Or all about ‘Glitching’ a concept within the Multilevel Emotion Regulation Theory – MERT

“After a fight we cuddled. My son put his hand on my heart and said ‘Mummy, when Glitchy is out she gets in the way of your heart,’ his remark shattered Glitchy in an instant.” Mum of a five-year-old son


We are all evolutionarily defined to repeat the behaviour of our parents. Our brain figures that because we are still alive it must have had survival value, therefore to live differently from what has been ingrained in us takes an excess of energy and emotional resilience. This means that when we are tired, worried or stressed we may not have the necessary energy to live or parent differently, and we call that ‘Glitching’. We will glitch back to repeat the behaviour and family dynamics modeled by our own parents, even when we are clear that we would like to parent differently. 

At PowerWood, we applaud all individuals and parents who manage to raise awareness around their own glitching and stay compassionate with themselves. Stepping  away from glitchy behaviour is not easy as it is so unconsciously deeply ingrained, therefore it is important not to feel guilty when we glitch, because, let’s be fair, it is just not easy to do it differently and change our ways. 

Simone’s story

“When my children were young I was shocked to find myself raising my voice and losing my temper just like my mother did, when I had decided not to ever do that as it had terrified me as a child. I felt so guilty and ashamed. It was a real journey and took me a lot of energy, time and effort to do it differently and, of course, I did not always manage. Fortunately, with hindsight it was good enough (according to my now grown children;).”

We are not all lucky enough to grow up with very loving and highly emotionally regulated parents. Therefore, to be able to react, think and feel differently we need an excess of energy, as we are going against our ingrained patterns. 

Glitching as a flag-up

All people sometimes glitch back to unwanted behaviour but instead of letting it upset us, we can use it to our advantage..

Glitching and losing control is a flag-up that our Baseline – our energy level and emotional resilience – is low, and we need to nourish ourselves. When we are aware we are glitching, we can say something like: “I’m proud and grateful to be aware that I have had a not helpful thought/action/feeling and I will do the 4-7-8” (for more information read The Awareness Mantra and the 4-7-8 breathing technique).

This way we are also modelling to our children how we cope with our overwhelm. 

If we realise after the event, we can still apply the mantra when we remember – as this is still helping us keep up our Baseline and challenging potential negative thought loops.

For our children it’s not a biggie

Also remind ourselves that even if we fall back to the parenting of our own parents, which will happen, it is OK.  We think our children will experience our behaviour in the same way we experienced it in the context of our own childhood family, which is not the case. For our children it happens in another context – they feel free to express what they think, comment on our behaviour and react with anger, probably behaviour that we would never have dared to express as we were growing up. 

Our biggest gift to our children

Fortunately we do not have to be perfect. As a parent we model to our children the effort and dedication we are putting into both connecting with our child and working on our own  awareness. In doing so, we model to our children that it is always possible to change, we are never stuck, we can always make improvements as long as we apply ourselves, which is the biggest gift we can give our children.

How to repair the connection

Often when we glitch, or have glitched, we feel overwhelmed by shame and utterly devastated. 

If needed, when there has been someone on the receiving end of our glitch, just say lightly as soon as you are aware, “I’m sorry, I was glitching, I need to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique.”

Soon our children will tell us before we explode:

“Mum you’re glitching, you have to do the 4-7-8.”

Use your guilt to make a tiny little step towards your personality ideal acknowledging that when you are moving up, your personality ideal will move upwards too. At PowerWood we refer to this journey towards our personality ideal as the Gap energy,  and it’s all about the journey – perfection is neither possible nor sustainable.

This way, we use this situation to grow emotional credit and awareness, and strengthen our emotional resilience. When we do this, we can write about it in a PowerBook, a tool we use to strengthen our Baseline.

