~~~Go with the flow ~~~

“The simple phrase Go with the flow is actually very significant spiritually. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared that life is like a river – you cannot step into it in the same place twice. Existence is always new, yet we are tempted to be bring old reactions to it. When we find ourselves resisting anything – which basically means saying no – we are usually trying to impose an old belief or habit on a new situation.

The law of Least Effort bids us to recognize the newness of life by allowing it to unfold without interference. It tells us to be in the moment, to look for Nature’s help, and stop blaming anyone or anything outside ourselves. In the flow, spirit is already organizing the millions upon millions of details that uphold life – from the infinite processes needed to keep a single cell alive vast intricacies of evolving universe. By connecting the spirit, we ride this cosmic organizing power and take advantage of it.”

From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfilment by Deepak Chopra

This book gives concrete and simple examples of how to talk to your children about profound spiritual lessons. The Seven Spiritual Laws cited in the book are:

  1. Everything is possible.
  2. If you want something, give it.
  3. When you make a choice, you change the future.
  4. Don’t say no – go with the flow.
  5. Everytime you wish or want, you plant a seed.
  6. Enjoy the journey.
  7. You are here for a reason.
These are awesome laws to live by though I do believe that there are certain times to respectfully say “No” especially when you are giving yourself permission to follow your joy and flow. As you practice, you’ll be able to discern the difference. These principles have been unfolding in my life, especially on my parenting journey. My children are my greatest inspirations for living a life full of love and joy. Chopra’s explorations and insights are consistent with my research and experiences in human development and wellbeing.
A parent isn’t an authority. You and you child are both souls; you are both embarked on a journey of soul making…every family is a communion of souls.

Self-Regulation VS Co-Regulation or Both?

Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have a unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally. Thus based on our environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament, exposure to toxins or trauma and so on, we each need a variety of nutrients, needs, and level of stimulation and arousal to function well. When we are pushed out of our window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we perceive we are needing. The body will actually shut down certain functions based on how vital the functions are to staying alive under the current conditions we are perceiving.

You may have heard the term self-regulation which refers to being able to control oneself in order to find balance and calm within our internal and external systems. When it comes to emotions, self-regulation often means having the ability to:

1) Notice that you are having an emotional reaction;

2) Knowing what emotion it is;

3) Expressing it in a healthy and clear way; and

4) Managing the emotion in a productive way that you start to feel calm.

These abilities are aspects of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). When it comes to children, I believe there are some big misconceptions about self-soothing and regulating emotions which are causing our society great dysregulation and devastating negative consequences, like domestic violence, crime, child abuse and neglect, epidemic levels of drug abuse, bullying, and suicide.

For one, children under the age of three cannot emotionally self-regulate as the development of brain functions that even allow for this ability do not come online until age three. Secondly, the ability to self-regulate is actually first developed through the process of co-regulation, especially from conception to age seven. Co-regulation means having the consistent and dependable presence of a caregiver who can self-regulate and is safe, nurturing, and responsive, especially at times of stress. Thus to learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, we need someone to reliably soothe us during our most critical, sensitive, and distressing times of development. Sadly, many caregivers don’t have the skills themselves to emotionally self-regulate so they react negatively at the child who has less ability to process and cope. A third misconception occurs most often when kids appear to be self-regulating and controlling themselves, yet what is likely happening is that they have learned to shut down connection to their own feelings and needs and are complying out of fear of upsetting caregivers or others.

Needing someone is normal and expected based on our biology. Human beings are wired to be in relationship and connect. As humans, we function better when we are surrounded by others who are calm and nurturing. This is why family, communities and committed partnerships that are consistently safe, loving and trusting are huge resiliency factors and cultivate optimal growth and wellbeing. Realistically, life will always have stressors and filled with big conflicting emotions so it is advantageous to have reliable safeguards.

Even when the presence of a safe, trusting relationship is established and secure, and one can self-regulate well, any new variable or stressful event out of one’s window of tolerance would still require the presence of another to help calm our central nervous system, regardless of age and ability. Children are constantly being exposed to new experiences and information so they need this reliable presence in order to integrate the experiences and information into their mind and being. Considering the alarming rate at which information is streaming at us and how fast technology is advancing, the risk of being pushed out of our windows of tolerance and not getting our vital needs met is extremely high and constant.

Think about when you are in distress, do you prefer your partner or support persons to minimize, react negatively or abandon you in your distress? Or do you get calmer faster when at least one person is there who is calm and trying to understand you, who is validating and supporting you through? … It amazes me how few adults realize that when they react negatively, that this is a signal of their own dysregulation. How can one expect a child with less experience, skills, and resources to regulate themselves especially when they are feeling the added distress of their caregiver? An angry or upset caregiver is perceived instantly as a threat to a child as their livelihood depends on the mood and presence of their caregiver.

Most of our problems come from having an experience that is confusing, overwhelming, conflicting and we have no safe places to process the emotions and thoughts, thus the tension builds and we act out. Not getting our vital needs met, like feeling connected to others, and lacking skills also leads to a build-up of stress.  Most don’t even realize they have a homeostasis or what they need to function optimally let alone be able to communicate those needs to others so we keep getting stuck in deregulated states and create negative feedback loops within our bodies and relationships. We get overwhelmed by big conflicting emotions and stressors, can’t access our resources and default to hyper- or hypo-aroused state which causes more negative emotions and stress, feeding a vicious, depleting cycle.

To stop the cycle, try taking a few deep, controlled breaths now…Notice what you are thinking and feeling…What sensations do you notice in your body? There is no right or wrong way here, just notice what comes up for you. After taking sometime noticing what you are thinking, feeling and sensing, next visualize a time or place you last felt really safe and happy… Go through all your senses: what do you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste at this special safe/happy place? Notice where you feel sensations in your body while visualizing this safe/happy place?  This exercise will naturally stimulate your parasympathetic system, eliciting a relaxation response so try this next time you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. When feeling calm, take consistent steps to fill your life with safe, nurturing, joyful and trusting relationships and environments because, on the bright side, we can learn to self-regulate no matter how old we are or how negative our relationships have been.

To learn more about my online services, please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at WeCounsel .

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you connected and full of joy.

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“A healthy, balanced life requires connection and community, as much as self-regulation and autonomy. Seeking soothing in sorrow, or validation in victory, invites those around us to share their wisdom and love. Like the mother/infant loop, we give and receive regulation when we’re in caring relationships with others. Co-regulation is what makes love, and the world, truly go around.” ~Alexandra Katehakis

If you’d like to learn more about self-regulation, here are some more resources:

Self-regulation doesn’t exist!

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?

Calming together: The pathway to self-control

7 more myths about self-regulation

Why-self-regulation is most important thing in world

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-differentiation-why-it-matters-in-families-relationships-0831174

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 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 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 Illinois, USA

 

Rethinking the Easter Bunny…

Oh, Easter…my daughter has been egging me (pun intended) about Easter decorations and festivities for weeks now yet sadly I have felt irritated by her need for all of it. I know I am responsible and for good reason and intent. I have been providing magical Easters her whole life because growing up, the Easter bunny and St. Nick coming were some of my most favorite memories. The special time of the year where all my five siblings and parents worked together to create a magical experience. I have no sad story where I learned they weren’t real. Yet for some reason, when I became more conscious about my parenting and I moved a world away from my family of origin, I started to question everything. I began feeling like I was lying to my son and it felt ingenuine.

I had realized all this holiday hullaballoo was a ploy to get us to buy stuff and it hurt me to play the part. I was just about to tell my partner and family that I was done with the charades. I would no longer take part in the Easter bunny or Santa Claus.  About that same time, my son came home from a magical Easter celebration with his Steiner school. His teacher spent all this time to put “actual” rabbit feet prints on his desk, with a special egg hunt and chocolate eggs. The smile on his face and the joy that emanated from his being was unbelievable. Here was a boy who in the span of three years lost three baby-siblings, three dogs and two cats, his most beloved pets who we needed to rehome for our international move. He moved from the only place he’s ever lived to a new country where they struggled to understand his speech and mannerisms.  Those magical rabbit prints seem to bring light to him where he had been cracked. It made me second guess my decision to end the Easter Bunny and Santa celebrations. I like to make my decisions from a place of love and not fear. I was reminded of what these times meant to me and how I never felt lied to or hurt. I only felt love and joy, so I decided I had no right to deprive my son and future children of this experience, especially when it was so special for me.

My current dread for my daughter’s pressure to perform these duties was coming from a place of fear and stress. I am about to have surgery and a bit wore out. I had lost touch with the magic and was annoyed that it was the consumerism part she seemed to be enjoying most. Everything I do must have meaning so I was conflicted because as much as I love Jesus, we do not celebrate him like how this holiday does. I also now live in the southern hemisphere where it is Autumn so the whole fertility and Spring aspect doesn’t seem to fit. And the eggs here are brown!?…Not the easiest to dye like how I remember. I was processing my feelings aloud with my son, who is now a 13-year wise soul acknowledged my feelings and asked me some reflective questions. Talking with him reminded me why I made the conscious chose to continue celebrating.

So today, I set up the dyes, bought the special treats and made the baskets to “secretly” fill tonight. Now, I still need to align with my beliefs thus I “reduce, reuse and recycle” by limiting what I buy, choose fair-trade chocolate and make the decorations and baskets with my kids. My family gladly pulled away from their video screen to partake. For one hour, we bonded whilst dying 10 eggs and making decorations. It was pure joy and attention. Our tradition is to keep hiding the eggs for endless Easter egg hunts and more family fun. This is why we do this every year… It has become a rhythm of our collective soul, a constant in our life, something to look forward to and count on no matter what. I strongly believe we all could do with more of these mindful moments. This time is precious and worth the extra effort and attention.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun”     –Winnie The Pooh.

Here’s another post I wrote about Negative thoughts, Easter, and Rising Again

Children are sages…

After observing and working with hundreds of children as well as having my own, I have discovered:
1) Children are sages. They are naturally present and connected to their innate intelligence as well as have less negativity and filters that block their senses or distort their perceptions. They are also operating at different brain frequencies due to their developmental stage.
 
2) Due to their heightened sensitivities and lack of filters, any negative energy directed at them is often perceived as threatening and often unconsciously labeled as “YELLING at them” because that is how it feels to their being. This will naturally trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses (fight doesn’t kick in until about age 2).
 
3) “I’m bored” typically means that they are experiencing negative or uncomfortable feelings that they are unaware of and cannot identify.
 
4) “It’s weird” usually means that are aware of some negative or uncomfortable feelings but don’t know what they are or how to describe them.
 
5) All negative behavior comes from a state of stress and/or unmet need. Most often they are physiologically or emotionally uncomfortable and unable to identify or communicate their feelings/needs, as well as lack the skillset to get their needs met effectively. Even if they should know what to do because you’ve said it 100 times, when triggered into a state of stress, they are unable to access that part of the brain till they feel calm and safe.
 

meditation

Please treat children how you wish you were treated when you were young. It really makes a difference as you are programming their brains for love or fear and what is done to them, they will do to society.
 
Check out my post summarizes common stressors and Enriching Resiliency & Connections as a family.
 
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. 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 and provide online counseling at WeCounsel.com
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The Roughhousing Trigger

The current Positive Reframe I am working on is the trigger I have when my children are roughhousing and my daughter gives a blood-curdling scream even though 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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