Lost cat and waves of grief

I was glad the words of the book Trauma-Proofing Your Kids (https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/trauma_proofing_your_kids) flowed into my mind after my daughter and I witnessed our beloved cat get hit by a car last Monday, then run away. I was able to put my feelings on the side and just be present for my daughter who was naturally extremely emotive and shocked. She likened the experience of seeing your child get hit.

Even though my wise mind knows to stay with her pain and let her process, I had noticed waves of moments of me wanting to distract her. She responded best when she told me that nothing could stop this pain so to stop trying. She continued to go on about all the sensations and feelings she was having. That’s when I remembered the book. I agreed with her then just hugged and comforted her how she needed me to. By the end of that night, she was feeling bad for the individual who hit our cat and wondered how they were coping. I was blown away by how well my daughter was handling her cat being lost and not knowing what condition she was in.

To actively process our grief, we posted signs, went to all the neighbors’ houses, we went on searches at all times of the day, left a trail of food as well as played board games, read stories, had friends over, ate our favorite foods, and did visualizations of our ideal outcome while accepting the reality of the worst-case. Our small island community was extremely responsive and kind. We got encouraging messages and tips. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending and our cat is home safe and sound after 5 long, emotionally draining days. On the day she was found by a neighbor, my daughter mentioned feeling surprised that she had no negative feelings or worries that day. That she just had this feeling all over that our cat would be home today. We learned a lot about grief and the value of family, friends, and community.
Here is a picture of Luna Belle, Queen of the Moon Tribe (as my daughter likes to say is her full name) resting comfortably.

Image from book When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief by Marge Eaton Heegaard
Words by Dr Jessica Zucker 
Artwork by Anne Robin Calligraphy http://
shop.drjessicazucker.com/
cards/grief-knows-no

“From Neurons to Neighborhoods”

Our mother’s well-being and safety whilst we are developing in utero along with our early life experiences strongly influence our brain development. Stressful events that occurred to our parents will naturally affect us as children. Sadly, our culture is full of violence and negativity yet also doesn’t support processing negative events or emotions. The presence of at least one safe, nurturing, and responsive adult to be there for us to process emotions and negative events, especially during stressful times, is vital for well-being and positive development.

Without a safe supportive person, and instead of processing, our automatic defense mechanisms get triggered. We tend to ignore or dismiss are stress signals and negative emotions, then use distraction or substances to cope. The really hard part is to process the negative events, you have to at least acknowledge them and open yourself up to the negative emotions. Also, very few people know NOT how to react negatively and to truly hold space for someone who is processing negative emotions.

What doesn’t get processed then gets stuck in the body and unconscious levels of the brain. I highly recommend learning about how Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to health issues. The more stress or toxins (emotional, chemical, environmental, or physical) you add, the more you tax your body and the mind/body/spirit become dysregulated. The more you stay in a dysregulated state, the more harmful, pervasive, and lasting the effects. Thus, unprocessed stress kills more than anything. Our minds and bodies will unconsciously express the stress. With no safe places or skills to process the stress, it will manifest in many problematic ways like physical ailments, disease, negative behaviors, habits, and conflict consequently destroying our well-being and relationships.

Here is an excerpt from From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development; Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA, editors.Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.

“This account of early brain development emphasizes the ways in which the nervous system is designed to recruit and incorporate experience into its developing architecture and neurochemistry. Normal experience (e.g., good nutrition, patterned visual information) supports normal brain development, and abnormal experience (e.g., prenatal alcohol exposure, occluded vision) can cause abnormal neural and behavioral development (Black et al., 1998). Plasticity is a double-edged sword that leads to both adaptation and vulnerability. “…

