Oxytocin and Emotion: Overcoming Fear

What Is Oxytocin?

To understand love is to understand the oxytocin response. Oxytocin is truly a miracle molecule. As the body’s chemical of rest, Oxy Parenting srelaxation and balance, it does all sorts of wonderful and important things. We’ll talk more about those later in this book. But the key thing you need to understand for healthy, happy parenting is that oxytocin is responsible for love.

That’s right. Oxytocin acting in your brain and your body creates the experience we know as love. That’s love in all its dimensions: friendship, the love between parent and child, and the love between you and your mate. It’s also responsible for most of the other positive feelings we have for other people, from the quick exchange of smiles with a stranger you pass, to admiration for a co-worker, to the way you trust your car mechanic not to rip you off.

Oxytocin does all this — and more — in two ways. First, it calms the brain’s fear center. Then, it activates the brain’s social center, making you feel good about interacting with someone.

Calming the fear center is crucial. Fear is one of our strongest survival mechanisms, helping us survive physical danger. But it’s usually not the best reaction to social situations. When you’re anxious or afraid, you can’t see things clearly. You may see someone as threatening when he has no intention of harming you. You’re on guard and shut down, as fear chemicals race through your bloodstream.

Oxytocin counteracts the fear chemicals, relaxing you and making you able to see other people as potentially friendly and trustworthy. At the same time, when it activates the brain’s social center, it actually makes you desire social contact.Bryan-Susan_v2

A healthy brain releases oxytocin in response to positive social cues. For example, when a mother cuddles her child, both of their brains should release oxytocin. The oxytocin travels into their bloodstreams, where it relaxes them and encourages cellular repair. It also enters the parts of their brain that process social information, making them feel secure and loving.

Want to read more about this powerful hormone and how it affects the love you experience, or would like to experience? Oxytocin Parenting: Womb Through Terrible Twos by Bryan Post and Susan Kutchinskas

Practice Mindfulness – Eat Chocolate – And Be a Better Parent?

31-free-buttons Strange as it may seem. We talk often about mindfulness, and it has become a buzzword in the media. It is box of chocos popping up everywhere, yet it seems to be shrouded in quasi-mystical words and descriptions which often leads to more questions and confusion. It is really a very simple practice (not easy mind you and does require practice) that can be utilized by anyone — man, woman or child. It is just being aware of what you are not aware of. And being aware of what you are already aware of, but instead of pushing it away, you engage with it in a manner of allowing what is present to ” just be”. After all we are human "beings” and not human “doings”.

So let us begin to just “be” a little more in our life and allow others–especially our children to just be who they are. This I find is the quickest way to change. Paradoxical? Think about it. There is a saying, “you can’t get there from here”. When in fact the only way to get there is from here. What is true, is “you can’t get there from there”. So if you are not “here” with your experience, you cannot get “there” to the other side of the experience and will in some way continue on, in an unending, oft-repeating pattern of experience/behavior/emotions wondering why you keep going through the same old stuff in your life over and over and over and …  So, take a break. Have some chocolate (or raisins if you prefer) and practice your parenting skills in a different way. And, the next time your child acts out, you might just say, "hey, let's have a piece of chocolate!"

Food of the gods2“Mindful eating is a practice to slow down the mind to be present in those moment- to- moment activities. Eating is one practice of Mindfulness. Most commercials for chocolates use an image of someone savoring a piece of chocolate with their eyes closed along with a message that encourages us to loose ourselves in the moment. Mindfulness eating is a practice that encourages paying attention to our bodies reaction to the senses that eating stimulates or uses. Sight, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds all play a part in mindfulness. The history or story of how food made it to your mouth is also a form of mindfulness. Thinking of who grew the food, where it was grown, who harvested it and how was it made can really slow down your eating experience and make it much more enjoyable and gratifying. Chocolate is a good choice to use to describe mindful eating. Concentrate on how your senses are being stimulated. Simply just sow down and enjoy this simple, yet complex everyday event called eating.” — Source: Tracie Abram, Michigan State University Extension

How to Rid Yourself of Fear

Sick and tired enough of being sick and tired of being fearful and helpless about your life with challenging children?

