anger management

Breaking through the Barriers of Teenage Communication

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Being a teenager can be very confusing and emotional at times. This can make it difficult for a parent to understand how to approach their teen and how to develop a strong bond with them through this stage of their life. There are several factors you should keep in mind when connecting with your teenager to help make sure you are creating a space that is empathetic and understanding.

As we develop, we have several psycho-social milestones we are expected to complete at by the end of each life stage. The milestone that teenagers are trying to develop is their individual identity. Teenagers are beginning to separate their identity from the identity of their family. Friends begin to have a larger influence on them than their parents, so it is important for parents to find a balance where they are giving the teen their space, but are still available when teens need more than their friends can provide.

We know now that human brains do not fully develop until we are in our mid-twenties. The area of the brain that is still maturing through our teen years and into our mid-20’s is the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for executive functioning, which includes planning, attention, inhibition and working memory (process actions that are happening to you in the present moment).  This can make it much more difficult for teenagers to be organized and use self-control.

In our teen years, we also rely heavily on our amygdala for processing information about the world around us. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our emotions. Processing information in the emotional center of the brain can cause teens to react with stronger emotions in situations where an adult may not react so strongly.

Keeping these facts in mind, here are some tips to use when trying to establish better communication between you and your teen:

  1. Create a safe space: You will want to create an environment for your teen that lets them know you are open source to talk to that is free of judgment. This may include not reacting strongly to what they are saying and holding off on giving advice unless they ask for it.
  2. Active listening: This can be as easy are nodding and saying “Uh huh” as they are speaking or repeating important points back to your teen. These are skills many therapists use. It can let your teen that you are connecting with them so they feel more open to sharing.
  3. Withhold your impulse reactions: When they admit to something that you disagree with, withhold your gut reactions as best as you can. If this means leaving the room for a couple minutes to collect your thoughts, tell your teen you need to take care of something really quick and leave the room. Come back and rejoin the conversation when you feel like you have a clear mind. Reacting impulsively can sometimes close a teen off.
  4. Make time for your teen: Being available to your teen consistently is very important in establishing a more open relationship.
  5. Give them space: It is sometimes most effective to let them approach you. Once you have put some of these skills into motion, your teen will start to know they can rely on you and will learn to come to you with any conflicts in their life. If you are really concerned and they are not coming to you, you can always ask if they are doing okay and if there is anything they want to talk about but don’t come off as pushing too hard for them to speak up. That can work against you and cause them to close off even more.
  6. Check in with yourself during the conversation: Make sure your body language isn’t giving the impression that you are closed off (arms crossed, not looking at them in the eye) or that you are holding a judgment (expression on your face when they say something that elicits an emotion).

All these tips are things that will need some rehearsal so it is important to be patient once putting this into practice. It may be helpful to practice these skills on other people in your life before using them with your teen.


References

Johnson, S. B, Blum, R. W & Gleed, J. N. (2009) Adolescent maturity and the brain: the promise and pitfalls of neuroscience research in adolescent health policy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 43 (3), 216-221.

Newman, B. M. & Newman, P. R. (2008) Development through life: a psychosocial approach. (10th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Publishing.

Sather, R. & Shelat, A. Understanding the teen brain. University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/

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On Parenting: A Classroom for Healing the Generational Conflict Cycle

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“…The universe is part of this one cry,
every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

By Jason Briggs, MA

According to the Global Survey of Violence Against Children put out by the United Nations, “every year, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence”. 1 Alice Miller, PhD, is a psychologist, sociologist, philosopher and renowned author of many books on child abuse describes in her book, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, how past child abuse is meted out against children in innumerable ways and typically by parents who assume consciously or not, a “for your own good” maxim.  Miller shows how the many parenting approaches endorsed in western society produce a multi-generational conflict cycle, through overt and covert trauma bonds. These bonds within the child/caregiver relationship are felt and aren’t impacted by analytical thought so they touch all our families equally, regardless of educational level, socio-economic status, race, etc. This blog will explore one aspect of this generational conflict cycle and be a part of a series of blogs with some solutions offered in each blog. The goal is to help parents identify and begin healing to eventually resolve the generational conflict cycle. (See Alice Miller’s book: For Your Own Good: Hidden Roots of Cruelty and Violence in Child Rearing for exploring the ways this cycle is perpetuated.)

The generational conflict cycle begins when parents with unhealed emotional wounds unconsciously attempt to get their own emotional needs met by their children. Parents will do this both consciously and unconsciously and often see their children through the veil of their own unfinished business (by bypassing this aspect of their powerful inner life), which consists of “…past internalized perceptions, which are ‘frozen’ and usually stemming from childhood.” The effects on children are they must idealize their parents to survive as their own healthy needs go unmet, the ability to soothe themselves is further perceived as hopeless, and the true self (the entire access to ones innate inner life: feelings, thoughts, wants, needs, choices, decisions, beliefs, sensations, dreams, fantasies) goes into hiding in the unconscious while a false self emerges. This child’s false self is the one that complies and relates from the parental emotional wounds as solidified judgments, which are projected onto their children, seen predominately as children’s misbehavior, oddities, attitudes, or any other judgement. This is the way a parent unconsciously ends up placing the emotional needs of the parent above their children’s emotional needs and maintains the generational conflict cycle.