“In this report, stress refers to the set of changes in the body and the brain that are set into motion when there are overwhelming threats to physical or psychological well-being (Selye, 1973, 1975). Stress can have dramatic effects on health and development (Johnson et al., 1992). This happens because the physiology of stress produces a shift in the body’s priorities. When threats begin to overwhelm one’s immediate resources to manage them, a cascade of neurochemical changes that begin in the brain temporarily puts on hold the processes in the body that can be thought of as future-oriented: finding, digesting, and storing food; fighting off colds and viruses; learning things that don’t matter right now but may be important sometime in the future; reproducing and rearing offspring. Many of these neurochemical changes take place in the very same brain structures (e.g., hypothalamus and brainstem) that function to regulate heart rate, respiration, food intake and digestion, reproduction, growth, and the building up versus breaking down of energy stores (Stratakis and Chrousos, 1995).”    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225562/

Positive Reframe on spilled milk

I am grateful I ran across a newsletter about Energy Parenting by Susan McLeod when my kids were little as it shown a unique light on my parenting and spiritual  journey. Here an excerpt from newsletter:

My parting story is borrowed from Jack Canfield about a mother and a young child. It sums up for me the essence of all things energy parenting:

A research scientist famous for dozens of medical breakthroughs was asked by a reporter why he was able to achieve so much more than the average scientist. He traced it to this early experience: When he was 2 years old, he tried to get the milk out of the refrigerator and ended up spilling all of it on the floor. His mother’s response wasn’t typical. She said, “What a wonderful mess you’ve made! I’ve never seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage is already done, so would you like to get down and play in the milk before we clean it up?” Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “Whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you’ll have to clean it up. How would you like to do that – with a sponge or a mop or a towel?” After they cleaned it up, the mother said, “What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the backyard, fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The scientist told the reporter he knew at that moment, at that tender age, that he didn’t have to be afraid of making mistakes. He understood that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new.

Give your children and YOURSELF this same gift of “no mistakes” –  freedom to explore living, loving and being human. And…if you feel the need to cry over spilled milk, do it – before or after you clean up and have another go at it! Feelings are our friends and they only need to be felt. They are the flagpoles of our soul; we need not fear them.

It helped give me permission to let go of behavioral management of kids, to just be present and enjoy my children. The fact that I felt I even needed permission to do this gives more credence to the unnecessary suffering I endured from my messes.  I don’t have to make up consequences or enforce anything. I can just use what is inherent and experience the manifestation of human development within the most influential relationship there is: parent and child.

Reframe on “Mental Illness”

I am grateful that there is a shift in language from “mental illness” to “mental health.” I have yet to meet an individual who was diagnosed with a “mental illness” that was not surrounded in environments or relationships that were loaded with emotional, social and chemical toxins or had a significant negative event occur during critical and sensitive periods of development. Unprocessed toxins build up, dysregulate our systems, create dis-ease, leads to disconnection, disorder, and trauma, then passes on through generations until processed. Our society tends to promote toxins and violence as well as grossly neglects getting vital needs met which would best support us at times of stress and greater need. I believe this is a systematic problem and subversive dynamic which strongly contributes to the development of a “mental illness” so why should the individual bare the weight of a diagnosis and stigma?

Levine truama quote

On the flip side, I also remember what weight that was lifted when I realized I was experiencing “depression”, “anxiety”, and “C-PTSD”. It gave a name to the battles in my mind, body, and heart as well as helped me to see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. My central nervous system was responding as it should under great stress, keeping me in a heightened state of alert to process all the toxins and perceived threats. The names gave me something to target and fight against instead of myself. I am grateful for the people who saw my light, empathized, and supported me. They responded lovingly and did not react or shame me for my intensity and sensitivity as now I can truly appreciate all the trauma I had to process as it has made me a more wise, compassionate and resilient soul.

The saddest part and why issues with mental health are so pervasive is all the surrounding shame, stigma and negative judgment and reactions by others when one is vulnerable and reaches out. Consequently, this is highly likely exactly how the initial wounding occurred in childhood (i.e. being vulnerable and needing a safe, loving response yet getting punished or ridiculed instead). It is only after I felt I had healed from these “disorders” for a substantial period of time – a decade plus – before I finally started to feel less shame around sharing openly about my journey.

