The Power of Empathy to Help You Relax Into and Heal Uncomfortable Feelings

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The Power of Empathy to Help You Relax Into and Heal Uncomfortable Feelings

The first memory my counselling client, Sandra, had of feeling fear was when she was 5 years old. She acutely remembers her father suddenly snapping at her in the kitchen. It was just him and her, alone, his big, overwhelming presence, those fiercely intense eyes. In recalling the incident, fear rises into her throat, constricting it, which was most likely what she experienced in the kitchen 32 years ago. The first memory my client, Adam, had of been anxious was when his mother became depressed due to the sudden loss of her beloved father. She quickly spiralled downward. Adam became scared and confused. He was losing his mother. As Adam shares this painful memory he notices his chest tightening and his breath becoming shallow. His […]

What Adults Struggle to Make Room For Within They May Find “Too Much” in a Child

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What Adults Struggle to Make Room For Within They May Find “Too Much” in a Child

For adults disconnected from their power, a child’s unbounded, spirited nature can easily be “too much” – too much enthusiasm; too much spontaneity; too much imagination; too much anger; too much sadness. The greater the repression in the adult carried forward from childhood environmental failures, the more overwhelming an exuberant child can be. It takes a lot of playfulness in the heart of an adult to receive and encourage beaming amounts of playfulness in a child. It takes a soaring imagination in an adult to welcome a child’s imagination wishing to travel the galaxy. It takes much depth in feeling for an adult to safely empathize with the large emotions of a child. Indeed, what an adult struggles to make room for within s/he may […]

When You Re-Parent Yourself, You Re-Pattern Yourself ~ Holding Yourself in Times of Distress

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When You Re-Parent Yourself, You Re-Pattern Yourself ~ Holding Yourself in Times of Distress

Everyone gets anxious, some more than others. While many associate bouts of distress with “mental illness”, for me, it’s simpler to see these experiences as the wounded child within acting out. We all have a wounded child inside. She gets triggered. He worries and frets. She catastrophizes and gets sucked into obsession. Past pains are projected onto present moment situations, again and again. We get afraid. We aren’t broken, as I like to remind my counselling clients. Rather, we’re just re-living unresolved trauma and attachment pains from childhood. (Anxiety/distress also comes from shock trauma or pain incurred in relationships later in life, but I will simplify this article to developmental trauma.) Something is needed in those moments of distress. Certainly, it doesn’t help to judge […]

When Children Believe “I Am Wrong”: The Impact Developmental Trauma Has on Belief Systems and Identity

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When Children Believe “I Am Wrong”: The Impact Developmental Trauma Has on Belief Systems and Identity

“In the past decade, mental health visits to the emergency room have jumped 66 per cent, and hospitalizations for conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders are up 55 per cent. Meanwhile, the waits for psychological and psychiatric care are months and even years…. According to the new report, one in three adults have suffered from physical or sexual abuse before the age of 16. Two-thirds of them never told anyone.” ~ Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail, September 4, 2018  “Childhood trauma leaves scars that are genetic, not just emotional, study affirms… Neglect, abuse, violence and trauma endured early in life can ripple directly into a child’s molecular structure and distort their DNA, according to a new study this week from the University […]

Resting in Connection ~ Slowing Down Enough to Heal and Form Secure Attachments

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Resting in Connection ~ Slowing Down Enough to Heal and Form Secure Attachments

Healthy relationships require us to rest in connection. In resting we come home to ourselves and into the arms of another. We soften enough to open our hearts and trust and receive the love we long for. This resting state is experienced to the extent that our nervous system allows for it. Our parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for calming) must be engaged and our sympathetic system (responsible for arousal and mobility) must be disengaged enough to allow for what Peter Levine calls “homeostasis” or “relaxed alertness”. In other words, resting in connection depends on there being a “smooth back-and-forth shifting between moderate levels … of (nervous system) activity”, or a “flexible seesawing” between parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, which enables us to be balanced, centered and […]

