When the bag of microwave popcorn burned at my daughter’s school and the fire alarms went off her anxiety about fires began. It’s a loud noise and they’d never held a fire drill before, so she didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. She began crying in the morning before school; was afraid to go to the bathroom while at school in case the alarm went off and she was alone in there.
We brought her to therapy for a number of months and she and the therapist worked through the worst of her anxiety. We did nurturing, connecting activities and she and the therapist explored the content of her worries. But though it got a lot better, the fear of fires has stuck around and arises here and there. Through helping her work through this and the other 9-year-old fears that arise for her, I’ve realized a valuable tool I use as a therapist with my adult clients that I think most parents should know:
“What should I have said when he asked me out?”
“What should I do on my day off?”
The word “should” is incredibly pervasive in our inner dialogues. At the heart of “should” is the belief that there’s a RIGHT way and a WRONG way. When we believe that, we are set up to struggle because our focus is outside ourselves–attempting to figure out the answer externally. Whether we learned that from critical parents, school, challenging siblings, or peers, it is our practice to UNLEARN it. We need to reconnect with the internal wisdom that is our birthright.