Sacrificing Authenticity for Attachment: The Adaptive Survival Responses of Children and Their Influence on Future Relationships

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Sacrificing Authenticity for Attachment: The Adaptive Survival Responses of Children and Their Influence on Future Relationships

“If our environment cannot support our gut feelings and our emotions, then the child, in order to ‘belong’ and ‘fit in’ will automatically, unwittingly and unconsciously, suppress their emotions and their connections to themselves, for the sake of staying connected to the nurturing environment, without which the child cannot survive. A lot of children are in this dilemma – ‘can I feel and express what I feel or do I have to suppress that in order to be acceptable, to be a good kid, to be a nice kid?’” ~ Dr. Gabor Mate As children, we learn to sacrifice authenticity for connection. Done mostly unconsciously, our body’s intelligence recognizes that if we are our full, vibrant self, we’ll lose the attachment with our parents. We […]

How Better Attunement to Children Co-arises with Empathy and Care for Mother Earth

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How Better Attunement to Children Co-arises with Empathy and Care for Mother Earth

As we better attune to the needs of children, we cannot help but feel the needs of Mother Earth more deeply. And vice versa. This ripening sensitivity reveals what indigenous people have known for millennia: that children, we, are not separate from our environment. For generations, however, this awareness, empathy and care has been marginal, at best, in western culture. We’ve lived and treated our environment, including its inhabitants, as distinct from our body. And historic attachment disruptions with children have co-existed as expressions of this fundamental disconnect from the land and its manifold creatures. Colonizing hearts, minds and lands While indigenous cultures have long placed the child at the centre of the circle around which the family and community extends, western culture has built […]

4 Reasons I Take Issue With Teaching Children Meditation in School

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4 Reasons I Take Issue With Teaching Children Meditation in School

I take issue with teaching children meditation in school, particularly when done without a wider view of the systemic causes for child dysregulation and a more thorough understanding of trauma. Yes, meditation has been proven to be effective with young ones. I know the research is there backing it up. But… Take a moment to consider the four points below, and ask yourself: What is the real issue at hand? What do children fundamentally need? And if we addressed the issues I lay out, while better meeting children’s core biological needs for love and safety, would we still need to teach meditation? Or wouldn’t the desired result of meditation—calm—arise more organically? 1. Anxious systems The problem is not the child, but rather the systems they are […]

From Being a Helper to Being of Service

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From Being a Helper to Being of Service

One who is of service knows something the helper does not. Well-intentioned, the helper climbs down into the well of suffering to join someone in their darkness. They try to help, and so often do, but in their helping get lost in and with the suffering other, mixing and mingling with their pain. And this is because, without knowing it, helpers often seek to help themselves, to heal their unresolved pain, through the suffering other. The greater the pain, the greater the impulse can be to “help”. I will lead you out of the well I myself am lost in. And so we join together in this old dance, not realizing that on some level I am asking you to help me as I am […]

The Developmental Impulse to Reach: Healing Trauma through Completing this Long-Held Survival Response

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The Developmental Impulse to Reach: Healing Trauma through Completing this Long-Held Survival Response

Trauma is often defined as an incomplete survival response – fight or flight that could not happen. The body had the impulse to protect or run away, but was overpowered. It could not do what it instinctively knew it had to do to survive. The vital energy driving the biological fight / flight impulse was truncated, impeding the survival response and causing trauma. There is another survival response discussed not nearly as often – reaching. Desiring or needing connection, a child instinctively reaches for her primary attachment figure. Biologically, we are wired to connect. And so we are naturally wired to reach for that connection, particularly in pre-verbal stages of development. We long to have our hand received with gentleness and love. Yet, when that […]

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 […]

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 […]

From Prince to King: To Graduate and Welcome a Queen, the Old Contract—the Need for Mother’s Love—Must End

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From Prince to King: To Graduate and Welcome a Queen, the Old Contract—the Need for Mother’s Love—Must End

“Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain a mother’s son, to possess a woman purely for him.” ~ Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets and Silence For the male to graduate from Prince to King he must forgo his dire need for his mother’s love. So long as the old contract stands—the insidious, unconscious and fear-based agreement between he and his mother—he cannot fully enter the heart of his waiting Queen. His mother was once a God to him, an ardent provider of love. She was love, and when that love […]

Connection Precedes Learning and Self-regulation ~ Why Relationships are Foundational in Education and Life

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Connection Precedes Learning and Self-regulation ~ Why Relationships are Foundational in Education and Life

Note to the reader: If you have already read my previous articles on connection and the right brain, you may wish to skip further down to the section on co-regulation. Connection precedes learning How often and in how many ways do we make learning far more important than connection? The school system has been designed to make learning paramount and so often at the cost of the core biological need to bond. This breaks the hearts of so many teachers I present to, leaving them in tears, angry, frustrated. They dearly want to connect with their students, but find it extremely difficult given the expectations of the institution and classroom size. They dearly want to listen to and connect to their own hearts, and do […]