Transforming the School System Begins With Feeling its Heartbreaking Impact on Children, Past and Present

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Transforming the School System Begins With Feeling its Heartbreaking Impact on Children, Past and Present

Note to the reader: If you require a brief history of education to provide context for the first few sections, scroll further down to “A brief history of school”.    “Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it.” ~ S.C Lourie At the beginning of many of the talks I lead, the organizer of the event takes a moment to acknowledge the traditional and ancestral territory we stand on and the people it belongs to. It’s a brief period of time in which I pay my deepest respect and […]

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 […]

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 […]

In Judgment We Find Safety. It’s Where We Get to Keep Hiding.

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In Judgment We Find Safety. It’s Where We Get to Keep Hiding.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” ~ Wayne Dyer In judgement we find safety. If I can condemn that person in some way, I get to continue hiding. By making someone wrong, I get to keep protecting myself in “right”. In condemning life as “unfair”, I don’t have to ever start living. By judging someone’s artistic expression, I get to continue keeping my inner artist in check. By judging someone’s sorrow, I don’t ever have to feel my own. In judging, I get to keep scapegoating others for the anger and shame held in my self-judgment. Those around me become my screen, my vision of myself. I don’t see them as they are; I see them as I am. […]