Fear_NoDo you ever really consider what fear is? Do you ever experience it? Do you know what it really feels like in your body? Where you experience it? If so, how do you deal with it?

Bryan talks about fear a lot as you know. Fear vs love for example is not the "horror/scary story" fear - although it can feel like that at times. Like when you know school has ended and it is about time for your child to be walking through the door and your reaction is one of "oh - no, here we go again". I used to feel this when driving home from work every single day.

You can feel it in your stomach — it is real, it is visceral and it is not fun. Fear that your child will never survive their teen years let alone adulthood. For many of us, it is not what university they might attend but what prison will they be in — and that is if they are not dead. I remember feeling glad when people asked about our RAD poster child son that he was neither dead nor in jail after he finally graduated from high school (four different high schools including two "special behavior" schools and numerous home schooling attempts later).
Yet for many of us, fear keeps on repeating itself day after day after ...

And these are just our fears as a parent. Not to mention our child's fears which may make ours look like a "walk in the park" if we really knew their experience.

Into the Silent LandSo it is with this in mind that we share something that offers an invitation few of us would accept, but just maybe we are just sick and tired enough of being sick and tired of being fearful and helpless about our lives with our challenging children!

“If you want to know the true nature of fear, look straight into it. Fear, anger, envy — any afflictive thought or feeling — cannot withstand a direct gaze. But if we look at the story and feed on the story we tell ourselves of our fear, anger, envy, etc., affliction thrives. Affliction feeds off the noise of the commenting chattering mind.”Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird.

What is the take home lesson? Parents, watch what you think and say to start with, then watch if any behaviors extend from these and just stop them. Yes, just like that. Any behavior that does not come from love comes from fear. So parents, just say "stop". You will find your child responding more like this the more you respond more like this. To read more about this interesting book and approach, click here.

How to Get Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck - Serious parents who are committed to making personal changes in their lives, but need some help, here is a very special resource, a weekend intensive called Taking It Lightly. One of our parents has been involved for a few years with this program and has written to all parents particularly those with traumatized children of her exhilarating experience. I am familiar with this as my previous wife, Patricia Clason created it and has been running it for over 20 years -- impacting the lives of thousands of families.

Although based in Milwaukee Wisconsin, she does offer the course in other cities as well. Take a few moments to read this expression of how this parent's life has been empowered due to this experience.

Taking It Lightly made it possible for me to (finally!) do what Bryan Post had been urging me to do all along--be fully present to my children in deep love without judgment or criticism.  It's very simple:  I CANNOT be compassionate to my children when I am beating up on myself.  They know this--they are always watching me to see how safe I am for them emotionally.  Since Taking It Lightly, it is much easier for me to love myself just as I am, so it is easier for me to love my children just as they are.  I'm more fun now, too, which is all they ever wanted me to be.

In addition to taking the course in 2012 and reviewing it in 2015, I also volunteer to staff as many Taking It Lightly weekends as I can.  The difference in my relationship with my children when I come home in the evenings is amazing!  They are cuddly, so much less afraid, letting me hug them and even offering to hug me!  They can tell I've been bathing in an environment of unconditional love.  I now experience profound moments with my daughter when she looks warily into my eyes, searching for traces of judgment and criticism, and finds none, only love and acceptance.  Then she relaxes.  This would never have happened before Taking It Lightly. --  Love, Lia

If this touches you in a way that says, "I want that too!" contact Patricia to see how you can accomplish this. I can pretty much guarantee that you will never be the same - and your family will love you all the more for it.

Have a calm and peaceful day!

David

Why Kids Lie and How to End It Now! Bryan Post – Live

Bryan Post presents his uniquely different truly love-based Family Centered approach to helping children with challenging behaviors. When you don't understand your child, the behaviors are abnormal, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Once understood, their behaviors are not only normal, but also predictable and changeable. The plasticity of the brain allows for interruptions in neural pathways that will promote visible changes in behaviors. With love all things are possible.

