I had never even known was there.

A few years later, Abdi said, “When are you going to start writing your book?”I looked at him in surprise. I was not a writer. My expertise was centered around creating crazy good Excel spreadsheets. However, I started writing and collecting notes about life issues and life experiences … and here we are a few years later.

Sally Kempton is a preeminent meditation teacher of our time.

She is an expert scholar in Hinduism and all Hindu texts especially in Kashmir Shaivisim. Formerly Swami Durgananda, she left monastic life in the 1980’s to teach publicly. She has written several books and is one of the most known and loved spiritual teachers in our time.

Note from Pernilla:

I met Sally at one of her workshops at City Yoga in LA in 2003. She had the most gentle and loving disposition, and I just wanted to always be around her. I was fortunate to have been part of her two year-long “Transformative journey” courses in 2006 and 2007 and many retreats ever since. She is the true representation of unconditional love and transmits intense shakti from her Guru Swami Muktananda.

Sally is the primary building block and foundation in my spiritual journey. Without her, I would have never found and stuck with meditation – the most transformative experience of my life. Without her, I would have been lost without a clue where to go next. Her wealth of knowledge of yogic philosophy and incredible understanding of the human condition is what makes her a force to be reckoned with.  She understands your depth and makes you feel seen, heard, validated, and deeply loved.