Blog Archives

Achieving Stability

Posted August 18, 2019 by

One of the oldest pieces of furniture and one too which has
been used in countless metaphors is the three-legged stool.  It is simple in its design and yet consistent
in its stability.  Science has been able
to prove that the three-legged stool, chair or table is superior to the
four-legged versions that we typically use on any surface.  However, if the floor is relatively flat,
then the four or more-legged furniture versions are better.  Put simply, on unstable ground, a
three-legged stool will always give you a better sense of stability.  Using the three-legged stool as an analogy
for our own stability, let’s imagine that the ground is our life
experience.  Like Forrest Gump, life
really is like a box of chocolates and we never really know what we are going
to get.  So, with unstable ground to
begin with, it is important that we have a three-legged stool on which to
balance in that uncertain terrain.  Let’s
also imagine that each leg of the three-legged stool represents a different
form of regulation: auto-regulation, self-regulation and co-regulation.  We need all three of these forms of
regulation in equal measure, or our own stability and balance becomes
questionable in the face of the ongoing uncertainty and instability of our life
experiences.

Auto-regulation refers to the subconscious and automatic
processes that we do not have to put conscious control and effort into.  For example, our mind and body regulate
temperature, digestion, fluids, organs, breathing, sleeping, etc.  However, we can make choices that disrupt
this auto-regulation.  We can choose to
stay up later or wake up earlier than the normal rhythm of sleep that our body
needs.  We can ignore signals for hunger
or temperature and when we do, we feel hungry, cold or hot for longer periods
of time.  We can experience things that
disrupt our auto-regulation without our choice or knowledge.  Traumatic experiences such as abuse, and
neglect can do this.

Self-regulation refers to the conscious choices we make to feel regulated and balanced.  This type of regulation requires awareness of one’s self and a healthy use of our agency to know what activities will help us cope with uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, experiences or relationships.  Healthy self-regulation activities may include exercise, meditation, reading a book, listening to music, being in nature, etc.  Many times, people make choices for self-regulation which are unhealthy regulation behaviors to compensate for out of balance auto-regulation.  For example, over eating, under eating, over sleeping, under sleeping, wearing warm clothes in warm weather or cool clothes in cool weather, self-harm, substance abuse and other behaviors each have a pay-off of ‘feeling better’ but also don’t fix the problem or fully regulate us.

Co-regulation refers to the connections we make with others
to feel balanced and stable.  People
function better within the context of a relationship or attachment.  However, a stable relationship or secure
attachment is one that functions like a see-saw where both individuals give and
take, are comfortable with and know how to navigate being close and
distanced.  The unhealthy versions of
co-regulation include co-dependency when both are on one side of the see-saw or
isolation in which only one person is on the see-saw.

The three-legged stool of stability in the uncertain and unstable
life we live can only be achieved when each leg of the stool is the proper
length – not too long or not too short. 
When we learn to listen to our bodies we can experience
auto-regulation.  When we are accountable
for our moods, thoughts and behaviors and learn how to tolerate these things
for our self and know what keeps us balanced, we can experience
self-regulation.  When we know how to
communicate, validate, recognize and express our emotions and learn how to
tolerate others’ emotions, we can experience co-regulation.  If you feel that you are struggling with one
or more legs of your three-legged stool of regulation, please consult with a
medical and/or mental health professional to help you identify what may be
dysregulated and learn how you can achieve stability.

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Raising Children and Adolescents

Posted July 31, 2019 by

In couples
and family counseling, we are sometimes asked if we have a magic wand or pill
to make children behave.  Many parents
feel frustrated and overwhelmed about child rearing from time to time. Although
there is no magical answer to changing your child’s behavior, there are some
strategies that can be helpful. One strategy is having family rules. Almost
every family has rules, but are those rules posted? From our experience working
with families, we can tell you that unless your rules are posted their existence
is questionable and although individuals can recount the rules, rarely matched
perfectly. Rules have varying intentions and purposes and come in different forms,
but generally tend to work have two common traits: First, they are specific and
second, they are easy to understand.  Here are two types of rules we have
found in our discussions with families that may clarify the importance of these
two traits.

‘Do’ rules

‘Do’ rules
are teaching tools, and they are effective in most situations because they
guide your child’s behavior in a positive way. Here are some examples:

•   
Sit down to eat.

•   
Speak in a polite voice.

•   
Wear your seatbelt in the car.

•   
Be gentle with each other.

•   
Be home by curfew.

It is better
to have more ‘do’ than ‘don’t’ rules.

‘Don’t’ rules

Use ‘don’t’
rules when it is difficult to explain exactly what to do instead. Here are some
examples:

•   
Don’t spit.

•   
Don’t ask for things in the supermarket.

•   
Don’t get in a car with any other driver who has been drinking.

Tips and strategies:

First, as
the old saying goes, “Less is more”.  Have
two to four clear household rules, discuss them with your children, explain the
consequences for not following through with the rules and then post them some
place that you can refer to them when needed. A quick reminder is always good.
“What are the rules in this house?”  Too
many rules are overwhelming to both parents and children and ultimately both
give up on the rules.