“It’s okay.” “I’m with you.” “It’ll all be fine.” ~ Why Children Need to Hear These Words More Than You May Know

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“It’s okay.” “I’m with you.” “It’ll all be fine.” ~ Why Children Need to Hear These Words More Than You May Know

“New research at Stanford University encouraged middle school teachers to take on an ‘empathetic mindset’ when students were being disciplined. The study found that the number of pupils who were suspended across the academic year halved, from 9.6% to 4.8%.” ~ Study: Focus on Empathy, Not Punishment, Improves Discipline We all know how well children saturate themselves in the present moment. Lost in doodling, leaves, bugs and clouds, the present moment wraps itself around young ones like a warm, secure blanket. Here children enter a deep state of relaxation where they trust all is good in life. One reason children rest so well in presence is because they rest well in their heart. The heart dwells in what I call the “zero point”: The child […]

Discerning Unspoken Needs from Spoken Desires: Remembering What Matters in Relationships

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Discerning Unspoken Needs from Spoken Desires: Remembering What Matters in Relationships

“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” ~ Alice Miller When a boy asks his mom for a toy car at the store or a woman asks her husband to do his share of the household duties there is a spoken desire and unspoken need at play. In the first example, the boy’s spoken desire is for the toy car; the unspoken need is to be heard, validated, seen, valued. In the second example, the spoken desire is for the husband to clean the oven; the unspoken need is for shared responsibility and rest. […]

In Your Attempts to Be Positive Be Sure Not to Sacrifice Being Real ~ Feeling Your Way Into Freedom and Aliveness

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In Your Attempts to Be Positive Be Sure Not to Sacrifice Being Real ~ Feeling Your Way Into Freedom and Aliveness

“Perhaps if tearful little boys were comforted instead of shamed there wouldn’t be so many angry men struggling to express and empathize with emotions.” ~ Lelia Scholl Many of us have been taught that feelings such as anger, sadness and fear are “negative” or “bad”. The truth is, they are just feelings; they are an experience of energetic movement in the body; hence, e-motion—energy in motion. When we layer these feelings with the aforementioned limiting labels we deny our humanity and our capacity to be fully alive. Children demonstrate whole-heartedly, and often dramatically, how to feel fully. From anger, to sadness, to laughter, they quickly move through their emotions without inhibitions. They kick, scream, wail while pounding the floor, all followed by triumphant beams of […]

Put “Reality” Aside. Children Need You to Dream With Them and Dance In Their Wild World.

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Put “Reality” Aside. Children Need You to Dream With Them and Dance In Their Wild World.

“The magic, the wonder, the mystery and the innocence of a child’s heart are the seeds of creativity that will heal the world.” ~ Michael Jackson In one of my Remembering to Play playshops a father shared that his young son expressed interest in one day becoming an astronaut. “How did you respond?” I asked. The father replied, “By saying, ‘how are you going to do that?’” It wasn’t just about the words the father chose but the doubt and concern he reenacted in his tone, a tone his son would have felt. It’s very tempting and easy to jump to the How. For the inhibited, rational adult, forgetful of the child within, the logistics of the dream are far more alluring than the dream […]

Most of What Kids Learn in School They’ll Never Use ~ Making Room for Wonder, Intrinsic Motivation and People Skills

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Most of What Kids Learn in School They’ll Never Use ~ Making Room for Wonder, Intrinsic Motivation and People Skills

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~ Oscar Wilde A few months back I was walking along the streets of Kitsilano when I happily ran into one of my favourite people—Sandra, a grade 9 student. I hadn’t seen her since she began year two of high school so I seized the moment to ask her how it was going. A sour look fell upon her face, followed by, “It’s boring. We’re learning how to measure the circumference of a circle.” She then went on to say with a little bit more bite, “Like we’re ever going to need to know how to do that in the world!” […]