New filters to live by…

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy and curiosity.

 

As human beings, we are constantly absorbing stimulation from all our senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, sounds, and intuition). In order to function efficiently, our brains filter the stimuli to prioritize and respond. Our initial filter is to determine if the stimulus is a threat. If we perceive a threat, then our stress response system kicks in and we react to protect ourselves. There are more steps that occur instantaneously in this complex process. Yet ultimately, the presence of a calm, nurturing, and safe person and/or connection to secure, positive beliefs and memories can stop the stress response from taking over. Thus promoting resiliency and more positive, secure connections within our mind, body, soul, and relationships.

After receiving counseling and training in trauma and brain development, I discovered I was a highly sensitive person who experienced complex trauma. My central nervous system was also often in a hyper-aroused state. So along with having enhanced sensory sensitivity, I was hypervigilant and intensely surveying every environment I was in. I had a tendency to perceive stimuli as threats and had exaggerated reactions. I was able to pinpoint specific traumatic events that occurred during sensitive stages of my development and in my parents’ lives that I accepted that I was essentially born, wired in fear.

When I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, overtired and not prioritizing my needs, I was constantly feeling triggered.  I was having strong negative reactions during my own children’s sensitive stages of development. Fortunately, I was aware of what was going on in me so I reflected further on what my biggest fears were. Then I came up with specific statements that targeted those fears and provided compassionate and trusting beliefs to filter the stimuli and my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator. I followed my impulse to take it down and scribbled down the following statements on it:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy, and curiosity.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which I knew was happening when my children were upset or acting out and I connected to my “felt sense”. I would notice my chest tighten, heart racing, my body trembling and overheating, my voice tone shifting up, and negative thoughts flooding my brain. I would also take deep breaths and step outside for fresh air.

I refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their negative thoughts and feelings so that they could securely connect to their innate intelligence and shine through any negative stimuli. I loved the visual of the rainbow my son drew and reminded me how the sun shines through and creates a rainbow after a storm. Here is what this creation looks like… 

 

Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to believe when I got triggered. We all can get triggered and easily fall back to negative habits and reactions. The goal is to take responsibility for your triggers: Notice when you are getting triggered, what are you thinking, feeling, and doing; and what will you choose to do to get through it faster. 

Healing our triggers often takes time so be compassionate with yourself as you go through this process. The ability to even notice your triggers and negative reactions is progress even if you cannot stop them yet. Awareness is first to step so when you catch your stress signals or negative reactions, do something nurturing, breathe, and love yourself through. I like to remind myself how it takes an average of 21 times to repeat a new behavior before you make a positive, secure connection in your mind, body, soul and in the relationship itself. The deeper the issue, the more times it takes. Do your best to celebrate each step and choose love over fear. Today is a present, open it with grace, joy, and curiosity.

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you ❤   

Debra Wallace MS LMFT Wecounsel Online Profile

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 Therapist in the state Illinois, USA

 

Anxiety, Sleep, and Trying Again and Again…

I have had a unique relationship with Anxiety my whole life. Anxiety had affected just about every facet of life, especially sleep. For as long as I could remember, I had trouble falling asleep. I would lie awake for hours worrying, and replays of my past experiences and decisions haunted me. In 2005, it got even worse; I would wake up in the middle of night and could not fall back to sleep no matter what I tried. I complained that it was my stressful job and my partner watching violent TV shows at bed time. I desperately needed to sleep and wanted my job and my partner to change.  Anxiety continued to sabotage me. In order to get a peaceful night of sleep, I had to do the following:

Step 1: I had to accept that my job is stressful and that I cannot control other people’s reactions/behaviors.

Step 2: I had to take responsibility for getting my own needs met.

I finally dragged myself back into therapy and my therapist recommended listening to an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing; click here to learn more) CD which plays soothing sounds that alternate playing in each ear to mimic REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Guess what I told her? … “I tried that, it didn’t work.” I did try it two times about a year before. I had put my boom box on my bed (very uncomfortable) and then the CD started skipping at song 4. She said she’d make me a new copy of the CD and I could go buy a portable CD player.

Easy solution right?

Step 3: TRUST

Well, I am a frugal person so I mulled over buying a portable CD player for weeks. My husband didn’t think it was necessary purchase. I thought of all the things he buys that seem frivolous to me and decided to trust my therapist’s suggestion to buy one. Suffering from anxiety of course, I stood in front of the CD players for 20 minutes and still couldn’t decide. I even had to call my sister for advice on which player to get (I am 30 year woman at this point).

Step 4: Put my words into action and implement plans.

I finally bought one for $30, which of course I felt guilty about. I put in the batteries and new EMDR CD to go to bed only to find out that the CD is not working properly; the music was not alternating between ears. I complained to my husband and he suggested maybe the headphones are not in stereo. So he finds me another pair from around the house. It worked!!! I had to listen to the CD twice but I did fall asleep peacefully. When I woke up in the middle of the night and listened to it, and it soothed me again but then I ran into another hurdle…because I was using batteries, the player ran out of power right as I was falling asleep. A few days later, I had no more batteries to replace with. I kept buying more and more batteries but they ran out so quickly. I was so irritated and ready to give up…

Step 5: Love myself through trial and error!!! Give myself permission to feel exasperated and any other negative feelings. Believe in success.

So I told myself: That I can work through this. I know this will work. I have to keep trying.

For a couple weeks I kept trying different power adaptors around the house. On my 4th attempt about 2 weeks later, I found a working adaptor. Eureka!!! I was able to fall asleep …except the bulkiness of the headphones limited my sleeping positions. I complained again. My husband found me a pair ear buds.

Finally, after 20 years I was able to fall asleep with no problems and sleep through the night. The progress was gradual and rocky. I needed to listen to the entire CD a couple times to fall asleep and would still awake in the middle of the night. Then I got to fall asleep after one time through the CD and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night. Eventually, it got to where I’d fall asleep during the first song. After about 3 weeks* of listening to the CD every night, I could fall asleep with out it. I changed a problematic behavior and situation in two months with no drugs. Now, I only use it once in a while. It took a heavy dose of: acceptance, taking responsibility, trust; commitment to act with perseverance, unconditional love, and support from people who genuinely care about my needs.

  • It takes on average, 21 times to repeat a specific behavior to make a secure connection in your brain and within your relationships.

So when it comes to positive, healthy, and proactive changes, please try again and again. Genuine and sustainable healing takes time. Trust the process.  ~Debra

Here is a link to a EMDR CD target for Anxiety: anxietyreleaseapp

This is not the CD used though I have read and used included CD of Mark Grant’s book: Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain success and progress

Negative thoughts and the gift of rising again

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty/shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through much of my life and often triggers me into a dismissive reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted our attempts. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stresses.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way and that I will keep working on improving myself. I then shared a story of how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded how blessed we are that *God gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are really just symbols of the gifts God gives us everyday. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You,” gave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He began to hug and say “thank you” to all the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft  blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was being I Believe In Me. Listening, holding a safe place, using respectful touch, and acknowledging feelings allows negativity to process which naturally leads to calming down and making new connections. The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish every one to see the beauty and miracles given everyday and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

~Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.

Who’s the Boss?

Much of recorded civilization operates from the assumption that there needs to be hierarchy, someone at the top, a boss to lead, to have power over. My son will sometimes report that I am the boss of him and he has to do what I say. I reflect back that yes, it does feel like I am telling him what to do a lot. I tell him that I don’t want to boss him around and that I want him to be his own boss.  I do know it is my job to protect and teach him healthy behaviors so when he does things that jeopardizes safety or health, I tend to interject. But upon great reflection and listening to my son, I stopped my re-directions, lectures, scowling, and controlling reactions etc. I began to reflect what I was seeing, identifying feelings, and trusting him to figure it out. It might take longer, things break and get messy, and he will get hurt, yet he learns what he was meant to learn every time I “let go.” I am amazed and feel great relief every time I do it. Of course when the threat is of imminent loss of life or limb, I will still jump in but really how often does this happen. I choose to live my life in trust, not fear.

Once when he was playing a video game on our computer. I realized that I could not listen to my music on the computer while he was doing this. I felt irritated and entitled to be able to listen to my music on my computer. I snapped at him that he now had a shorter time to play. I felt the negativity tighten my body and heard the shrill in my voice. I stopped myself and decided to share with my son my feelings in a calm, neutral tone. I let it go and started another conversation with my partner. Within moments, my son turned the sound off his game then opened up our music files and asked what music I would like to hear. All of this happened in a less than five minutes.

I could cite 1000 interchanges like this where my children teach me about the power of love and trust, but honestly this is something one must brother gently leading the wayexperiment with and experience the connection for themselves. Personally, my children get me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy life to the fullest in every moment that I am open to. I welcome my son’s so-called “back talk.” He makes valid points and gets me to change fear-based habits. I believe we were all created equal, this includes children. I even think children have greater insight and personal power because their body/mind/souls have absorbed less negativity or interference and are more connected. I work everyday to let go, fear less, and love more. To lead by example and use power-with instead of power-over. It is hard to let go and can be scary due to life’s unpredictable nature and the fact that many of us are completely unfamiliar with it.

This may help, imagine having a controlling boss, the ones who would like to dictate everything and seem to never be satisfied, focuses on what you do wrong… Now how happy and well adjusted would you be if you lived with that boss 24/7?

