“Only Love Today” and Comfort zone

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

where the magic happens

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

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

 

I have something magical I want to share…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

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

What energy are you emitting as a parent?

Speaking from personal experience, every time my child would act out, I would automatically have the negative thought of “What is wrong with him/her!?” which very quickly turned to “What is wrong with me!?” and “How could I have a child act this way!?” Their negative behaviors triggered my insecurities. When in reality, all these negative behaviors were and are normal processes of a central nervous learning to integrate in an often confusing, chaotic, overstimulating, toxic, and judgmental world.

My mission in life is to maximize human potential and heal transgenerational trauma so I take providing safe and nurturing environments for all human beings very seriously. I have been able to rewire my automatic negative thoughts and connect with love, trust, and empathy. I can easily remember and connect to how I felt as a child in similar situations allowing me to know exactly how to respond to them. I believe positive intent, 42085313_10161108062170107_2361642485588951040_olower myself to below or at their eye level, and say things like, “Wow, something must have happened to make you feel this way.” “What can I do to help you?” or “Would you like a hug?” then hold my tongue, breathe and really, really listen to what my child is saying by periodically and briefly reflecting back what I am hearing without adding my opinions or solutions.

This is by no means an easy feat and takes a lot of practice and fine tuning, yet when I am able to genuinely be present, it works every single time. Notice the words “genuinely be present” these are key because I can say and do all the “right” things yet if my mind, body, and heart are not aligned, creating disharmony within my being, then that’s the frequency that gets transmitted to my child. Children are 100% tuned into their caregiver’s mood, state of stress, and resonance as their livelihood depends on it. Resonating and amplifying of disharmony is also completely normal and to be expected as raising a child is 24/7, and the energy and transformational opportunities are endless. You need the contrasting signals to know where to fine tune. You do you and trust the process. Peace begins with you.

Check out my link on how to tune in to promote resiliency and connection

❤ Debra

You can learn more about me and my services here at Officite

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

one generation

Holiday Triggers and Partnerships

Every major holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my body’s impulse is to shut down, disconnect, and cut out all pressure. My Mom slaved to create picture-perfect holidays. Most of it was magical and I am very grateful for all she did. The conflicting part for me was witnessing her killing herself to make it perfect. Sure she tried to get her six kids to help but most of it came in the form of yelling and anger as she was at her wit’s end. I just wanted to avoid her at all costs which of course stressed her out even more. It just didn’t make sense to me why she was doing all this work and seemed miserable doing it. I know now, she was wanting to give what she never had and once she earned that role, she didn’t know how to let go and set boundaries to preserve her well-being. To me, the holidays became a stress trap and really ruined the value of the holiday.

All these conflicting feelings intensified when I was 10 years old and my family of eight gathered for Christmas morning for the what turned out to be the last time celebrating all together. I will never forget it… As usual, my Mom went overboard buying Christmas gifts – shopping was her main coping skill. My Dad slouched on our lazy-boy chair, his hands nervously covering his mouth as he watched the charades. You could feel him groan as my siblings feigned enjoyment opening the overwhelming amount of gifts they could have gone with out. My Mom was ecstatic and basking in what she had given. The conflicting emotions and tension in the room consumed me. My parents separated shortly after this Christmas and there are many deep layers wrapped in this memory.

My body remembers all these layers and so every major holiday, I freeze. No tradition or holiday demand is worth sacrificing my well-being. I happened to marry a man who loves to cook lavish meals and have big parties. He truly does enjoy the process of providing a good time. He has reasonable boundaries and doesn’t go overboard yet I still get triggered. My triggered reaction of shutting down, avoiding extravagance, wanting to do less and make things simpler ends up triggering his own negative reaction related to a whole other dynamic with regards to his upbringing.