Emotionally neglected children, commonly grow up to be adults who in turn, emotionally neglect their inner emotional world and those of their children. Our neglected emotional and psychological needs by the now adult parent are automatically passed on to the next generation. This generational conflict cycle, when denied, operates as generational conflicts maintained in the parent/caregiver/child relationship and takes many forms (See Alice Miller’s book: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, for exploring more in depth ways we function in society to hold power over children, to the betrayal of children).

As parents, cultivating a mindful stance that addresses the neglect of our own unmet emotional needs helps shift the parenting stance from mindless to mindful. The hope of making this shift from the mindless to the mindful means choosing to end the bypassing of doing one’s own inner work and being self-responsible for the condition of one’s own mind. One way to do this is by choosing to see our pain as an opportunity for healing and growth, rather than a curse. Exploring that opportunity as a healing choice means to begin addressing one’s own generational conflict cycle, regardless of the time, patience, and persistence required. Therapy that helps promote healing maintains that parents focus on certain essentials to recovery, by: 1) slowing down and understanding the steps in going from ‘zero to sixty’, 2) learning about projection and it’s guises (projection is an emotional wound that is seen in another, because it is been denied in ourselves), 3) seeking therapy that focuses on experiential work that at some point includes body awareness work, 4) learning about the nature of the psyche, what constitutes its dynamics, and explore if and when a self-help approach is limiting our efforts to heal (as we may be unknowingly perpetuating a belief  that we must do our inner work alone), 5) being willing to learn about mindsight research in attachment and effective parenting (see Daniel Siegel’s work), and the way the caregiver’s role, emotions, and psyche condition impact our children’s healthy and unhealthy development, 6) exploring new and creative ways to heal and nurture ourselves as parents, as the cause for our truly being there for our children, 7) being willing to cultivate understanding and compassion in our healing and growth process, as parents.

All parents have a thankless job with most never consciously wanting to harm their children, and appealing to that truth, I see this daily in service to my clients who are parents, and see this is true, being mostly out of awareness. The generational conflict cycle may mean we need help in understanding its causes, effects, and what heals it.  One way to explore essentials to healing it is to enjoy a great read by Charles Whitfield, MD, researcher and psychotherapist from Atlanta, Georgia, titled, Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self. For help with understanding these skills more experientially by using emotional, psychological, or spiritual disciplines, ask yourself, “Is it time to give a gift to myself and my children by seeing my own emotional and psychological pain as a classroom for learning about my inner life?” For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES! Before I cultivated a proper focus on addressing my own unmet emotional and spiritual needs, I was a smiling, charming and successful parent but was only one half alive, meeting only my physical and mental needs! We are here to live life fully and with joy. As parents, one way of taking steps toward that fullness of life is to explore our choices for healing, and when ready, to decide to begin to explore what it means to see parenting as a classroom for healing our own generational conflict cycle.


References

Miller, Alice (1984). Thou shalt not be Aware, society’s betrayal of the child    Toronto, Canada. Collins Publishers

Miller, Alice (1997).  Drama of the Gifted Child, the Search for the True Self   Garden City, New York.  Basic Books

Trout, Susan (1990).  To See Differently, Personal Growth and Being of Service Through Attitudinal Healing. Three Roses Press

Whitfield, Charles (1993).  Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing Protecting and Enjoying the Self.  Health Communications, Inc.

https://www.compassion.com/poverty/child-abuse.htm United Nations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Toward a World Free From Violence: Global Survey on Violence against Children, October, 2013.

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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

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By Bonita Carol, M.A., CT. Ayurveda Health Practitioner

Ayurvedic medicine is a comprehensive holistic system of health care originating in India that spans over 5000 years. I have been an Ayurvedic health practitioner since 1991, having witnessed profound changes, such as stress reduction and reduced depression in clients in a short time, often within a month of adopting some of the techniques and knowledge of Ayurveda. This blog explores how the practice of Ayurvedic medicine can be a complementary modality to psychotherapy by including all aspects of the person: mind, body, environment, and soul.

Ayurvedic medicine offers knowledge and techniques for understanding how to prevent mental and physical illness while improving well-being. In an age when toxins bombard the environment (EPA, 2016), high levels of stress and addiction plague society (Segura, 2013), and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing (Bryan, 2016, para. 8), the need for preventive healthcare education and services seems to be at an all-time high. Ayurvedic approaches to psychology can help address some of the problems that challenge U.S. society, including Alzheimer’s (Rao, Descamps, John, & Bredesen, 2012), grief, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood autism, PTSD, adapting to change, and relationship issues (Elder, Nidich, Moriarty, & Nidich, 2014, para. 5). Ayurveda also offers alternatives for individuals who feel limited by the mainstream medical model or have not had success with medications or therapy alone, and want something more as an adjunct to therapy sessions.

Ayurveda also addresses existential questions, such as “Who am I?” It provides for personal and spiritual growth through knowledge about the experience of Atman and the numinous, which psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1938-1940/1983) defined as “either a quality belonging to a visible object, or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness” that connects the individual with a force that transcends the personal self (p. 239). In addressing psychospiritual needs, Ayurveda defines two selves: The ego, or small self of ordinary awareness, is denoted by self with a small s; a capital S denotes the Self that transcends the ego, and is the silent witness and the universal backdrop for all thinking and feeling (Maharishi, 1983, lecture).

An Ayurvedic orientation may bring to therapy an extensive and comprehensive understanding of the source of the client’s problems on a physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual level. An Ayurvedic treatment plan not only approaches the client from a cognitive level, but is inclusive of all areas of one’s life, from inquiry into the house one lives in, called Vastu or Vedic architecture; to lifestyle and habits, diet and nutrition, familial history, significant life events, and spiritual health. By understanding the etiology of the client’s issues from this comprehensive view, a solid treatment plan can be constructed that does not isolate any area of the client’s life and that contributes to growth toward wholeness.

This blog series explores how psychotherapy and Ayurveda might be used as adjunct therapy to provide additional support for clients to make profound changes in their psychological, cognitive, and physical health. The Ayurvedic practice of meditation, particularly Transcendental Meditation (TM), has been shown to support cognitive development and reduce psychological symptoms (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003). For example, TM meditation is currently used in inner city schools to help students reduce violent behavior, improve grades, and reduce detentions (p. 1). There seem to be gaps in the fields of psychology and medicine to the extent that they may treat the mind and body as separate and body awareness appears to be left out of the therapeutic process. As heart health researcher Robert Schneider (2015) said, “Heart disease is now correlated with mental health” (lecture); to prevent heart disease, mental health issues need to be addressed.

Ayurvedic practitioners Nancy Liebler, a clinical psychologist, and public health expert, Sandra Moss (2009) impart about the mind–body connection in Ayurveda:

“Mind-body medicine and its emerging field psychoneuroimmunology are bringing the issue of the unity of the mind and body to the stage of modern science. The Vedic sages, on the other hand integrated this concept a long time ago. They looked for the unity that underlies all the systems of our physiology rather than the sole focus on the systems’ diverse functions. This is the holistic approach that we should consider when we study the global affliction of depression.” (pp. 32-33)

Ayurveda can have benefits for both clients and therapists. It brings attention to the way in which Ayurveda techniques can cultivate a deepened sensitivity, receptivity, and consciousness, making one a more effective therapist. This research supports therapists in working with clients who have an interest in integrative modalities and gives the client access to more choices in how to attend to mental health and cultivate personal growth.  In part 2 of this blog, I will discuss the effect of Ayurvedic enhanced interventions on ADHD and Autism.


Bonita Carol, M.A. is a certified Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda Practitioner and lineage holder by the late Ayurvedic Master Healer, Vaidya Ramakant Mishra.  She is a marriage and family therapist registered intern supervised by Dr. Leona Kashersky PsyD at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. For information on Ayurveda, please contact her at www.ayurvedahealthcoach.com(530) 401-8627


References

Barnes VA, Bauza LB, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2003;1:10. doi:10.1186/1477-7525-1-10. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155630/

Elder, C., et al. (2011). Reduced psychological distress in racial and ethnic minority students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, vol. 38, no. 2.

EPA. (2016). Air quality management process. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/air-quality-management-process

Garrido, M. (2013, April,15). Vedic Philosophy and Quantum Mechanics On the Soul retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mauricio-garrido/vedic-philosophy-and-quantum-mechanics-on-the-soul_b_3082572.html

Jung, C. G. (1983). From Psychology and Religion (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In A. Storr, The essential Jung (pp. 239-249). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1938-1940)

Liebler, N.C. and Moss, S. (2009). Healing depression the mind body way, creating happiness through meditation, yoga and ayurveda.  Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (April 1983), unpublished lecture, TM Teacher Training Course, Maastricht Holland.