A second
strategy is having consequences for your child’s behavior. Don’t forget that
consequences are both positive and negative. If your child’s behavior is
negative, the consequence is negative. If your child’s behavior is positive
then the consequence is positive. Parents often wonder why they need to use
positive consequences. Positive consequences encourage your child to continue
to do that behavior. Use things your child enjoys as positive consequences.
Play a game with him/her, let her/him choose what you will have for dinner,
generally spending time with your child is a great positive consequence.
Negative consequences also work best if you take away something that is
meaningful to your child, such as a favorite toy, friends or a cell phone. For
younger children planned ignoring works very well. Planned Ignoring is paying no
attention to a child when they misbehave – not that you are ignoring the
behavior, you are just not giving attention. It means not looking at them and
not talking to them while they behave that way. For example, if you’re having a
family meal and your child is bouncing up and down on the seat, you could leave
them out of the conversation and not look at them until they stop. When they
stop, you could say, ‘I love it when you sit still on your chair at dinner. Why
don’t you tell us what you did at preschool today?’  The key is to reward your child with lots of
attention when they behave well – but don’t give them any attention when they
behave badly.

References:

The Good Kid
Book: How to Solve the 16 Most Common Behavior Problems by Howard N. Sloane.
Published by Research Press, Inc. Copyright ©1988.

How to
Behave so your children will too! By Sal Severe, Published by Penguin Group,
Inc. Copyright © 1997, 2000

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Teaching our Children about Healthy Intimacy

Posted July 19, 2019 by

Parents play an integral part in establishing healthy
attachment and developing balanced intimacy for our children. According to
Walker, Busby, Lovett and Carol, Experts on human intimacy, balanced intimacy
is comprised of three dimensions.  The
first dimension is the Physical Dimension that includes the physiological
process that influence satisfaction, pleasure, and health. The second is the
Emotional Dimension which includes love, attachment, and unity. And, the third
dimension is Spiritual which includes a deep sense of relational meaning,
purpose, and progression.  The
development of healthy intimacy is natural and formed over time in different
stages from the time we are infants and touch everything to the time we become
adults and experience higher levels of intimacy.

Curiously, while we are comfortable allowing
our children to explore their environment, try new things, fall and scrape
their knees, we tend to be less comfortable with the idea of our children
having similar curiosity about their body, intimacy and feelings as they learn
to direct their maturing bodies and feelings in the proper path. We sometimes
try to protect our children from absolutely every thought, feeling, and
potential mistake and in doing so, we hinder their ability to grow and become
self-sufficient in their development. Because of our own discomfort regarding intimacy,
we often fail to establish the needed lifelong openness with our children
around the topic of intimacy and we make an already challenging situation much
harder. Imagine how much more difficult it would be for our babies to learn to
walk if they did not have their parents nearby to give them that helping hand
as they start to teeter or to pick them up after they fall and scrape their
knees. When we avoid open communication about intimacy with our children, we
are essentially making them learn to walk on their own.  Here are three guidelines to help you and
your children develop healthy attachment through ongoing communication and
learning experience with human intimacy:

1: Create a warm and supportive emotional
climate with your children. If we are generally supportive and loving parents
who also have reasonable but high expectations for our children, then our
parenting style will enable us to help that much more with their sense of self
and the development of intimacy. Assess yourself by answering these questions:
Do I generally support and love my child while also maintaining reasonable
expectations for them? Do my children seem to feel controlled and dominated,
afraid that whatever they say will result in a punishment? Or Do they feel like
I am a trusted, safe person they can talk and joke with about anything and at
the same time know that I have appropriate expectations for their behavior?

2: Be a proactive parent. Consistent,
proactive communication is much more effective than sheltering children against
every possible encounter with intimacy. Proactive parenting is the anticipation
of problems that children might face and the ability to act before the behavior
has become a serious problem. In contrast, reactive
parenting would be our reaction to a child’s’ behavior – for example a reaction
to finding out that your child has been viewing and reacting to inappropriate
pictures.

3: Open communication is more effective than
having “the talk”.  While many parents
have “the talk” with their children at one point or another, we need to have
many, many, many talks about intimacy – one big talk is not enough.  We need to swing open the door by openly
discussing intimacy so that our children feel comfortable asking us the
questions that they will have.  Instead
of covering up the television screen as I remember my parents doing (and
recently caught myself doing) – use this as an opportunity to talk about the
physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of healthy intimacy.  Providing a safe and comfortable environment
in which to have these talks eliminates
shame and can also ease the discomfort that may exist with these
discussions.  Talking in the car, while
doing yard work, or playing toss can take the emphasis off the topic and allow
open communication to occur.

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Experience Outside The Box

Posted June 28, 2019 by

Think Experience Outside The Box!

