Steps to Healing Conversations

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” ~Cherly 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
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,
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 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

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 present.

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

Debra

A metamorphosis from a rag to Mother…

I was one of those girls who always dreamed of being a mother. I was the go-to babysitter for my 11 older cousins, five older siblings, and our community. I worked in daycares, schools, and specialized in child development, parenting, and marriage and family therapy when I got my Master of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies. After getting married, I even chose to wait five years before having a child to ensure we worked through major issues, that my partner and I were secure and ready to start a family and have a conscious conception.

During the process of defending my thesis, I discovered I was pregnant. We chose to conceive a bit sooner in our 4th year of marriage because I was greatly sensing that many of my clients, who were parents, were not buying my positive and non-punitive approach parenting. They didn’t think I could truly understand and advise as I was not a parent. I could see where they were coming from yet wanted to prove to them that it was not only possible but ideal, and of course, my partner and I were ready.

You could imagine my shock and dismay when after my son was born, I did not want to hold him. All I wanted was to eat my bagel, drink my smoothie and be left alone. They did bring him to my chest right away as I had asked and I could see the herd of nurses and doctors and my partner taking care of him so I knew he was alive and being attended to. I shocked myself again that when they asked if I wanted him in the nursery or in my room, I was going to actually respond with ‘the nursery’ yet my partner jumped in and said our room as he would stay there all night.

I am grateful my partner asserted himself and our agreed upon goal. I was also blessed that he had three weeks off of work for family-leave to take care of our son and me. For most of my son’s first year of life, I remember many times feeling numb, exhausted and negative. I could look at my son and feel empty. When he was calm and happy, I was too but babies have many more times of crying than not. The most positive feelings I had were more often for my partner as he was so helpful, sensitive, and watching him be a father made me love him more each day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was not all a bed of roses in the marriage department either. We told family, who mostly lived out of state, to come after my partner went back to work so we could bond as a family and spread out the support. When my family came to visit, my partner and I had a huge fight about me giving preferential treatment to my family compared to his family. It wasn’t pretty and extremely embarrassing for me as it ended with my partner throwing my breakfast, tea and all, at me in bed…Apparently, he was on his way to bring me breakfast in bed when I made an upsetting comment. Fortunately, my therapist skills kicked in as I worked very hard to empathize with his feelings and needs during a long, private conversation we had in our laundry room while cleaning the feta cheese omelet and tea off our bedding.

During this time, I was also training to be a doula and had to submit my birth story as part of training. They were taken back by how negative my story was and had concerns. Their response actually surprised me because I thought my story was honest and highlighted my gratitude for my partner which was very positive from my point of view. I had also suffered from major depression for at least a decade of my life so compared to my past, I was doing amazing and actually feeling quite decent, calm and very proud of my accomplishments. Sure, I still felt more like a rag than a mother but at least I wanted to live and knew things would only get better. I had come a long way in my healing journey. I felt like I was well connected to my thoughts and feelings like I was objectively witnessing this metamorphosis. I knew this transition would be hard and messy as raising a child is the hardest and least appreciated job out there so I expected and accepted this harsh reality.

I remember when my son was about 11 months old and I was changing his diaper before nap time. That feeling of being a rag, like my sole value is to be spit on, peed on, defecated on, and to be used at one’s disposal 24/7 to clean up everything, was particularly strong that day. Being nap time, my son was extremely fussy and resistant to going to sleep while I was overwhelmed and anxious about all the things I had to get done. Our clash of needs instantly brought rage and hopelessness to my being. I put him in his crib and stormed off to my room. I took some deep breaths, reminded myself that my partner would be home tonight and he would help me like he does so I can handle this. I felt calm enough to go back to my son to gently stroke his arms and face. I looked him in the eyes and could feel calm, joy, and love.

Still gazing and warmly engaging with my son, my train of thought then drifted to my mother who did not have a husband who would come home and help her. Yes, he worked and provided money, shelter, and food yet never changed a diaper for six kids. My mother did it all. If she could do it, then I could definitely do it. There was also a current news story about a mother who killed her two children in a town near my hometown. The news started to rehash the story about Andrea Yates and how could mothers do this to their own children.

