“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. Embrace fear, 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

Dialogue vs Debate

When you are trying to win an argument, the relationship loses. You can discover mutually satisfying solutions when you are open to dialogue…

Dialogue vs. debate

Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.

In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
In debate, winning is the goal.

In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement.
In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.

Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view.
Debate affirms a participant’s own point of view.

Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation.
Debate defends assumptions as truth.

Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position.
Debate causes critique of the other position.

Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
Debate defends one’s own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.

In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs.
Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.

In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
In debate, one searches for glaring differences.

In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions.
In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.

Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.

Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.

Dialogue remains open-ended.
Debate implies a conclusion.

Adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR). Source: http://en.copian.ca/library/learning/study/scdvd.htm

 

Steps to Healing Conversations

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” ~Cheryl Richardson

steps to healing conversations

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.”
~Stephen R. Covey
I synthesized these steps for adult conversations. When applying these steps, please be compassionate with yourself and others. Change is hard, especially as our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy patterns of interaction because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect discomfort, resistance, and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/soul and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Change is only possible if you take responsibility for your needs and actions as well as consistently make authentic efforts to change and empathetically listen. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process.
You can learn more about me and my online 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 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

Non-Violent Reality

Non-Violent Reality

“Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.”
― Gary ZukavDancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Every moment is a gift where we can learn to choose how we want to respond. I believe we are all born inherently good and that all negativity comes from a state of stress. Stress results in our brain-body and central nervous system when we perceive a threat to our wellbeing or worldview; have unmet needs; have a build-up of toxins (emotional, chemical, physical, environmental), and/or lack of skill. When we take time to notice our thoughts, feelings, thoughts, actions, and sensations and find positive, safe ways to process them, then we can connect to our wise self and respond in compassionate ways to get our vital needs met as well as ease stress for all those involved. We can transform fear to love, stress to resilience and trauma to wisdom when we choose to expand our awareness and be (a) present. Embrace your fears, love more, and trust the process.

Deep breaths, baby steps and take wonderful care and yourself and one another ❤

Debra