To be honest, a part of me is still afraid to share this post and of other’s reactions. Fortunately, my secure wise mind is stronger but this is only more proof on how insidious the toxicity of other’s judgment and reactions affect us to our core. This often makes the hardest parts of our suffering to be endured alone, steeping our mind/body/heart connections in stress hormones, deeply ingraining the negative pathways, beliefs, and destructive habits, and heightening all the symptoms all because it feels scarier to reach out… judgment and silence are violence to the soul.

Of course, there is no one perfect way to address all these issues and meet vital needs as everyone is unique. Yet, I have found that unconditional love, kindness, attunement, compassion, understanding, safety, and assertive, non-violent communication in our relationships, especially in the parent/child relationship and our partnerships, to be the most effective for cultivating mental health. #endstigma

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture. And to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us and how it affects the way we’re parenting, the way we’re working, the way we’re looking at each other….
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too. And so I’ll leave you with this thought. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path…” ~ Brené Brown

Please take wonderful wonderful care of yourself and each other. Every moment is a gift we get to choose to love or fear, judge or accept, fight or connect, heal or wound. Choose wisely as you do not know when your last moment will be.

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or visit your local emergency room

Call 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA https://www.crisistextline.org/

Outside of US, check out: http://www.defyingmentalillness.com/worldwide-suicide-help…/

Please take wonderful care of yourself… It may not feel like you can or it doesn’t seem worth it yet I know that the world needs you and what you have to offer. You deserve a safe and non-judgmental place to process your pain and discover your gift and wisdom.

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. 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 as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

“I was spanked and I’m fine!”

I understand how anyone who has been physically punished would have to make sense of being hit in some way. You would need to believe that there must be some value in it… I mean why else would the person you love and trust the most hit you and make you suffer more…You must have deserved it, Right!?!

It is a step in healing when you take the time to reflect on your upbringing. The heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people have been trained to dismiss their suffering and believe “they are fine” and that we are getting what we “need” to learn lessons and respect, then stop there as their conclusion. They don’t even know that they have other options to reconcile the conflicting messages. Stuck to rationalize it and pass on the suffering to the next generation.

From my experience, we are not fine. Seriously, look at the divorce and crime rates, suicides, homicides, the addictions and growing list of diseases… If you don’t know how these are related, then you definitely need to do your research. Start here at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The reality is the majority of our vital needs are neglected, abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed which is detrimental to our wellbeing and humanity.  The fact that one thinks it is normal and completely acceptable to hit a child during the most critical and sensitive period of human development is proof in itself that they are not fine. Even if one was “fine,” often times there are contextual variables affecting outcomes so naturally,  as humans, will find some way to rationalize and find ways in which spanking seems effective, oblivious of the resiliency factors at play or the future negative consequences.  I assure you that no matter what resiliency factors may be present, disconnection at some level has occurred, whether it be emotional, mental, physical, relational or spiritual. Spanking does to a child’s development what hitting a partner does to a marriage…

To me, we are all born inherently good and those who act ‘bad’ are those with less vital needs met and more pain to heal.  Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they are aware of, have access to, or what was literally beaten into them. Fortunately, we can heal past negative events and discover new resources. I have found that secure attachments, co-regulation, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication are the most effective ways to nurture human beings and discover mutually satisfying solutions.

Consciously choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. Ease stress, nurture needs…

Here are some resources to support positive, peaceful, and conscious parenting:

http://nopunish.net/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.ahaparenting.com/

https://www.handinhandparenting.org/

https://www.teach-through-love.com/

“By understanding and increasing just this one capacity of the human brain, an enormous amount of social change can be fostered. Failure to understand and cultivate empathy, however, could lead to a society in which no one would want to live—a cold, violent, chaotic, and terrifying war of all against all. This destructive type of culture has appeared repeatedly in various times and places in human history and still reigns in some parts of the world. And it’s a culture that we could be inadvertently developing throughout America if we do not address current trends in child rearing, education, economic inequality, and our core values.” ― Bruce D. Perry, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered

To learn more about the side-effects of spanking, click the following links:

The effects of spanking confirmed by 50 years of research

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/05/health/spanking-dating-violence-study/index.html

http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/spanked.html

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,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

