Dealing with the Soul and Emotions

Everyone struggles with how to deal with their emotions. This is especially challenging for children whose neurological development has not matured to the point that they can use more rational thinking to deal with their emotions. It becomes even more problematic if our children have suffered a traumatic event or experienced toxic stress. 

Trauma and toxic stress impair all areas of development for children causing them to act and think below their chronological age. We call this gap “Age vs. Stage” to reference how a 16-year-old can act socially and emotionally like a 6-year-old. Often, the age that the child experienced the trauma is the emotional age they get stuck at even while the rest of them advance in years. This can open the eyes for many caregivers who are puzzled by the age vs stage problem. 

Adults don’t always have good solutions to this problem, however. We may not really know how to manage our own emotions. Perhaps we have had our own trauma that shuts us down when overwhelmed by stress or we haven’t had many examples of what healthy, responsible adults do with their intense feelings and so, we limp along with our own developmental journey. 

What most adults do is stuff their feelings. They might do this by dissociating from their bodily reactions and disconnect from extreme feelings of intimacy or closeness. They might push the feelings down until the boil over in a fit of rage, with everyone around the just waiting for the next volcanic explosion. They might try to be super reasonable and lecture their family and be perfectionistic with expectations no one can live up to. 

The healthier answer is not to try and live from our emotions at all! The secret is that you can change your emotions by changing what you believe. When you wake up in the morning, don’t ask yourself “How do I feel today?” Ask yourself, instead “What do I believe today?”

Families who are faith-based believe many things they don’t always practice. For example, we believe that God will take care of all our needs but we spend hours being worried. Our beliefs must go deeper into our subconscious minds where habits exist. You don’t think about how to do certain things in life, like driving your car or make dinner, because those thought structures are set in our subconscious mind so that we can spend more energy on other conscious thoughts and actions. Practicing what we preach has to become a natural reaction to life’s challenges as well. 

Faith-based families have a strange distrust of their own souls as well. Our souls comprise our body, mind, and will. Perhaps we distrust them because we haven’t changed our subconscious habits yet. This will be an on-going process, for sure, and one we can start modeling for our children as well. We also have to live healthy lifestyles, eating good food, engaging in playful activities, and getting rest and exercise. 

Our beliefs allow us to overcome shame from our past. This is what causes traumatized children (and adults) from believing they deserve a good life because they are unworthy of love, unwanted by biological parents, and damaged in some way – maybe many ways. This negative belief results in the sabotage of success, self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, and fear. This list could go on…

God’s mercies are supposed to be “new every morning” and the same level of grace should be extended to ourselves as well as to other. We need to offer this to our traumatized children, as well. Whatever happened yesterday must be forgiven and our thought life must be taken captive. 

A powerful tool for ourselves and for our families is to make biblical declarations – out loud! Life or death is on the tongue and what we say can steer the direction of our lives (Proverbs 18:21; James 3). Speaking out our new beliefs is an act of faith because we may not feel that what we are saying is true but we are not letting our emotions guide our beliefs, we are letting our beliefs direct our emotions. 

Renewing the mind is how we are to live our faith governed lives and it is a continual process of maturity for our children and will help to close the age vs. stage gap (Romans 12:1-1). 

Start your declarations with the words “I believe” and see what happens to your own mindset as well as to your child’s attitude and behaviors.

“I believe” that I have all the grace I need to face any challenge or problem that comes up for me today.

“I believe” that I am worthy of love and the love of God, who is love, overflows from me to everyone I encounter today.

“I believe” that I am trustworthy, kind, and tenderhearted. I am able to forgive other people who have hurt by and not live in bitterness or seek revenge. 