Nobody is right or wrong here, it’s just is what it is. We have had to find ways to process our feelings and each other’s reactions as well as discover ways to honor each other’s experiences and needs. 2017 was our 21st holiday season together and it is definitely getting easier yet we are still learning and growing together.  And there were many seasons we just grinned and beared it. We have two kids who naturally love holidays so we have done our best to create a few simple rituals that represent the true essence of each holiday as well as keep coming up with new ones. This year, we cut down our first real Christmas tree.WP_20171222_21_37_12_Pro

Give of yourself that brings the best out of you and create a holiday that meets your family’s unique needs. Every moment is a gift and you have the power to choose to open each moment with grace, love, gratitude and curiosity. How we feel often matters more than how things look. Be (a) present ❤

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.

Believe good intentions.

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.

In 2010, 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.

Believe good intentions.

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 do not want to pass on any more trauma onto my children yet I am aware and accept that I have. 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 whith authenticity and grace. 

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, embrace your fears and choose love. 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

Positive Reframe on Aging… “Alive Inside”

I highly recommend watching the documentary Alive Inside. For like a year, I have seen this documentary on Netflix and it was always calling me. Yet because I felt I already knew how healing music is and about human development, I kept scrolling by. But WOW! Even though it was a lot of what I know including brain development and how vital relationships and touch are for life and death, throughout the documentary, I felt elated and when I finished watching it, I was filled with tears of joy and goosebumps.

“One Good Thing About Music, When it Hits You Feel No Pain”- Bob Marley

The concept of music being healing was first validated for me when I read Deepak Chopra’s book, Timeless Body, Ageless Mind. He explained how your cells in your body will actually go back in time to feel how you actually felt during a specific time in your life dependent on the music playing at that stage. Thus, if you listen to your favorite music during your greatest times in life, then you will feel all those same feelings with the same intensity.

Since discovering, whenever someone is sick or sad, I ask them what their favorite music is and play it every time they are around me. When my father-in-law had lost his singing voice after a stroke and came to visit me, unbeknownst to him, I played his favorite music throughout his week-long visit and his voice strengthened. When my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and I was living overseas, I created a YouTube station for him and sent him songs on a regular basis. Although he did die, his wife said he loved the songs and I know that I was able to give him pockets of joy in his last months.

What I also love about this documentary is it highlights how sick and depriving our systems are. Synchronously, I opened up Leo Buscaglia’s book Living, Loving, & Learning and this passage jumped at me:

“Every human being requires conversation and friendship. Why do we assume that the needs of older people stop there? The body may creak a little but there is no arteriosclerosis of emotions. Older people literally hunger for caring and affection and physical touching just like anybody.”

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have focused my profession on children, parenting, and relationships as I want to help rewrite the blueprints we have when the brain is most sensitive and receptive, conception to age 7, in order to best to cultivate a culture whose natural response is to nurture throughout all our stages, especially at times of grief, dis-ease, and stress. Here’s a quote that relates to this and has inspired me immensely:

“[Yet] our babies are starving. Oh they have plenty of food. Our children are starving for touch; they are starving for us. Our children are starving for human interaction and human relationships…We have become advanced in some ways but, at present, our culture is developmentally ignorant. We are a child illiterate culture. We think somehow that it is better for a child to learn letters and words from television than from a parent talking with their baby. We have lost our core child-rearing truths… And there is nothing more essential to a developing child than human touch, infants rarely touched can actually become ill and die.” -Dr Bruce Perry, excerpt from the preface of Move Baby Move by Sofie Foster and Jerome Hartigan

Here’s a description of Music Alive:

“… a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity… chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music… reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HLEr-zP3fc

http://www.aliveinside.us/#alive-inside-theater

Every day is a gift to open with joy and curiosity.

Please be a present to everyone you meet!

Let go, fear less, love more ~Debra

The Roughhousing Trigger

A Positive Reframe I have had to work on is the trigger I have when my children are roughhousing and my daughter gives a blood-curdling scream even when she is having fun. I know and believe in the importance of roughhousing (see link below) yet have also suffered the harsh reality of aggression and violence. As their energy intensifies, I feel terrified and quickly jump to needing to defend and protect which sends a negative and mistrusting message to my son. As I am well aware of this negative cycle, in these moments I am choosing to focus on the strengths of my family by saying:

“I do not need to worry. I have raised two sensitive and caring children who have many skills to handle and resolve conflict.”

