Welcome brother! If this is your first time reading Woodshop Wisdom, this is a place where, every Monday, we answer a specific question from the men’s community. We give straight-forward answers to a variety of relationship problems and the challenges men face everyday as a provider, father and husband. And often we will challenge you to go much deeper in your understanding of the problem and how to think about it more effectively.
Let’s get started.
This question comes from a conversation I was having with another man. It was in reference to Tool #1 in the book “Hold On To Your N.U.T.S.” by Wayne Levine. In the book he talks about “silencing the little boy” that lives inside of us. It is the inner child that causes us to react versus respond. The purely emotional voice that has a quick temper, gets angry, and whines for the love and attention that is missing in his life. It is the child that demands the world around him to give him what he wants.
HOW exactly do you silence the little boy?
For years I was plagued by the consequences derived from my small inner child’s reactionary and emotionally charged outbursts. I look back and think to myself, “I would knock over the blocks and then cry about how it was ruined.” I was unaware and unconscious to the destructive cycle I was in. One reaction led to the next more severe reaction and around we went spiraling down into butt-hurt, pouting, blame and shame.
That continued until I surrounded myself with other men who showed me there is an alternate way of being.
When I read the chapter on how I needed to silence the little boy I wondered “How the heck am I supposed to do that?”
When I first started recognizing I was being emotional and reacting to circumstances around me in an immature way, I tried shutting my emotions down. I tried telling the little boy to “Shut up! Go away! Leave me alone!”
Trying to silence him by will power alone only contained my emotions for a brief moment. It led me to bottling up the pain and “saving” the frustration for a later date.
The expression of those emotions needed to be released and dealt with.
Shutting him down only made him get louder and angrier.
I needed a different approach.
The chapter mentions “fathering” the little boy, so I tried that instead.
I thought, “How would I talk to my12-year old daughter if she were having a meltdown. What would I do and say to her? Who would I be for her?
First off, I would listen to her.
I would sit and hear every concern she had and ask questions to get to know her. I would be patient with her. I would forgive her innocence and naivete and look beyond her emotional outburst and see her for the perfection she is. I would let her be heard.
When was the last time you sat and listened to that voice in your head? It has information for you. It is revealing your experience to you. That voice just wants to be heard.
*For the love of Pete don’t do what it says, just listen for now. 😊
Secondly, I would never cast judgement on my 12-year-old daughter if she said something silly or stupid. I would simply smile and accept it as her being young, and this is part of her learning experience. I would make sure she felt safe to express herself without criticism or consequences for simply figuring out who she is becoming.
Third, I would completely accept her for where she is at. Her story and the thoughts around it are completely true for her. If she were feeling sad, or angry, or hurt – I would never try to change her mind, force her to be something different, or expect her to quit feeling what she is feeling.
I would get curious about why she is feeling it. What are her fears around it? What scares her?
Fourth, as her father, I would guide her. I would remind her of capabilities. I would try to point to what is true and what is a story being created by her thinking. I would make sure she felt loved and encouraged. I might even try to show her by example how I handled something similar in my life. As the adult, I would protect her and care for her.
What if the next time we find ourselves in a highly charged, emotional state we look at our inner child as our son that needs love rather than an adversary that needs to be defeated? What if we follow the guidelines above?
Fathering the little boy inside me like this made all the difference. It completely changed the conversation I was having with myself on a day-to-day basis.
When I finally slowed down long enough to LISTEN to the little boy he no longer had to shout. My monkey chatter turned into a small whisper rather than a freight train of thought. I could hear him now, and he was extremely thankful for that.
When I was able to REMOVE JUDGEMENT from myself, I was finally able to move forward again. I was no longer trapped with “being bad, undeserving, or ridiculous” for thinking certain things. Nothing was “good or bad” anymore, it was just information that could be useful in the next decision.
When I found ACCEPTANCE for myself and my story, I stopped fighting my internal dialogue and integrated the little boy into my life. We became partners and friends. I don’t let him drive the car, but he gets to let me know when he wants to stop for ice cream.
When I stopped fighting the inner child, stopped forcing silence upon him, I found I had time and a voice to GUIDE him through his emotions. We gave each other room to talk with each other and not scream at each other.
(Which reminds me, have you ever tried to talk over a 12-year-old? It is impossible. They will do anything to win that battle. Great fathers know that the best guidance can only be heard when it is quiet enough to hear each other. Patience and slowing down is key.)
If you find yourself wanting to learn these tools and how to apply them, reach out to other fathers. Find the men who have been down this path with their children and with themselves and ask for guidance.
We would never deny a child the gifts of listening, acceptance, and guidance…why would we ever deny ourselves those same gifts?
Thoughts From The Woodshop
When my inner child has the wheel, setbacks at the work bench tend to get way worse than they have to. I’m not immune to throwing my hammer, cussing out a stubborn joint, or slamming down my fist from time to time.
The projects don’t go faster, they don’t go smoother, and they are not as much fun to build.
Frustration rules the day and productivity goes out the window.
Fueled by piss and vinegar I found a way to keep myself going and motivated to succeed. Anger, rage, and stubbornness completed my tasks and raised my blood pressure. That was the old me.
The new me has the tendency to laugh more, enjoy life more, and shrug off problems as “another learning opportunity.” It’s more fun. My blood pressure is at more acceptable levels.
The other night, I put the last coat of paint on the 64th door I sprayed that day. The project was heading out the next day and I was pleased with the hard work and quality of the outcome. It was late and I was ready to go home.
Until my spray hose hooked the spray stand and knocked down that wet door face down into the over-spray dust on the floor. Like a piece of toast loaded with peanut butter it flipped in the air and splatted sticky side down grabbing a heavy coat of dirt and dust.
“Motherf@#ker!” My inner child cried out. “Yeah, that is amazing how that happens on the last one,” The man chuckles out loud, shakes his head, and proceeds to fix the problem so we can go home.
The inner child was ready and willing to kick that door across the room creating more work with his outburst. The man in charge understands the frustrations but knows the door just needs to be resprayed and not rebuilt.
Where to go from here?
I see you man. I see that you are ready to engage, you are ready to create something new. I see that you are ready to pick up the tools we have available and get back to building something in your life that is beautiful, impactful, and meaningful. I look forward to seeing it.
It all starts with a question – what do you want to build?
Most of us men spend a lot of time in our heads. We have conversations with ourselves but never show that thinking and feeling side to anyone else. The question and answer example above is exactly like the wise conversations we have every day ALL day in the Mentoring Men Community. This is the smartest, strongest, most caring and courageous group of men I’ve ever known.
We meet weekly for group coaching calls and have deep conversations with men around the world 24/7. This online men’s group is like none other out there. This is what we hear.
“Thank you, Thank You, Thank You for reminding me of who I really am and helping me kill that annoying hummingbird. My wife has seen an immediate change in my attitude and outlook while she has struggled to make progress of her own. She has even made the statement that “I want to be where you are and want to find something that I can connect with and that will make me a better person.”
Join us and start changing your life faster than you ever thought possible.