  • “I believe” that my prayers are powerful.
  • “I believe” I am great at relationships and making friends.
  • “I believe”  that my family is blessed and I am a blessing to everyone around me.
  • “I believe” God is on my side and doesn’t hate me or punish me. 
  • “I believe” I can think right thoughts and make good decisions.
  • “I believe” that I am successful and have the ability to think and act creatively today.
  • “I believe” today is a new day, full of new mercies, and I can be happy and rejoice in it. 
  • “I believe” that the joy of the Lord is my strength. 
  • “I believe” I do not have a spirit of fear and God gives me power, love, and a sound mind. 
  • “I believe” that I can control what I say and everything from my lips speak love, live, and encouragement. 
  • “I believe” that I can remember everything I am studying and will accomplish everything that needs to get down today. 
  • “I believe” that believing the truth sets me free of fear and depression. 

Don’t worry if you don’t always feel what you say is true. Don’t be concerned or deterred if your children don’t agree with your declarations, at first. I believe that if you practice these declarations and start to create your own personal list that you will see incredible changes in your own heart and the heart of your family, today and over time!

Take a free online course to help your family heal at FamilyHealer.tv

6 Ways to Heal Your Vagus Nerve

inner-healing:

6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More

Source: http://healthycures.org/6-ways-to-instantly-stimulate-your-vagus-nerve-to-relieve-inflammation-depression-migraines-and-more/

I read an article yesterday that has me extremely excited about the implications. The article is called “Hacking the Nervous System” by Gaia Vince (http://mosaicscience.com/story/hacking-nervous-system). In the article, the author describes the experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. What this means, is that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can greatly influence inflammation and the immune system. The role of the brain on body inflammation can be profound. If you suffer from digestive complaints, high blood pressure, depression or any inflammatory condition, please read on. Let me explain the possible implications step by step.
What is the vagus nerve?
Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More 6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More vagus nerveFirst of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down the from go the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight of flight’).

Vagal tone
The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when your breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.

What is high vagal tone associated with?
High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.

What is low vagal tone associated with?
Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

How do we increase vagal tone?
In the article above, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:

Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
The implications of such simple and basic practices on your overall health, and in particular on inflammation are far-reaching. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We’ve known for years that breathing exercises and meditation are helpful for our health, but it is so fascinating to learn the mechanism by which they work. I hope this short article has inspired you to begin a meditation practice, as it has for me, and also to look for other means to manage the body’s inflammatory response.

References:

Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze WA.Vagal pathways for microbiome-brain-gut axis communication. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33.

Kok, B, Fredrickson, B, Coffey, K, et al. How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone. Psychological Science 2013 24: 1123

Better Beliefs Bring Better Relationships

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

You don’t have to keep praying for better relationships. You can just start having them. Let them start with you today. Don’t expect others to start because you did but once you start they will feel the ripple effects of it and will try to have better relationships with you as well. 

The thing that drains you in your relationships isn’t the other person. It is the beliefs you have about that relationship that drains you. Negative emotions make you tired. 

Change what you believe about your family. A hopeful thought will bubble up life and love that you didn’t know was still inside. Stop trying to do what you are doing better and do it with better beliefs about what is possible. Don’t wait for better days to come. Start having better attitudes and better days will come. 

So much effort goes into changing other family members instead of changing the culture of the family. Shifting the atmosphere of the home and paying attention to examples of hope, love, kindness, celebration, patience, cooperation, respect, power, optimism, fun, playfulness, honesty, sharing, peach and more, will make those values increase. Ignoring what you dislike about your family relationships will strangle those things and they will wither away. 

Don’t act on feelings. Feelings deceive you. They come and then they go. Let them. Practice what you believe and act on your hope of what will be and not what is going on in your relationships. Feelings are signals to the temperature level in the home. They are not the thermostat. Your beliefs are set the temperature. 

Hurting families protect and hold back parts of themselves to avoid further hurt. Risk involves giving more of ones self to build trust and get more of the other in return and better, safer relationships develop through these small acts of faith.

Breakthrough in the strongholds of fear will change the atmosphere of the home bringing balance in mood and reactivity. Underestimating your influence will disempower your ability to change. Stop thinking about yourself and powerless and start thinking about yourself as powerful. You have 100% power over your own life, reactions, attitude and beliefs. Your outer reality doesn’t determine your inner reality. Your inner reality will transform your outer reality. 

