Negative effects of toxic stress

All negativity comes from a state of stress within our central nervous system. Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming to our body and mind. Stress can come in the form of having big and conflicting emotions at once, lacking skills and not knowing how to handle the situation appropriately, or having unmet needs like nutrition, rest, connection, etc. Any stress that goes on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood can become toxic and traumatic.  Naturally, experiences that involve actual or perceived death or serious injury increases the potential for toxic levels of stress and trauma. Toxic stress and trauma lead to dysregulation which is being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s window of tolerance and does the following:

  • Alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections;
  • Creates unconscious emotions of fear;
  • Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions;
  • Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem-solving, planning, language, knowing right from wrong etc.)
  • Decreases our tolerance level and increases sensitivity to stress
  • Creates more rigid, inflexible, incoherent, temperamental and chaotic reactions
  • Click the following link for more information on Effects of Toxic Stress

Our natural stress response exists on a continuum from hyper-aroused to hypo-aroused with mild to extreme reactions. Hyper-aroused is when we are over-active, on alert and in fight or flight mode. In this state, we may act out aggressively or feel anxious. Hypo-aroused is when we shut down and are in a state of freeze or collapse mode. In this state, we are disconnected within ourselves and with others. We tend to withdraw and feel numb, empty and/or depressed. Just as we are all different, so are our responses to stress. There are many contextual layers that influence the variance in our responses and the likelihood of negative effects like our window of tolerance, temperament, environment, genetic expression, the availability of protective and supportive relationships along with the presence of risk and resiliency factors.

Our experiences, especially the ones in childhood, create our templates and filters for how to process stimuli and stressors and how to respond. The first three years of life creates the blueprint for all future relationships. Most caregivers do not realize how impactful their reactions, mood, and behaviors are on their children. Children depend on caregivers for everything so if a caregiver is unavailable, angry, depressed, neglectful, out of control or acting in a way the child doesn’t understand, then the child will perceive this as a threat to their livelihood which will activate their stress response system. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter if the stress is a real threat or not as our central nervous system just has to perceive it as a threat. Our perception and interpretation of a current event instantly get filtered through our past lens of experiences and developed belief system. I highly recommend learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences affect our health.

From my experience, negative consequences such as conflict, “disorders” and “diseases” are the result of an overstimulated, fearful and dysregulated central nervous system which manifests itself through different reactions and symptoms dependent on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why they’re so many new diagnoses, disorders, and diseases as they keep evolving along with the dynamics and increase of toxins within our minds, bodies, relationships, environment, and our world.

As a society, we have failed to promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get our vital needs met. We all have vital needs to feel safe, love, connected, heard, and understood. When we meet these needs, then we can naturally calm our central nervous system which allows us to access our higher brain functions and innate intelligence as well as integrate new positive experience and coping skills and even heal past trauma. When we consistently meet these vital needs, our central nervous will become securely integrated. When our brains are well integrated then we can optimally process stimuli, self-regulate, connect as well as enable more intricate functions to emerge like insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. This in-depth level of integration results in greater kindness, resilience, and well-being. We need to be child-wise and relationship-rich society.

To learn more how you can promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get your needs met in your family, check out my post Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

You can learn more about me and my online therapeutic services at WeCounsel

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

11 rules for Being Human

Positive Reframe...

Rule 1: You will receive a body.

You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.

You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.

A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.

There is no part of Life…

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Positive Reframes and the energy you transmit

I have found that shining a light on others’ strengths and positive intentions or traits cultivates more positivity and connections for all.

Positive Reframe...

The energy we choose to direct at children will be absorbed, internalized, and reflected back out. This process is dynamic and rapid especially when you consider the following:

  • The quality of attachment between the primary caregiver (most often the mother) and the child during the critical and sensitive period of a baby’s development becomes the blueprint for all future relationships.  (Attachment Theory by John Bowlby
  • Our bodies are made up of mostly water with babies having the most, being born with about 78%. Water molecules have been shone to change shape depending on the messages it receives. Messages of love lead to beautiful, crystallization yet molecules became disjointed and darkened when messages of hate  were expressed (see http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/aug1/consciouswater.html)
  • Much of early human development and learning is done through implicit learning, that is learning from experience without intention or awareness 
  • Children (under age 6) are process most information using delta and theta brain waves…

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How couples can thrive through parenting…

Positive Reframe...

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely…

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I have something magical I want to share

There are many proactive and respectful ways to respond that reduce stress, promote healing and connection as well as and maximize human potential.

Positive Reframe...