Take really good care of yourself

If you continue to feel low in energy and emotional resilience you might want to consider looking at your Runway in more detail, e.g. minimising the number of social occasions or challenging situations, and do anything from the back of your PowerBook to up your Baseline. One of the ways we use the PowerBook is to note down ways in which we can self soothe. When we are upset, it is not always obvious to us how to take care of ourselves, having a handy list written down takes the decision-making out of the situation.

Saying sorry

Saying sorry is a very important skill in society to make social relations work smoothly.

We are all lovely, imperfect people who are continually growing, so of course we will sometimes do things that we regret in hindsight. Glitching and learning through trial and error is part of healthy development, whatever age we are. 

Sometimes with our behaviour or words we might have hurt someone or stood in their way, and it is time to apologise. No biggie, everybody sometimes says stuff they don’t mean, or miscalculates how something might affect someone else. When this happens, of course that needs to be followed up with saying sorry, because being connected has value and being able to repair relationships is a valuable life-long skill.

How to

When we realise that we have made a ‘mistake’ or hurt someone we can experience a stress response. So, before you apologise, do the 4-7-8 breathing exercise and check in with yourself that you are relaxed enough to not get easily triggered nor trigger the one you are apologising to. 

Saying sorry is about being able to hold the space for someone else to react directly to your apologies without further escalating the situation.

The Sound 

Apologies are most helpful if they are genuine and not too detailed – preventing argumentative talk and/or retriggering the other. They work best when focusing predominantly about the pain or disadvantage caused by us and allowing the other to express whatever they need to without us getting emotionally involved. 


Situation: Mum was worried about their daughter using drugs and read her diary (which was an automatic stress reaction in her overwhelm, if she had been able to think clearly she would have never broken the trust with her daughter – read more about the different stress responses here), which confirmed that the situation was indeed worrying. The daughter found out because, when she lied, her mother used the text from the diary to disprove her lie. The daughter was deeply shocked and shouted to her mum: “I can never trust you and never want to talk to you again.”

Although the mum had in first instance found it difficult to overstep the boundary of reading her daughter’s diary, she felt righteous (fight stress response) about reading it because it proved that her daughter had been lying to her (defensive need for justification).

When mum and daughter had finally calmed down mum could finally apologise without triggering a new argument by letting her daughter vent about the invasion of her privacy, while holding the space for her.

Shame and guilt

Shame and guilt, and any other Gap-energy might also trigger our defense mechanisms even when we apologise. Experiencing uncomfortable feelings around apologising is quite common and might trigger us to become defensive or critical, which may take the power out of an apology. 

Imagine your son just called you the B-word and he comes to you and says ”Mum, I’m really sorry I was so rude, but it was because you disturbed me when I was just winning in my game.” That might not really work well, would it?

Or imagine you just verbally lashed out to your child generalising her behaviour, you shouted “You never do anything in the household (critical)” while sighing and rolling your eyes (non-verbal contempt). Ten minutes later you feel guilt and shame about your own behaviour and feel still upset, although now with yourself,  and you walk up to the room of your daughter and you say “I’m really sorry”. A scenario that familiar to us parents with emotional overexcitability (OE) is to react in a fawn-stress response and try to make up for our ‘mistake’, then before we know it we have promised to take our daughter shopping next weekend, even though time and money are tight. A promise that we haven’t thought through, and might regret later.

What we can do with the guilt

When someone has been on the receiving end of our glitch, just say lightly as soon as you are aware, “I’m sorry, I was glitching, I need to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique”.

Soon our children will tell us before we explode: “Mum you’re glitching, you have to do the 4-7-8“.

Please use all your not helpful feelings caused by the Gap energy to make tiny steps towards your personality ideal, acknowledging that when you are moving up, your personality ideal will move upwards too and that it is all about the journey.

We grow our Baseline, build emotional credit with ourselves and others, deepen our emotional resilience and grow awareness when we’re not able to behave the way that we want.

This way we use whatever life throws at us and our own and others’ reactions to strengthen ourselves. 

© 2020 Simone de Hoogh

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