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.

 

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.

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.

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 refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. 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 faster. 

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 and choose love over fear. 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

 

Earth Day is every day…

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach one day, where we had cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her “no”? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions,then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be, yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snapshot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary-eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take responsibility to make it beautiful.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Jane Goodall

The Love We All Need and Deserve

 “The essential message of unconditional love is one of liberation: You can be whoever you are, express all your thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. You do not have to be fearful that love will be taken away. You will not be punished for your openness and honesty…There may be days when disagreements and disturbing emotions may become between us. There may be times when psychological or physical miles may lie between us. But I have given my word of my commitment…So feel free to be yourself, to tell me of your negative and positive reactions. I cannot always predict my reactions or guarantee my strength, but one thing I do know: I will not reject you! I am committed to your growth and happiness… There is nothing else that can expand the human soul, actualize the human potential for growth, or bring a person into the full possession of life than a love which is unconditional. We have labored for so long under the delusion that corrections, criticism, and punishments stimulate a person to grow. We have rationalized the taking out our own unhappiness and incompleteness in many destructive ways…Unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow…Of course, free will is a factor in every human life. Everyone must say his or her ‘yes’ to growth and integrity. But there are prerequisites. And one of these is someone must empower me to believe in myself and to be myself. ”

 Excerpt from Unconditional Love  by John Powell

Family Hug

This description of love is the epiphany of what I aspire to cultivate. I am blessed to reap the benefits of this intense connection. My marriage has liberated (and challenged) me in ways I have never dreamed of. The problem often comes that although we all deserve unconditional love, when we are not getting it, our fears, negative core beliefs, and most insecure parts of ourselves get triggered.

Our defense mechanisms ensue, resulting in a host of negative reactions and cognitive distortions. We become hyper-focused on the threats and negativity. It very quickly becomes a volcano of negative thoughts, feelings, triggers, unmet needs and hurt. As the unprocessed pain keeps building, our minds, bodies and hearts become overwhelmed with stress, and resentment takes over. This negative chain of reactions unconsciously distorts our efforts to give our love unconditionally as well as thwarting those who wish to give it to us.

I see this pattern push children and adults over the edge and make amok of marriages. We wonder how a couple can be so in love on their wedding day then filing for restraining orders or divorce years later. When I listen to people talk to or about their children and/or partner, I am not surprised by our state of affairs.  So when your child says they hate you, or your partner says they no longer love you (although we usually “act out” way before ever saying this, and kids are more honest and direct), do you retaliate with the things they did wrong or truly listen and empathize with their fears, feelings, pain, and needs?…

We are biologically wired to be in relationship. We need one another to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We will naturally still get triggered and activate defense mechanisms to protect ourselves but what matters most is how we choose to respond and get needs met in proactive, nurturing ways once we are aware of out negative reactions. We heal best and regain trust through connection, when we feel safe and supported in a relationship with another. Every moment is a gift to transform fear to love, suffering to resilience, reaction to response. We are all born with the innate resources we need to choose wisely. Slow down, notice what you are sensing… breathe…this will connect you to your innate intelligence so you may choose to respond and align your intentions with your actions and thoughts.

11 rules for Being Human

Rule 1: You will receive a body.

You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.

You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.

A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.

There is no part of Life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

Rule 6: “There” is no better than “here”

When your “there” has become a “here,” you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

Rule 7: Others are merely mirrors of you.

You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

Rule 8: What you make of your life is up to you.

You have the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

Rule 9: Your answers lie inside you.

The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.

Rule 10: You will forget all this.

Rule 11: You can remember whenever you want.

~adapted from IF LIFE IS A GAME, THESE ARE THE RULES: TEN RULES FOR BEING HUMAN by Chérie Carter-Scott~

Thank you for my wonderful mentor Barbara Wetzel MFT (author of  The Ergonomic Couple) who gave me this as my clinical supervisor. I have had a copy of this on my fridge at various stages of my life and would read one rule aloud daily to my family and self. I find them all so true yet #7 seems to be the hardest yet most enlightening.

 

Positive Reframes and the energy you transmit

The energy we direct at children will be absorbed, internalized, and reflected back out. This process is dynamic, instant, and implicit especially when you consider the following:

  • The quality of attachment between the primary caregiver and the child during the critical and sensitive period of a baby’s development becomes the blueprint for all future relationships.  (Attachment Theory by John Bowlby
  • Much of early human development and learning is done through implicit learning, that is learning from experience without intention or awareness 
  • Children (under age 6) are process most information using delta and theta brain waves which allow input from all senses to enter the brain unconsciously like in a hypnotic trance (see http://www.renewal.ca/nlp55.html)
  • Our bodies are made up of mostly water with babies having the most, being born with about 78%. Water molecules have been shone to change shape depending on the messages it receives. Messages of love lead to beautiful, crystallization yet molecules became disjointed and darkened when messages of hate  were expressed (see http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/aug1/consciouswater.html)

We are all born full of goodness and inherently want to be helpful yet don’t have all the skills to do so. All negativity (i.e. acting out behavior or conflict) comes from a state of stress and/or unmet needs.  More times than not, kids are feeling overwhelmed by big and conflicting emotions that they don’t know how to identify or handle. They might be tired, scared, hungry, or confused… If we think children have negative intentions, then we tend to react from a negative frame and end up adding more stress to an already stressed out soul who has fewer skills and resources to handle appropriately. However, when we perceive a child as having good intentions and can see how something valid is affecting their ability, then we can better meet their needs and help them connect to the skills they do have and learn more.

To build a secure attachment, four specific needs children have are to be Seen, Safe, Soothed, and Secure (see “Four S’s of Parenting” by Dr. Dan Siegel). Focusing on their positive intentions eases stress as well as allows for greater opportunity and integration of positive beliefs, feelings, traits, and actions to manifest. What we focus on is what we will get more of. Repeatedly hearing you are naughty or lazy will take its toll. 

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” ~Peggy O’Mara

I adapted a list like this which I got over a decade ago from a Dare To Be You (http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/DTBY/.  This list is meant to be a guide, not an absolute. It is a work in progress and an example of how we can learn to see “negative” behaviors in children more positively by viewing the quality of their behaviors from a different perspective and/or context such as being assertive, expressive of one’s needs, and protective are actually healthy, responsible and honorable traits.

Notice when you are reacting and thinking the worst of your child. Take a few deep breaths and time to gather more information and understanding. Get down on their level and try to see the positive side of the negative behavior…Believe good intentions…Avoid criticism and blame…and Appreciate something, anything…I have found that shining a light on others’ strengths and positive intentions cultivates more love, trust, positivity, and deeper connections for all. Having this positive reframe on children’s behaviors has inspired me greatly. I am better able to be present and supportive of children and connect at a level they respond well at. I have seen over again how positively motivated they become because when they feel good, they will do better.

“Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of them as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress.”

❤ Debra

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

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. 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 of Illinois, USA