Our typical experience is that one day rolls into the next, one-month rolls into the next, we blink our eyes and we’re staring down the barrel of another New Year’s Day saying: where the heck did the time go? While
shopping recently, this advertisement on one of the products in the store caught my attention: “The tan will fade but the memories will last forever”! Honestly some of our family’s summers have faded faster than the tan lines, so when I read the science behind how to create these unforgettable memories I was thrilled. This information came from Chip and Dan Heath who wrote the amazing book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” and have released their new book “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” that lays out what you need to know about making the most of every day
moments. Here are some tips these authors suggest and which we encourage clients to practice:

1) Create Moments of Elevation or high energy
At the core of a moment of elevation are the 3 S’s: sensory, stakes, and script. These can add to any event to make it more special.

  • Engaging the Senses: Parties. Sporting events. Road trips. What do they have in common? These experiences create energy and help us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated. If you feel the need to pull out a camera, it’s probably a moment of elevation.
  • Raise the stakes: Competing in a sporting event is more exciting than watching one. In fact, betting on a sporting event makes watching one more entertaining. If there’s something to gain or lose, you’ll be paying attention.
  • Break the script: Don’t do the usual thing. Don’t just get coffee or have dinner. Boring. Take your default and flip it on its head. Defy expectations and strategically surprise people. The Heath brothers write, “The most memorable periods of our lives are when we break the script.”
    Activating the senses, raising the stakes and breaking the script more intensely makes moments stand out. As a review, our senses include sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing, movement and balance. Anything that activates one or more of these is a highly enriching and healing experience.

2) Celebrate Moments of Pride
A graduation party. The ceremony where you received your black belt. Or when the licensing board stamped your results as “Passing”. You want to commemorate achievements. When you have your skill noticed by
others, you can puff your chest out and take a second to feel really good about yourself. And this is not a “nice o have.” Research shows we need to feel this power of success!

Carolyn Wiley of Roosevelt University reviewed four similar studies of employee motivation conducted in 1946, 1980, 1986 and 1992. Across the studies, only one factor was cited every time as among the top two motivators: “full appreciation of work done.” According to one survey the Heath brothers found, the #1 reason people leave their jobs is “a lack of praise and recognition.” So, take the time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished, express appreciation to others and let others celebrate with you.

3) Build Moments of Connection
Vacations. Reunions. Holidays. The times that connect us with others where we feel all kinds of warm fuzzies. These are the moments when some of the most powerful memories are formed. Struggling together made
people closer. Wait!! I’m supposed to be grateful for challenges and struggles!? Well…yes! Problem solving, finding resolution, getting through the storm, discovering what we are made of form very strong connections.

When you want to just veg and watch a movie, play a board game or go do something active instead.
Discover what you’re capable of, how easy it is to connect with those around you. Don’t just think outside the
box, EXPERIENCE outside the box!

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Handling trauma experiences

Posted May 8, 2019 by tcfadmin

Depending on the type of trauma a person has experienced,
the following may be excellent resources for working through the effects of
trauma:

Acupuncture

Art & Art Therapy

Body/Energy work

Ego State and/or Parts and Memory work

EMDR

Martial Arts (Qi Gong, Tai Chi, etc.)

Massage

Psychodrama

Yoga (Slow and meditative styles)

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A word for you

Posted May 8, 2019 by tcfadmin

Closeness, connection and intimacy has very little to do
with words or understanding someone and has a lot to do with the energetic,
emotional, mirroring and reciprocating responses that communicate synchrony,
acceptance and validation.  Flat and/or
stone-cold facial expressions, verbal threats and violent reactions can easily
become the seeds for trauma.

Trauma literally changes the brains structure and function
and therefore changes the perception and experience of reality.

Some core components of trauma include:

  • A person’s feeling that the can’t do something
    or go somewhere.  They essentially feel
    stuck.  They don’t want to connect with
    people or get close to people and would rather stay in.
  • Things that should or normally would be scary or
    dangerous become compelling.
  • Things that should or normally would be
    considered healthy lose their attraction.
  • Things that should or normally would be
    considered painful become pleasurable and things that would/should be
    pleasurable become painful.

Because trauma is an experience, effective trauma treatment
requires less talking about the traumatic experiences or memories and
encourages more experiential methods to help the body and brain release what
seems or feels to be stuck.

The body records and stores everything we experience.  Pain from trauma can and often does manifest
itself in physical ways including but not limited to headaches, migraines,
stomach aches, sore throats, muscle tension, joint pain, etc.  Our muscles have web-like tissues in them call
facia that has been shown to become very tight and rigid from trauma and it is
these tissues that massage therapists work on to help people release the stored
or stuck energy associated with trauma.

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Resilience

Posted May 8, 2019 by tcfadmin

  • Resilience is the desired outcome of trauma focused therapy.  We all naturally believe we are resilient and can handle anything.  Most of the time we can logic or think through our circumstances and push aside emotions and beliefs in order to accomplish goals, survive and get by.  Sometimes however, our experiences seem to have more power than we would like to admit and there seems to be a disconnect between what we logically know and what we actually feel.  Trauma treatment bridges the gap between logic and the felt sense and helps individuals and families feel grounded.

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Posted May 8, 2019 by tcfadmin

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Posted May 8, 2019 by tcfadmin

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