You know when you have discovered something that brings you vitality, peace, and joy and you just want to share it with everyone you meet?…That’s how I feel about parenting and committed partnerships. Yet I have noticed that sharing my expertise is sometimes like a double-edged sword. These relationships are a deeply personal and often laden with landmines. The slightest expression of a contradictory belief often sets off a chain of reactions and defense mechanisms. Even sharing a positive reflection or experience can incite unconscious triggers, insecurities, and fears.

My relationships with my children and partner have become a sustainable source of peace, love, trust, security, and nurturance. Now, don’t get me wrong, my kids still go through all the challenging stages of development, yet instead of judging their behavior as something is wrong with them or as a result of something I have done (or not done), I am now better able…

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“Only Love Today” and Comfort zone

I started reading Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford”. It is an absolutely amazing book. So much so, as I was reading it, I found myself repeatedly saying, “Yes!” “I know!” “I do that.” and so on. I set it down for a few weeks as this way of life is truly etched in my being.

Recently, I pushed my son out of his comfort zone to do something he had never done before and it didn’t go as I hoped. I have learned not to be attached to outcomes but his strong negative reaction and feedback caught me off guard. I sadly, took his reaction personally, causing me to react negatively and I struggled to be a compassionate listener for him. I could even see my overreaction and the negative dynamic I was feeding yet I could not stay connected to my wise mind and heart and be there for him as I usually am. This made me feel even worse.

To put things in perspective, only 20 hours had passed since the initial triggering event occurred till the time it took me to feel at ease with it, and I am going through some physical health issues thus unusually wore out. In fact, I was on my way to the hospital for an iron fusion, when I decided to grab the book, “Only Love Today” as my reading material for appointment and travels. I had a feeling it could help ground me and get me back to my center. As soon as I got on the ferry and opened the book to this oh-so-relevant reminder:

 

 

I love synchronicity! Synchronicity is when events seem to somehow magically connect to one another and take on some meaning that provides guidance as they relate to our current emotional states and inner experiences. So there I was on the ferry, with tears streaming down my face, knowing how every word of this is true and exactly what I have been trying to get my son to understand yet my negative reaction fueled our deepest fears.

The more I sat with this, the more tears came but I was acutely aware I was in a public space. I was uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even more synchronous is this uncomfortable and vulnerable situation relates to my son’s recent experience and journey. I am a female and afraid to cry and be emotional, it is even 100 times worse for him. He seems to have inherited my highly sensitive trait. We feel and process deeply as well as absorb and internalize sensory information at overwhelming rates. We are like sponges and find it to be a monumental task to stop the absorption. The best way I have found to slow it down is to take deep breaths, to non-judgementally notice and connect to all my senses, and send compassionate messages to myself and all those involved that counteract the deep fears and irrational core beliefs.

Here’s another quote I really enjoying during these times of transitions:

“This week I invite you to surrender to the cycles of your life and your reality. Accept the beauty of where you are in your lifecycle, whether you are cleansing, purging and renewing or growing, expanding or even ending. Love yourself as you move through change and transition. There is no ‘perfect’ way to navigate through it all. It’s okay to scream and have a temper tantrum if that’s what it takes to get to the other side. Releasing that energy only makes room for clarity and peace. Each step in your journey is really about growth and expansion…May you remember this week to Trust and know you are fully supported on your journey and may you remember that deep underneath all of this experience is really only the grandest expression of pure, unconditional Love.” ~Karen Curry

Change, even when for the better, is uncomfortable and difficult no matter what you do. Like the growing pains of a developing child, their muscles and bones ache from all the quick growing yet they are getting taller and stronger. You can even do everything “right” and it will still cause distress as there are so many variables out of your control. This is the crux of life, learning how to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I know that all negative and painful events have inherent value in our lives which will shine through in time when we least expect it.  All the reasons why I made the conscious choice to push my son outside his comfort zone were valid. As hard as it is to know a choice I made upset my child, it is impossible to avoid negativity and I am would not be doing my son any favors by overprotecting him and robbing him of these opportunities to struggle through, grow, and learn from.

Deep breaths, baby steps, embrace fears and love MORE ❤

where the magic happens

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

I have something magical I want to share…

“When someone shares something of value with you, and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.” Chinese Proverb

You know when you have discovered something that brings you vitality, peace, and joy and you just want to share it with everyone you meet?… That’s how I feel about parenting and committed partnerships. Yet I have noticed that sharing my expertise is sometimes like a double-edged sword. These relationships are a deeply personal and often laden with landmines. The slightest expression of a contradictory belief often sets off a chain of reactions and defense mechanisms. Even sharing a positive reflection or experience can incite unconscious triggers, insecurities, and fears.