 

 

Listen to what I do instead of punishments…

 

I know that every parent is doing the best they can with the resources they were given or are aware of. I also believe that everyone truly has good intent yet may lack the know-how to get their needs met in calm, respectful ways. We all can very easily feel overwhelmed and unable to express ourselves. This is extremely true for children. Even if you have told them a hundred times, they were likely overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts or emotions or some other variable and didn’t absorb the message fully. They are also learning. Learning is messy, repetitive, and challenging process at its best. It may sometimes feel that our children are out to make our lives difficult, that something must be wrong if they haven’t got the message yet, or that they are purposely not applying themselves. I assure you, they are learning. Slow down to actively listen, empathize, assert yourself and problem solve together. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to cooperate when they feel heard, empowered, and trusted to do so.

trust based responses

Here is a great article on active listening with kids:  https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/healthy-communication/the-skill-of-listening/

Here is a link to my recommended Parenting Resources

Take Wonderful Care,

blog signature

 

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 posts 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 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 exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

What motivates us?

I have learned that the most gratifying and sustaining form of motivation comes from within, intrinsically. Sadly, much of our world is built on a punitive or reward based system. Most of us are doing things to avoid pain or gain an external reward.

There are countless thoughts, feelings, and variables influencing a person’s action and self-worth. Much of these are suppressed, dismissed, ignored, unappreciated, refuted, shamed, criticized, rejected, etc. Our self-worth deteriorates into a distorted picture of what others think and by how we are treated. We focus on external things to not only judge our own wellbeing and value but to also make us feel better (or worse in most cases).

I have an extensive history of being successful: captain, honor roll student, summa cum laude, job promotions, Master’s degree, business owner, happily married, brilliant children, yet whenever anything goes slightly off, all I could see is a big fat “F” and feeling terrified of what other’s reactions may be. Most often people’s attempts to comfort felt dismissive or insulting. When I was in a depressive, stressed state and one exuberantly pointed out everything I have to be grateful for or even what I did right, it sadly only highlighted my inadequacy…that I even fail at being grateful and seeing my strengths. This may seem extreme yet this had been one my realities I had to identify and embrace.

Now I am well aware of where this all comes from as I have dedicated my life to finding peace. Fortunately, I have many, many more moments of peace and joy yet I am human and still get triggered.  These moments have grown exponentially the more I embrace my fears and follow my light. I have a history of abuse, shame, and guilt to heal. Accepting pain and negativity was the only way to survive and still be next to the people I loved and needed the most. I know from the bottom of my heart that the cast of people in my childhood were truly doing the best they could with the resources they were aware of and had given to them… You only know what you know and can’t give what you have never received.

I vow every day to give everyone the unconditional love and support they need to be honest, free and process their pain. Our universe, body, mind, and heart have a highly intelligent and sensitive communication system that regulates beautifully when innate resources are given time and space to do so.  It is amazing what the one’s will manifests when trusted and nurtured from beginning to end.  Love and connection are the ultimate inherent rewards.

The tricky part is that this ability to love unconditionally is developed in our higher, more evolved brain. Our brains develop sequentially over time from bottom to top. The more consistent, reliable and trusting support we have with someone who is safe, warm and responsive when we perceive a threat – real or imagined – and experience fear, then the more optimal and secure our connections, integration, development, and relationships are.  Our pleasure-seeking and pain-avoidance reaction is housed in our lower, reptilian brain, which is unconscious and highly sensitive thus another’s negative reaction, gets easily integrated into our central nervous system and being. It can take a lifetime to unravel these connections and discover what motivates you intrinsically. To discover this path, I recommend finding safe places and ways to process negativity as well as connect to what brings you the most joy, peace, and light to your life.

Here is a link for deeper exploration into the dynamic of avoiding pain/seeking pleasure and the parent/child relationship:

https://titaniumsuccess.com/6-rules-of-pain-and-pleasure-the-science-behind-all-human-action/

When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’  by Alfie Kohn

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

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. This 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 and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA