Victims, Bullies or Responsible?

I first wrote this blog eight years ago and sadly, another tragedy is on the front page…

It is bitter-sweet for me to read all the talk about “bullying.” Great that people are seeing that it is a serious problem, but I know like after Columbine, it will fall off our plate and another tragedy will take its place. I am tired of talking. I am sick of running into walls and double-edged swords. Emotionally, I liken going to school like heading into battle naked with no triage on site, and I went to a private school in a nice suburb.

This is a typical bullying scenario through my lens: If an adult is sensitive enough and not stressed or distracted by other things and catches the barrage of insults, they will call attention to the Bully. The adult will threaten or cast some irrelevant punishment which will insult the Bully and add more pain to an already stressed soul. A soul who clearly does not have resources to cope and will take it out on another vulnerable soul. If the Victim gets any attention at all, it is to the tune of “Oh, don’t let it bother you” or “toughen up.” Then everyone is expected to get back to their task or whatever they were doing and pretend everything is fine.

The most heartbreaking part for me is that majority of people think we are “fine” and we getting what we “need.” We are not fine. The majority of our vital needs are neglected and abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed. I will read more headlines tomorrow about how could someone do this horrid act and how it came out of nowhere. I could reflect a truth yet the truth hurts and we are not allowed to feel pain or cry. Yet to feel compassion, you must heal, and to heal you must cry, or at least process through our negative thoughts and feelings but we are afraid to feel or share. So where does that leave us?… Sadly, on the front page again.

I plead for people to open your minds, your hearts, and your souls. Bullies aren’t born bullies, they’ve been bullied. Social interactions and emotional intelligence amongst kids (and most adults for that matter) are atrocious. Yet, I am even more disgusted when I hear adults belittle and disrespect children on a constant basis. How can we expect kids not to bully when their instincts are perpetually defied and they are manipulated to meet the needs of whatever adult has power or control over them. And then when we are tired of fighting or nagging, we let media take over.

I am just a guilty as anyone. I can cite a thousand of examples of my own hypocrisy and human errors. Our society is full of traps to lure us back in to fill someone else’s pocket and boosts another’s ego, whilst draining our own soul. It seems we care more about how things look than how they feel. I am sick of putting my fate and my children’s future in someone else’s hands. I am choosing to act in every moment I am blessed with. I have made a conscious choice to stop (as humanly possible) reacting, shaming, blaming, yelling, name-calling, and choose to respond to others how I would genuinely like to be comforted when I feel hurt or stressed or upset, especially to my children. Their feelings, their suffering, and tears are just as valid as my own even though they are small and some of their plights may seem trivial. My favorite definition of “responsible” is being able to respond appropriately in any given moment to meet vital needs. Their souls are in my hands.

I don’t believe there are bad people, only people with less vital needs met and more pain to heal. Every interaction is an opportunity to nurture, heal and grow…We can be victims of something, bullies to someone, or responsible for everything.

bullies-are
Image by Lori Petro http://www.teach-through-love.com/

I recommend turning off media/technology for at least one hour before bed and read stories as a family. Take time every day to truly connect with your loved ones. Create your own healing rituals. Check out

Changing habits is hard and scary; LOVE yourself and everyone else through it!

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

For more resources check out:

10 habits to strengthen parent/child relationship by Dr Laura Markham

FOSTERING EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT CHILDREN, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES by John Gottman 

Natural Born Bullies by Robin Grille

3 Steps for Parents from Nonviolence Activists

Heart Transplant http://vachss.com/av_novels/heart.html

 

Disclaimer

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

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.

blog signature

“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,

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. 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

 

“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

 

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

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 thoughts 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 into a 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 how I felt as a child and then know exactly how to respond. I believe positive intent, lower myself to below 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.

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 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 Illinois, USA

 

one generation