I’ll be honest, I do have to say it often yet It is amazing how quickly if transforms the energy. The situation went from triggering a negative reaction which was aggravating and draining for all to a conscious response that builds trust and is nurturing. This seemingly simple change in perception creates a trusting and positive experience for the whole family.

http://theartofroughhousing.com/science/

P.S. I am also very grateful I read the book Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I am utterly amazed by how loving and genuinely caring my children are together.

http://www.fabermazlish.com/pub_viewer.php?Siblings-Without-Rivalry-How-to-Help-Your-Children-Live-Together-So-You-Can-Live-Too-4

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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.

A glimpse into one boy’s emotional development

When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.

I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.

I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.

I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships.  There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.

It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in a state of fight, flight or freeze). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop.  Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.

Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:

“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”

-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World

Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.

During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.

He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.

Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that can actually be a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard and vulnerable feelings with you.  Emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered by fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to be compassionate and present with an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.

The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your presence, attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only what you are hearing them say like identify feelings.

‎”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott

I recommend the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. & Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.

http://michaelthompson-phd.com/books/raising-cain/

http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/11/17/boys-emotional-support_a_23280737/

Here’s also a video on how important it is to meet emotional needs

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

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lessons from my son meme (2)

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

Healing Song

I have inherited some devastating negative core beliefs that get triggered easily like when anything goes wrong, I instantly feel that It’s all my fault. When I break something or make a mess, I feel I am a complete failure and utterly stupid. Sadly, I have unconsciously passed this same negative tape onto my son. It has grown more apparent the more I expand my awareness for it. Even though I know they are not true, they still feel very real to my body, mind, and soul and as much I tell myself and my son they are not true, we need to heal and rewrite in the moments we feel them the most.

As we were getting ready to leave the house one day, he boisterously bounced into the wall and a picture frame crashed to the floor. As I am aware that things breaking are one of my triggers, my body viscerally reacted negatively. Almost simultaneously, my son hung his head down saying  ”I’m so stupid.” As soon as possible, I told myself out loud to “let it go” and move onto to next step. Unexpectedly, he went back to the frame to try to fix it and I reacted negatively again as I was afraid he’d get hurt from glass and we were under a time crunch.

His head hung in shame again, he stammered toward the door, muttering “It’s all my fault.”

The next feelings and thoughts poured through me in a matter of milliseconds….At first I was filled with anger and disappointment of how could he feel so bad about himself; how I don’t have the time to deal with this now; how many times do we have to go through this…then feelings of guilt and shame came of  how could I have let this self-hatred seep into my son’s self-consciousness and how come I cannot heal us both and get over it…

I caught the negative tape going wild in my mind and chose to give myself and my son the same love and compassion I wish to give everyone.

As my son turned the door handle to escape outside, I told myself I must not let him start his day this way. I ran to him as boisterously as he bounced into the wall just moments before, pulled his head up and bellowed “Raise your head.” As this was happening so quickly, I could still feel the tension in my hands.  His look instantly told me to get my body, tone, and words to match the message of love I wanted to give. I hugged him and began singing,

I love you no matter what glass breaks.

I kissed him in tune to my melody on his cheek and I looked at his eyes as they began to well up. I continued to sing:

I love you no matter what breaks.

again I repeatedly kissed him on his cheek and as I saw tears beginning to fall, I sang:

You could knock the house down and all I would care is that you were safe and sound.

followed with more kisses, he tearfully said,

“That is the kindest thing I have ever heard.”

I responded that every word of it was true and we hugged. His younger sister who was watching the whole thing then joyfully pleaded, “I want kisses on the cheek too.” We went on to have a great day and I believe some of those negative messages have healed.