Rao, R. V., Descamps, O., John, V., & Bredesen, D. E. (2012, June). Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 4(3), 22. http://doi.org/10.1186/alzrt125

Schneider, R. (2016, Nov. 10). Dr. Robert Schneider Discusses Ayurveda and Vedic Psychiatry. Published lecture. paper University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa. Retrieved from youtube: Robert Schnhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugr_Mslc5gk

Segura, G. (2013, April 22). Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society. Retrieved from: https://www.sott.net/article/261360-Mass-nervous-breakdown-Millions-of-Americans-on

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The Compassion Door: 5 Steps to more LOVE!

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By Leona Kashersky, Psy.D.

For the last year I have deepened my study and practice of compassion, using embodiment practices to integrate  “Lovingkindness” or “Metta” into my daily life and physical being.  My personal experience mirrors what research in the fields of transpersonal and mindfulness psychology is saying about the overall health benefits of the practice. This practice actually enhances immune  function, cardiovascular health, glucose regulation, and even improves social skills!

Metta can be loosely defined as love and compassion for the self and others. Researchers are learning that practicing lovingkindness or metta has objective and observable emotional, physical, social benefits. Donald Rothberg, whose work spans over 30 years as a leading teacher and writer on transpersonal psychology, meditation, and socially engaged spiritual practice, wrote “The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World.” Both Donald Rothberg and Barbra Fredrickson have been influential in conducting and participating in research to establish evidence for the health benefits of meditation, self-love, and compassion in modern society.  Fredrickson teaches what she calls “micro-moments of love” or  “positivity resonance” in scientific lingo and in everyday language. As Fredrickson points out, compassion generates loveand love feels good! Start with yourself, and it will naturally radiate out to others near and far.

In my most recent experiences with meditation on love, compassion, and kindness I have used Metta mantras such as “rest in an awakened heart”, “safe and free from harm”, “the body supports the practice”, “surrounded by love and kindness”, in combination with movement. The pairing of movement, breath, mantra, and human connection help to assist in the integration of the compassion practice into the entire mind, body, and spirit.  Movement can include yoga, walking, and dance, including 5 Rhythms; Included are a couple of links to local favorites! The practice of movement meditation has assisted in my personal journey to embody the practice of loving kindness.

The following  techniques reduce burnout and increases positive emotion and LOVE on many different levels in the lives’ of individual people, families, and communities.  A brief and concise description of how the mantras are used are outlined below:

for HP Blog

Step 1:

Cultivate self-compassion: First, focus on the easiest person to grow compassion towards, the self. This is done by not merely reciting words or phrases, but by allowing one’s self to feel the meaning of the phrase or words during the meditation.

  1. I rest with an awakened heart
  2. May I be safe and free from harm
  3. May my body support my practice
  4. May I be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 2:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘dear one’, someone you love dearly. This may be your child, your parent, or a romantic partner, or even a pet!  This is the second easiest form of compassion to grow. As you concentrate on the meaning or feelings of phrases or words, picture the face of the dear one; allow yourself to really experience the face of this dear one. Then slowly use  following mantras. One meditation session may only focus on one of the phrases for each of these steps.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 3:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘neutral person’. This neutral person can be someone you see at Starbucks every weekday morning; however you don’t really know them. You don’t usually talk or say hello, you may just see each other in passing. You have no strong feelings towards them, neither positive or negative. Allow yourself to really imagine them in your presence, see their face in your mind’s eye. Begin the following mantras for them.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 4:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘difficult person’, someone you find challenging to feel compassion for at the moment.  The difficult person can be someone  close to you, or a someone you’ve never met, such as a political leader. Sometimes the ‘difficult person’ and the ‘dear one’ can be the same person depending on how you feel at the time. Really allow yourself to feel the presence of the difficult person before using the following mantras.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 5:

Cultivating compassion for all beings is a meditation focusing on humans, plants, animals, and the entire living planet. We continue to use the four focused mantras or phrases to do this with the following.

  1. May all beings rest with an awakened heart
  2. May all beings be safe and free from harm
  3. May all beings be free from pain and suffering
  4. May all beings be surrounded by love and kindness

 

References: 

Cultivating self-care and compassion in psychological therapists in training: the experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol 7(4), Nov 2013, 267-277 Boellinghaus, Inga; Jones, FergalW.; Hutton, Jane
Effect of Kindness-Based Meditation on Health and well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Galante, Julieta; Galante, Ignacio; Bekkers, Marie-jet; Gallacher, John Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Jun 30, 2014, No Pagination Specified.

The nondiscriminating heart: Lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(3), Jun 2014, 1306-1313 Kang, Yoona; Gray, Jeremy R.; Dovidio, John F.

Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlations, and interventions. Barnard, Laura K.; Curry, John F. Review of General Psychology, Vol 15(4), Dec 2011, 289-303.

Effects of intranasal oxytocin on ‘compassion focused imagery’.  Rockliff, Helen; Karl Anke; McEwan, Kirsten; Gilbert, Jean; Matos, Marcela; Gilbert, Paul Emotion, Vol 66(8), Nov 2011, 1388-1396

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