It is time for unreasonable optimism about your present and future relationships. This is more than strategies to change things. It is a personal revival to change yourself. The family changes when you change. 

“I’ve Got No Choice”

Many studies have shown how important it is for low-income mothers to sustain their moral identities as both good mothers and reliable workers during times of little social valuing of mothers’ caring work. Discovering how low-income mothers sustain this duality when caring crises preclude employment requires a mapping of their social worlds as reflected in their moral justifications. We used an institutional ethnographic approach that focused on situations wherein mothers decide to exit the labor market and devote themselves to their children’s caring needs. Interviews with 48 Israeli mothers revealed that they maintain their moral fitness both as good mothers and good citizens by engaging in a specific emotion management: expressing emotional devotion to their paid job, whereas child care is presented as a necessity. We argue that emotion management is particularly revealing of how macro-level institutional practices and discourses come to the fore in individuals’ daily lives.

“I’ve Got No Choice”

Use Your Words…

Children have to learn to use their words in order to manage their emotions. In order for parents to model this type of control, they have to show that they can handle their children’s frustrations and anger in a calm, response-able manner. This way the child will not come to believe that their feelings are too big to be managed or will get too out of control to be controlled with their words. Parents who respond to anger and frustration with anger and frustration will magnify the emotions and create a belief that emotions rule us instead of the other way around.

Take back control of your home: 101 Parenting Tools: Building the Family of Your Dreams

How to Engage Men in Emotional Dialogue

You would like your Boomer husband or boyfriend to open up more and talk about his emotions. He’s probably aware of his feelings; he just hasn’t said them out loud very often. He may be fearful about getting into this emotional dialogue arena with you because he knows you’re far more skilled. He needs to feel absolute trust with you before he attempts what he probably considers a death-defying act. Opening his heart with you may be a first for him in a relationship. His feeling safe is important. You already knew that an authentic relationship requires emotional dialogue, so your patience while he tries to speak from his heart is critical towards achieving this goal.

He’s likely going to have to overcome lifelong, negative feelings that trace back to his boyhood. His lesson was simple; acting like a man meant never showing or talking about physical or emotional pain. Need proof regarding how difficult talking about feelings is for men? Ask any ten men how they feel about something, and nine will respond by telling you what they think, instead. Getting him to engage in this conversation with you is a high bar for him to hurdle. His senses of safety and trust are tantamount for his success.

The point you want to share is that he can only get what he wants or needs from you if he knows how to ask for it, based on his feelings. If you and your partner follow these simple guidelines, you can deepen the intimacy in your relationship, and move it to the next level. While helping him in this endeavor isn’t your responsibility, your relationship will benefit exponentially, so consider helping him as an act of love instead of a thankless task.

1. Explain to your partner that you’re willing to abide by specific conditions if he’s willing to share what’s in his heart. Assure him in no uncertain terms that he won’t receive any judgment, opinions, or criticism from you when he’s finished, because you recognize that his feelings, like yours, are his absolute truth. Everything spoken from his heart is his truth, and as such, is not open for debate. Alternatively, his thoughts are simply his opinions, and are always open for debate. It may take a while before he’s able to separate the two and handle each as different entities.

2. Suggest that he take a few moments before speaking to connect with how he’s feeling, in his body. Is he anxious or nervous? Let him know that you’ll wait while those feelings dissipate before he shares, and that pausing might help him to more easily convey the appropriate emotions. It’s important that you wait until he’s completely finished sharing his feelings with you before responding. He may stumble a bit and need your patience while he tries to make his point. Feeling that he has control of his end of the emotional dialogue will afford him a sense of autonomy.