Resources

Kids who talk back become more successful adults

I am so glad I trusted all the amazing souls from the following organizations who gave me tools to use my skill and power for the better and with love:

http://www.postinstitute.com/

http://coaching-forlife.com/index.html

http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

http://www.childtrauma.org/

The Love We All Need and Deserve

 “The essential message of unconditional love is one of liberation: You can be whoever you are, express all your thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. You do not have to be fearful that love will be taken away. You will not be punished for your openness and honesty…There may be days when disagreements and disturbing emotions may become between us. There may be times when psychological or physical miles may lie between us. But I have given my word of my commitment…So feel free to be yourself, to tell me of your negative and positive reactions. I cannot always predict my reactions or guarantee my strength, but one thing I do know: I will not reject you! I am committed to your growth and happiness… There is nothing else that can expand the human soul, actualize the human potential for growth, or bring a person into the full possession of life than a love which is unconditional. We have labored for so long under the delusion that corrections, criticism, and punishments stimulate a person to grow. We have rationalized the taking out our own unhappiness and incompleteness in many destructive ways…Unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow…Of course, free will is a factor in every human life. Everyone must say his or her ‘yes’ to growth and integrity. But there are prerequisites. And one of these is someone must empower me to believe in myself and to be myself. ”

 Excerpt from Unconditional Love  by John Powell

Family HugThis description of love is the epiphany of what I aspire to cultivate. I am blessed to reap the benefits of this intense connection. My marriage has liberated (and challenged) me in ways I have never dreamed of. The problem therein lies that although we all deserve this unconditional love, we become to feel resentful when we don’t get it. This resentment then distorts our efforts to give our love unconditionally as well as thwarting those who wish to give it back. It very quickly becomes a volcano of negative core beliefs, triggers, unmet needs and hurt. I see resentment push our children over the edge and make amuck of marriages. We wonder how a couple can be so in love on their wedding day then filing for restraining orders or divorce years later. When I listen to people talk to their children and/or partner, I am not surprised by our state of affairs.  So when your child says they hate you, or your partner says they no longer love you (although they usually “act out” way before ever saying this, and kids are more honest and direct), do you retaliate with the things they did wrong or listen to their fears, hurt and needs?

An example of focusing on the positive in a typical family day…

An example of focusing on the positive, being response-able versus reactive, the power of reflection, and my partner and I working together as a team to uphold our family values…

One of my parenting triggers is when my kids scream from another room for my attention. When I am regulated (i.e. well nourished, calm) then my positive response is, “I can better hear you if you come to me.” Now when I notice that the kids screaming for me from another room has become a habit. I take time to reflect on my own behaviors. I can say with certainty, that 9 out of 10 times, I am committing the same offense that I am getting angry at my loved ones for doing. Just now I shouted at my son from another room to take out the compost. My partner kindly said, “If you would like us to hear you, you will need to come here.” Fortunately, I was also regulated enough at that moment that I actually felt my own negativity and hypocrisy as I shouted and I was resilient to accept my partner’s valid request. I’ll be honest, there are many times I am dysregulated (ie. stressed, not well nourished) and I react negatively which I have many self-care plans in place to go do then. I finished my tasked, then walked over to apologize to my son and asked him nicely to take out compost before his grandparents arrive home. His dad agreed and said, “how about you do it now.” My son got up without complaint which I thanked him for doing so. As he put on his boots he said, “Well, I did complain in my mind.” We giggled and I said, “It’s normal to have resistance first and it matters more to me how you chose to act.”

Take wonderful care of yourselves and your family. ~Debra

An example of turning “No” to “Yes”:

While cuddling in bed with my 4yr daughter one morning, she asked if she could play on the I-pad. I’ll be honest, there was a big part of me that dreaded to already hear this request so early. Instead of reacting with a snappy “No” (which I really wanted to do), I chose to stop my negativity and respond with, “We have to do are Good Day Principles first.” She then started to count off pointing her index finger in the air, “1- drink water, 2-  eat healthy food, 3-exercise, 4- do math, 5- ice skate, 6- write messages for our neighbors and give them to them.” I am happy to share that she enthusiastically did everything on her list except the lake was not safe for ice skating so she played in snow instead, then she got to play on the I-pad.

I want to highlight that she had asked me at different points during the day to help make the letters for the neighbors. Many of those moments were inconvenient times for me. When I wanted to react with a “No,” I reflected on the importance of what I was doing compared to the value we have of encouraging kindness and community connections. I was please she was enthusiastic about doing a random act of kindness. I made a conscious choice to say “Yes”. She ended up drawing pictures on note cards and I wrote:

Thank you for all you hard work and kindness. Your life is a constant stream of miracles. We are glad you are our neighbor.

[I drew a big heart per my daughter’s instructions]

Especially created for by S. A. W., age 4

My daughter sealed the envelops and added stickers. I then wrote on the outside  “It’s a beautiful  day in the neighborhood;-)”My daughter and I then walked in zero degree temperature to hand deliver. My daughter pointed out that this counts as exercise and outside time, too.

It really is amazing when you choose to make a positive step and let go of attachment to how things should be, how the positive energy just flows.

I also want thank my partner who takes my advice and positively engaged the kids to create our “Good Day Principles”. Kids are more motivated to participate in activities and internalize the importance if they are included into the process from the beginning. Yes this does take more time and it may not look how you wanted to, yet, in the long run, it will evoke positive feelings and change in the family. We also home educate so our list reflects this rhythm.

Positive attitude

Positive attitude

To deep breaths and baby steps ~Debra