Love is. No Ifs or buts about it

Love-is-FreeA child does not feel loved because you say you love him. Love is an expression, an energy. It is not conveyed merely through saying the words. It is conveyed within the silence of space through vibration and rhythm. and feeling. Even actions may not convey love if they are not expressed with an energy of love. Have you ever received a hug or a kiss that had no energy behind it? Love is always present when we are open to it, but we must be open and willing to express and share it. When you say “I love you” INTEND it. When you hug, hug with energy and love. Make love come alive in your relationships. All else pales in comparison, if a child does not feel loved. It will do your child no good to talk about how much you love her if she does not experience your love through your actions. There are no "ifs" or "buts".  There are no conditions in love. That is why we call it "love".  Try to imagine a love so grand, so enormous that nothing could ever come between. What would that mean to you?

What was your upbringing like as a child?

Bad Behavior CartoonParents may have difficult time in being empathetic to a crying child because as children themselves, they were told that expressing feelings, crying, or being angry was not acceptable. What was your upbringing like?

Our ability to accept and tolerate emotional expression sets a benchmark for our children’s ability to accept their own emotions and those of others. For example, if the crying of a small child is agitating to the parent, the parent will attempt to curtail the crying rather than soothing the child. In this manner the emotional expression itself becomes the threat and the soothing of the child is merely a means to an end. The breakdown occurs in that the child senses that the demand to stop the cry or efforts to comfort the child to stop the crying are just that, efforts to end the crying. In this manner the child is still being energetically conveyed that their emotional expression is not okay and is not acceptable to the parent. Such subtle and common approaches towards dealing with emotion cause us to identify our emotions as shameful, rather than as merely energetic attempts to make adjustments and transitions. Freedom of emotional expression frees up the mind, body, and soul. It naturally fosters more open, flexible, and creative children.

How To “Un-See” Negative Behaviors in Children

NoseWhile standing in line at the USPS office today, I noticed a woman with a big nose come in. Then I noticed myself commenting to myself about her nose (thinking… Wow! What a big nose!). After a short go-round with my thoughts and judgements, I began to wonder why I was judging her nose? It is not like I have never seen a big nose before, in fact I have one of those schnaz’s myself, along with a couple of ears that were always too big for my head. Yet it was instantly clear that my big nose was better than her big nose.

So I began to wonder what it would take for me to see her nose (or mine for that matter) as just a “nose” without the judgment attached. And where does that judgement arise from?

After a bit of back and forth, I came to the conclusion that it was my culture that somehow defined big from little or normal along with many other judgements about physical appearances along the way. And, not to blame anyone, but in an effort to “be who I really want to be” (a person without judgement – who accepts people as people equally (and noses as just noses), I had to admit that I bought it – hook, line and sinker as we use to say. I bought the judgement and made it my own. I bought the lie that big nose’s are bad and normal size noses are good. Just like for many years, ashamed as I am now to admit, I “thought that tattoos are bad, earrings in one’s face are bad, in fact earings anywhere but in your ear are bad” etc. etc. etc.

The issue here, is not whether noses are good or bad, not about tattoos or body piercings, but how do we go about changing things once we decide that something no longer serves us and where we want to go with our lives. How to do a better job of parenting where we are not so consumed with judging our children’s behaviors, ourselves or others parenting styles. How do we break out of our old parenting paradigm that Bryan often talks about so that we can move into a truly love based parenting approach – which is not what tradition has taught us as THE BEST WAY to parent?