3. Remember, the point of asking him to share his feelings with you wasn’t to please you, but rather, to have him speak from his heart to you, without fear. You wanted to discover how he feels about you and your relationship, and now he’s told you. Whatever follows, he’s learned a critical relationship communication skill, and you’ve gotten a better sense of what direction your relationship is headed. That’s invaluable information towards building a better working relationship. He’s your equal partner now in an arena few men dare enter with a woman. Thanking him for what was probably a Herculean effort, will encourage additional emotional dialogue in the future. This is a win/win, by anyone’s standards.

Ron Huxley’s Reply: This isn’t the typical parenting post for the Parenting Toolbox blog but perhaps it should be…So many women complain over the lack of emotional sharing from dad. They assume this is due to “complacency” or lack of “compliance” (i.e., stubbornness). Often, the real reason is due to “competence” or lack of experience/education. It could also be due to low “capacity.” This last area is usually a result of early life trauma that many men suffer but society refuses to acknowledge.

Next time you are frustrated with your husband, try to be patient and take the time to retrain them. Nagging only backfires!

Teen Conflict Spillover

Parents of teens probably know this all too well. A conflict at home can mean sending your teen out the door in a funk, which can spur negative interactions outside of the home. Conversely, teens can come in the door having had a conflict with a friend and that means anyone in his or her path is in for it, too. This dynamic is what a recent study in the journal Child Development studied.

Chung and colleagues set out to examine whether or not there was spillover between conflict with parents/family and conflict with peers. As one may guess, the researchers found that when teens had a conflict with a parent or other family member they were more likely to report having a conflict with a peer, and vice versa. They referred to this phenomenon as “spillover”.

The authors discuss spillover in the context of a “transmission of negative emotions” and an extreme and negative quality that can color the adolescent emotional experience. Teens simply experience emotions with an intensity that is specific to being a teenager. With all of the changes that teens go through (remember puberty?), it would make sense that they would experience some fierce emotions.

The authors collected daily diary entries for two weeks from over 500 ninth-grade males and females from diverse backgrounds. Study participants reported on family and peer conflict, as well as emotional distress. Because the entries were subjective, the results certainly need to be interpreted within the framework of perception. That is, the diaries were the information that the teens reported to be their experiences. Asking someone else could have potentially offered different information.

In each situation of conflict, same predicted same at the highest rates. In other words, peer conflict predicted peer conflict more than family conflict predicted it. Conversely, family conflict predicted family conflict at a higher rate than peer conflict predicted it.

Although the effects were smaller, family conflict still significantly predicted same-day and next-day peer conflict. Interestingly, it also significantly predicted peer conflict two days later. Now that’s some spillover! Peer conflict significantly predicted same-day and next-day family conflict. Effects were stronger for girls than for boys and girls reported the experience of arguing with family members as being more stressful than arguing with peers.

Nobody suggests that parenting a teen is a walk in the park. On the contrary, it is a challenging time for both parent and teen and brings with it a host of trying situations unique to this phase of life. While parents can’t be there to keep peer conflict from happening, they do have some control over parent-teen conflict. And improving parent-teen conflict, according to this study, may have the added bonus of improving teen conflict with peers.

So what can parents of teens do to bring down the conflict at home? Oftentimes, learning how to talk about tough (or even not so tough) topics in a different way can make an amazing difference. I know, I know. Teens are especially clever at knowing exactly which buttons to push to make your face turn purple and your voice raise an octave or two. If you’d like to, in turn, be clever by learning some new ways to defuse these situations and make them productive rather than meet them with conflict, I definitely recommend Faber and Mazlish’s book “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk”. It’s chock full of different techniques and strategies that both parents and teens can use to increase respect and decrease conflict while helping teens become more responsible individuals. Enjoy! -Anita

Source: Chung GH, Flook L, & Fuligni AJ (2011). Reciprocal Associations Between Family and Peer Conflict in Adolescents’ Daily Lives. Child development PMID: 2179382

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Does your interactions with your teen at home affect their interactions with peers? According to this review of the research it does. Your teen will never let you know you have such an influence on them other than blame you for all the problems that exist in their lives but you do have an emotional impact, called a “spillover.”