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

A glimpse into a 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 is actually a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard feelings with you. These 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

Learn more about me and Online Therapy services

 

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 Illinois, USA

lessons from my son

I wrote this poem about my parenting journey with my son which has been published in the book, Poetry of Yoga  by HawaH

I thought I knew it all

                                          Then you were born.

You touched my soul to no end:

          Your cries burrowed a well

                     Stirred my consciousness

                                   Awakened humility

A collaboration of love and labor in its purest form.

I see my reflection in your brilliance and turbulence;

                 Shadows of the past to heal

                                 Vital needs to nurture

                                              Dreams to actualize

You have much to teach me

                                                        I am ready to learn.

 ev smilesmeditation

Vital Needs

There are no bad people, only those with less vital needs met and more pain to heal… 

Human defense mechanisms intrigue me…passive/aggressiveness, distortion, projection, denial, fantasy, rationalization, minimizing and so on…They protect us from absorbing too much pain at once so that the body/mind/soul can prepare itself to process the painful experience and hopefully transcend. But if we depend on these mechanisms or use them too long, they harden to bricks that build a wall. You might feel the illusion of safety behind this great wall, but the natural consequences and negativity will delude you. Connection, being able to touch another’s soul is one of our vital needs. Many of our other needs are cultivated within well-connected and mutually satisfying and respectful relationships.

When I reflect on my life, I took risks to allow people behind the wall I had built to protect myself. Of course, a few of these people I trusted backfired yet they all helped break down my wall.  My need for these defenses continues to decrease as I find more pro-active and responsible ways of getting my own needs met. I am unsure if it is possible to rid them completely, after all, we are human. Yet as I become more aware of my use of defense mechanisms and triggers, I am better able to embrace the value and those around me. I can love myself and everyone else through the pain even though I may be running into their walls.

Below is my favorite list of needs from the book, Healing the Child Within by Charles L. Whitfield. It is difficult to move on to getting another need met if the one before it is unmet or threatened. Sadly, I witness too many stuck and fighting at number two… 

Hierarchy of Human Needs 

  1. Survival
  2. Safety
  3. Touching, Skin Contact
  4. Attention
  5. Mirroring And Echoing
  6. Guidance
  7. Listening
  8. Being Real
  9. Participating
  10. Acceptance
    1. Others Are Aware Of, Take Seriously And Admire Real You
    2. Freedom To Be Real You
    3. Tolerance Of Your Feelings
    4. Validation
    5. Respect
    6. Belonging And Love
  11. Opportunity To Grieve Losses And To Grow
  12. Unconditional Support
  13. Loyalty And Trust
  14. Accomplishment
    1. Mastery, Power, Control
    2. Creativity
    3. Having A Sense Of Completion
    4. Making A Contribution
  15. Altering One’s State Of Consciousness
  16. Sexuality
  17. Enjoyment Or Fun
  18. Freedom
  19. Nurturing
  20. Unconditional Love

(compiled from Maslow 1962; Miller, 1981, Weil, 1973; & Glasser, 1985)light waitalk

the Progress spiral

Healing and growth are like a spiral springing; It might feel like you are going around and round and even falling down all the while you are progressing. We all get triggered and fall back to negative habits and reactions. The aim is to notice when you are getting triggered less often, that there is greater space between the lows, and that you are able to pull your self out faster. When you remember the absolutely lowest time in your life and realize how much better life is now than then, that is progress. Celebrate each step, and every second you give yourself stress-free and with unconditional love. We all deserve this and the best life has to offer. Deep breaths and baby steps. You are doing amazing.

success and progress

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 (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.

 

An accepting look at sleepless nights…

“But the first steps to dealing with the fact that your young child doesn’t sleep through the night, or doesn’t want to sleep without you is to realize that:

  • (1) Not sleeping through the night until they are 3 or 4 years of age is normal and healthy behavior for human infants.
  • (2) Your children are not being difficult or manipulative, they are being normal and healthy, and behaving in ways that are appropriate for our species.

Once you understand these simple truths, it becomes much easier to deal with parenting your child at night. Once you give up the idea that you must have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, and view these nighttime interactions with your child as precious and fleeting, you get used to them very quickly.” ~Katherine Dettwyler, PH.D

Sleeping through the Night   http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/sleeping-through-the-night.html

This understanding helped my sanity immensely when my daughter was an infant and wobbler. I have had this gut feeling  that forcing children to sleep alone was counter intuitive.  When I did it  to our first-born son, I frequently felt torn. I thought how hard and confusing for him as his parents went to sleep together every night. I love cuddling with another soul at night, how could I deprived him of such a simple and wonderful comfort. He must feel alienated and alone. Every night, around 1 AM, he would bump through the dark hallways to climb a ladder to our bed and I allowed him to stay there. Then I worried if he would ever learn to sleep on his own.

When he was 3 yrs old, I learned that 85% of brain connections were made by age 3 and 45% of the connections that were not made are gone. This is huge and pretty much explains how most our society may only be operating on a half of our brain’s potential. Up to that point, I had considered myself well-educated on child development and parenting, and I was when you consider mainstream. I am glad that I have the thirst for knowledge and embrace my weaknesses. I learn something new every day and challenge my “wrong truths”  (my son’s wording).  Along with a greater of understanding of neuroscience, I also have a theory that forcing a child to sleep through the night may cause the brain to develop out of order and/or skip crucial and formative connections.

Hence, I accept that my daughter (nor I) will not be sleeping through the night till age 3 or 4.

[Deep breaths]… I can do this and it will be worth it.
IMG_2515

…. [A couple years passed]…

My daughter just turned four and I can now assure you that she sleeps through the night and can get herself back to sleep. I literally went 3.5 years without a full night sleep, co-sleeping, no allowance for “cry it out” and frequent night nursing.  I would (emotionally) lose it about every 3 weeks then I’d review my research, read new studies and reflect on our wonderful relationship and the other leaps and bounds she had made. So I continued. I had very little support. I felt I couldn’t even tell many my experiences and theory as they would think I was crazy. Fortunately, my marriage is stellar so my husband  believed in me and loved me through the extremely tough days. Her progression of sleeping through the night was extremely gradual and even getting a full sleep cycle was sporadic.  She still at infrequent times awakes in the middle of the night and stumbles to our bed for a bit of milk and wakes around 6 or 7 AM for some more milk. It didn’t happen overnight and looks more like the second “success” picture:

I wish I knew who to give credit for this picture.

I believe everything exists on a continuum and there are many ways to reach the same endpoint (equifinality). So there are babies who can and will sleep through the night sooner than later and vice versa. There are many nurturing, respectful, and creative ways to get vital needs met.  There are also many emotional, physical, environmental, and contextual variables that play into sleeping through the night too. My son, now eight, is a rock solid sleeper too. We actually welcomed him back full time into our family bed when he was 4 yrs old for many reasons. At age six, he was ready and motivated to have his own space where he has been ever since (well, about once a month he still asks for a special cuddle;-).

This is a reflection of my unique experience so take what fits with your lifestyle the best and leave the rest. Where ever you are on this erratic trajectory, keep in mind these moments are precious and will be over be for you know it.

Some online resources respond to night time wakings:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201301/simple-ways-calm-crying-baby

http://www.awareparenting.com/sleep.htm

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/sleep-problems

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10358548.htm

http://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/sleep/

To deep breaths and baby steps, this soon will pass.

~Debra

PS If anyone knows who I may give credit to for the “success” drawing, please let me know. It is applicable to human development and learning all new skills so be gentle with yourselves too.