Big-Dipper_v2The Big Dipper Challenge: So here is a challenge. Look at the Big Dipper but don’t see the Big Dipper. Can you see simply stars. Not easy is it? Because of our upbringing, we “see” what is not there – a big dipper. And we believe it. Or perhaps we believe it and then see it. That is what changing our paradigm is all about. A paradigm is the way in which you see the world. The lens through which you view all people and things and all events. It is greatly reinforced by society, culture, upbringing etc. In order to change your paradigm you must be willing to challenge your beliefs. You must ask questions rather than taking for face value what has been said because many others have said it or believe it to be true. You must question in order to challenge your belief system, in order to lead to a change in your thinking, and then in your behavior. When this occurs then you will be changing your paradigm. It is in some ways really very simple. All we have to work with are 3 basic tools – thought, word, deed (or action). We can catch these patterns anywhere along the way, but the most effective way is to catch it at the thought level. That way we can choose to change it before we say it and long before we act it out. If we are mindful, we can see it at any one of the 3 expressions.

Take a look at the Big Dipper from the side view, which doesn’t at all resemble a dipper, and in fact the distance between those stars is big-dipper side viewenormous in terms of light years apart. Yet when we view them from our earthly perspective, and that is all it is – a perspective, (not right, not wrong, just is) projected on a two dimensional back drop of the dark sky, it is easy to “see” a dipper.

In terms of behaviors in our selves and our children, what we are really seeing are neural patterns firing often as habitual reactionary expressions of thought, word and actions on an unconscious level. For most of the time, this means we exhibit very little control, choice or free will as we would like to think. We must be willing to stop, look and listen not only every time we cross the street, but with every thought, word or action we take and ask, “will this thought, word or action serve me as I really want to be?”.

So how do we un-see our children’s negative behaviors? Bryan has a simple answer, look past the anger/behavior and see the fear. The judgement we place on the behavior is just one perspective – mostly tradition, culture and upbringing – like looking at the Big Dipper which isn’t really there. In other words, our paradigm. Oh, there’s something there of course. Just different. We have to see “past” things, or to be more accurate, we have to “look at” things mindfully, just as they are, non-judgementally with present moment awareness both at our own behaviors, thoughts and words and of our children’s. Dr. Daniel Siegel likes to say, “what you can look at disappears”. What disappears is the perspective, judgement, conclusion, feeling states such as fear etc. or other reaction you might experience. What you are left with the the ability to simple “respond” based on what works, might work, or any other new or novel approach that would not be considered in a typical habit reaction that allows us no time to intercede due to the speed of neural connections.

IMG_04231Why is this so important? Because as Bryan puts it…
“the way in which we parent stems from our paradigm. It is dominated by traditional thought at every level, engrained into our unconscious, our psyche, essentially defining who we are and how we relate. Go to a grocery store and ask your child to yell at you or mis-behave in some way. Some of you may not have to ask! And then rather than smacking the child, shaming, or yelling back, stop and breathe. Calm your inner self and observe those around you, feel their energy. You will be shocked by the negativity that is generated from the traditional paradigm. They don’t know you yet they will judge you harshly. This intensity of negativity permeates our society and our relationships. There is love here, but often we have to work to find it.”

See the Fear, Not the Anger

We have been so intent on believing that children are angry, that we have failed to see the true emotions driving their behavior. The most focused on feeling of all is anger. This is an indication in itself that we are fearful beings. We are always looking to see anger because it is a threatening feeling that drives threatening behaviors. If we are intent upon seeing something most assuredly it will appear. In this manner anger is no different from fear or from love for that matter. What we focus on the most is what we see. See fear, not anger and you will find the way home for your child.

What is the #1 thing parents can do today?

What is the #1 thing parents can do today, so their kids grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults? ... This is a great question yet at the same time IMG_04231it is one that requires a very different answer. The answer to what is the #1 thing parents can do today, so their kids grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults, is to stop trying to “do anything” so your child will be a happy, well-adjusted adult! The renowned philosopher and physician, Deepak Chopra informs us that, “We cannot prevent the future from happening, but we can influence the future from the present.”

In other words, stop trying to do anything so your child will be a certain way in the future but rather focusing on being patient, understanding, love-full, relationship focused, attuned, and nurturing in the present because those are the seeds that are sewn for tomorrow’s harvest. See your child today, in this moment only. Love in this moment only and do not let fears of the future dictate how you should interact with your child today.