My relationships with my children and partner have become a sustainable source of peace, love, trust, security, and nurturance. Now, don’t get me wrong, my partner and still disagree more than agree, and my kids still go through all the challenging stages of development but instead of judging their behavior as something is wrong with them or as a result of something I did (or didn’t do), I am better able to see their perspective and love us all through the upsets more times than not. I know their negative behaviors are normal and/or symptoms of some unprocessed emotions, lack of skill, and/or unmet needs. We all just need a safe place to not to judged and to be heard and understood. Believe me, I know how hard this is to do as I am well trained at it yet still get triggered. And yes, we still have daily stressors, struggles, annoyances, tension, and conflict, yet our relationship is so secure that we can work together more quickly and cohesively to support and resolve in a regenerative way.

Now you want to know my magical formula for improving relationships?… It is taking responsibility for my own crap, projections, triggers and my muddled lens. The more Iintention meme am aware of my innermost thoughts, feelings, demons, and desires, the better able I can connect the dots of my past to my current reactions and learn to respond appropriately to those in my presence. The more at ease I become with distress and my internal dissonance, the more my relationships harmonize and wellbeing improves.

You do not need parenting strategies or communication skills per se because when you give yourself permission to be you and can whole-heartily accept your weaknesses and negative reactions, then your innate intelligence to connect to your wise mind and heart as well as to another soul comes naturally. Your power to influence thus comes from your ability to recognize your own stress signals, to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, reactions and to proactively find healthy, safe, and nurturing ways to consistently get your needs met. Once you have connected to your true power, life seems to flow and expand exponentially. I want to highlight that taking responsibility for processing your stress and getting your needs met has nothing to do with blaming anyone, not even yourself.

The trickiest part to this magical formula is that our negative reactions are often unconscious, meaning we are not aware we are thinking, feeling or doing them. Much of our childhood, especially under the age of seven, gets absorbed unconsciously as well as negative events that have not been processed or have been misunderstood also get stuck in our unconscious brain. Sadly, many of us have not experienced a safe space to process and make sense of our conflicting thoughts, feelings, and events. A safe space where no one wants to criticize, shame, blame, fix, or judge you and lets you, be you.  Ideally, this safe space would be provided by our parents and family of origin, then by our partners. Again this isn’t about blame. You parents did the best they could with the resources they were aware of from their own level of consciousness.

Yet, the reality is that our vulnerable selves are perpetually being bombarded by negative stimuli and messages and we continue to not have enough outlets to process these experiences in order to optimally integrate into our beings. So instead of learning how to process negativity, we are forced to react, shut-down connection, and rely on external objects for coping skills as well as internalize that other’s cannot handle us at our most vulnerable state. The build-up of these unprocessed negative experiences becomes toxic and will get expressed through our behaviors and bodies. Then you combine the added stress of being afraid of upsetting the people you love most and depend on, it is no surprise then that our loved ones become a trigger, constant battle, and a drain.

It’s science, really, when we perceive a threat to our livelihood, our stress response automatically gets activated, negatively affecting our ability to regulate, reason, learn, grow, heal or connect. The more this keeps happening, the stronger the negative patterns and cycles get and the more energy it takes to soothe, process, and re-program. Fortunately, there are many proactive and respectful ways to respond that reduce stress, promote healing and connection as well as and maximize human potential. And even though you are not to blame for what has happened to you in past, you are responsible for what you choose to do today, especially once you become aware of how your actions are affecting your wellbeing and others.

The good news is all negativity can be healed in safe, nurturing, and responsive relationships including the relationship you have with yourself. What are you needing to feel alive, satisfied and joyful? What are your intentions and are your actions, thoughts, and feelings aligning with those intentions?… If not, what is keeping you from being your best connected and authentic self? You are the expert of your own life and deserve to take the time you need to nourish yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

To learn more about my approach to parenting, click here Teaching Responsibility and How couples can thrive through parenting…

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Hence the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only as this online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

How embracing negativity brings positivity…

It always amazes me how a genuine, simple acknowledgment of one’s feelings will almost instantly relieve the tension and transform to positive energy.

Positive Reframe...

“The first step to take is to recognize that ALL emotions are healthy. In our culture, feelings such as joy, peace, and courage are seen as good feelings, yet feelings such as sad, mad, and scared are seen as bad feelings. Let’s rethink this to understand that it is not the feeling itself that creates negativity; it is the lack of expression of the feeling that creates negativity.  And in children, this negativity is often expressed through poor behaviors.” ~ Heather T Forbes

It always amazes me how a genuine, simple acknowledgment of one’s feelings will almost instantly relieve the tension and transform to positive energy. This often leads to feeling understood, accepted and normal. Being receptive, sensitive, and in tuned to other’s needs and unique qualities builds trust and gives them the confidence to move on. And even though I have witnessed this beautiful transformation time and time again…

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