It was at that moment and for the first time in my life, I had complete empathy for those mothers. Here I was so full of resources and support yet just a moment ago, I had so much rage in me because my baby is crying at me and I could not stop him. The negative thoughts that flooded my body like “What is wrong with me that I can’t comfort my child?!” Even though my logical and wise mind knows he’s only a baby and this isn’t a personal attack on my abilities, all I could feel was inadequate, desperate, alone, and rage. Had I not had so much recovery time, resilience, support and positive coping skills, I could have easily hurt him on many occasions. I can only imagine what these women have lived through… what their relationships were like with their partners and family, … and what unprocessed trauma was tormenting their psyche and connection to body, heart and wise mind?

As a person who is passionate about cultivating healthy relationships, maximizing human potential, healing transgenerational trauma as well as prioritizes taking responsibility, self-inquiry, and reflection, I have been able to pinpoint the trauma and adverse childhood experiences that influenced my depression, my negative core beliefs and reactions as well as connect how they were negatively affecting my attachment and relationship with my son. As well-educated and empowered I was for my son’s birth, I was sadly triggered in the hospital environment and was easily persuaded to accept interventions I did not want. This set off a cascade of medical interventions that lead to a 53-hour excruciating labor and delivery 2.5 weeks earlier than expected. Yes, I know, many mothers have it worse and I should be glad my son was healthy and alive as I have had subsequent miscarriages and a stillbirth so that is painful on so many other levels. Regardless, our bodies react to pain in the same way and all we need is to perceive a threat to our wellbeing to trigger fear and a stress response. Based on my past, I got triggered which shut down the connection to my heart and wise mind when my son was born. Food and rest were all I wanted because I had not eaten in days and endured the most physical pain and exertion in my life. I was in survival mode.

After having a supportive, positive homebirth with my daughter where I did not feel fear, I noticed how alive, connected and joyful I was within my own being and with my daughter. This stark contrast made me realize that I likely had postnatal depression and anxiety with my son. Fortunately, I also had safe places to process my pain and have forgiven myself as well as applied my positive trust-based and attachment parenting to my relationship with my son. Every past relationship pattern can be healed in safe, nurturing, and responsive relationships today. He will be 14 is a few weeks and he is the most compassionate, responsible, and honest teenager I have ever known. Our relationship is a resource in my life.

So for all those parents who didn’t seem to believe me that you don’t need to punish children and that you can be kind and respectful to get them to cooperate, I am happy to report that my son is my living proof. I admit, what I did learn and did not truly understand before having children was utterly how demanding, exhausting, and challenging parenting is 24/7 thus I gained a ton more empathy for parents, especially mothers. You certainly cannot do it alone and you need as much non-judgemental and compassionate support as possible as well as prioritize your wellbeing. Keep doing things daily that nurture yourself and bring you comfort or joy no matter how small they may seem. There is also no one way to parent. It is best to connect and trust your heart and listen to your wise mind.

“Wise cultures are child-wise, and child-wise cultures do everything they can to ensure the mother and baby get off to the best start in the first 3 years of life. They understand the health of their culture depends on it…If the baby has a bonded relationship with mum, he grows heart-brain connections for the highest human qualities and so can make peaceful relationships with everyone in the group.” ~Pennie Brownlee, Dance with me in the Heart

Here is a video on creating secure infant attachment

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be experiencing signs of postnatal depression check out the following links:

8 Little-Known Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartumprogress.com

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/postpartum-depression-and-the-baby-blues.htm

7 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Disclose Their Scary Thoughts

And Dads can get it too: https://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please 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/

Take Wonderful Care,

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. 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

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 tend to withdraw and feel 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 dependant on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why there 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, 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 health.

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

 

“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

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 to witness and love them through the milestones 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. They often 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 better my relationships and wellbeing thrive. 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 chose to do once you are aware. The good news is all past negativity can be healed in safe, nurturing, and responsive relationships today.

“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

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. 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