Trust or Fear: Which Do You Choose?

There are two places I can always go, but never at the same time.  I have to choose one or the other.

I can go to the place of fear where I will most certainly experience worry, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, and discomfort.  I don’t like going there yet it’s so easy to find myself there when I’m not being mindful of my thoughts.  Being in fear makes me sad, impatient and self-centered.   I feel nervous and uneasy there and I know instantly I don’t want to stay.  It’s not a friendly place and it’s very crowded.  Lots of people hang out there and none are happy.  There’s lots of complaining, moaning, whining, blaming, judging, criticizing and there’s no shortage of despair.

I like the other place, the place of trust.  Everyone in trust is calm, relaxed, and peaceful.  People take their time in this place; they are confident, generous, optimistic and practice gratitude.  You see lots of smiles in the land of trust.

We are always in control of our choice and we can always change our mind; which one do you choose?

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What’s One Simple Tool to Prevent Your Inner Child from Hijacking Your Life?

We are all born innocent; as infants, toddlers, and young children, our innocence allows us to grow, learn and develop in optimal ways and at phenomenal speeds.

Then, at some moment in our growing up, something happens and on some deep, hidden level, a dramatic shift occurs and we mysteriously intuit that our innocence has vanished and we have crossed over an unanticipated threshold toward a darker, heavier place.  Why did innocence leave?  Where did it go? And most importantly–how can we get it back?

The particular event or series of incidents that moved us out of innocence is less relevant than the omnipresent but unspoken awareness of feeling vulnerable in a threatening world and somehow blameworthy.  The pattern and behavior of compulsively blaming and harshly judging ourselves develops into our unconscious default and can dominate for years, even decades.  Self-forgiveness seems impossible to imagine, as does recovering our innocence.

Yet, without self-forgiveness and recapturing innocence, how can we experience true joy, peace, and health?

How do we transition from blaming, shaming and judgement to a place of acceptance, forgiveness and connection where we believe we are worthy of abundant love, health and joy?

This gradual transition demands a disciplined, assiduous practice of reconnecting to the baby, toddler, child or adolescent inside of ourself who needs to be seen, heard, understood, valued and loved.  We are the only ones who can give this to ourselves.  We are the only ones who can parent the needy, hurting child inside of us who needs our attention, acceptance and love.  The more we avoid the wounded and needy child within, the more we, as adults, unknowingly chase others away from us with our neediness–neediness that we are not even aware of yet to those around us seems suffocating and blatantly obvious.

You can start your practice with one simple question each day.  Choose a time in your infancy, childhood or adolescence; see yourself at that age and ask that younger version of you what she/he needs.

What’s Wrong with Saying “Calm Down,” to a Child Who is Upset, Frightened, or Angry?

For the most part, parents generally have good intentions for dealing effectively and appropriately with their child’s upset feelings; yet, the words they say, the tone of voice they use to say these words and the expression on their face often produces the opposite results they seek.  Their children become even more upset rather than calmer.  Let’s look at why “the meltdown” frequently occurs with children younger than 8 years old when parents tell or command them to “Calm down!”

When children cry or act out in any way because they are afraid, confused, hurt, angry or feel an unpleasant emotion that they are too young to analyze and understand–they want and need their parents’ attention and they want it NOW!  The more they need their parent to assist them–the louder and harder they will cry; they want the problem to get fixed and they need mommy or daddy to fix it.  In desperate need of help–they cry and/or physically cling to the parent. This is normal and healthy; babies and young children crave connection with their caregivers in a time of strong emotion and genuine need; it is an intrinsic survival behavior.

So, what happens when the parent says, “Calm down” either in a gentle or not-so-gentle voice? The child’s brain, which is already experiencing an amygdala hijack, becomes more desperate to get the adult’s attention because her/his need for assistance and desperate plea for comfort and aid is being ignored and/or rejected!  The reactive/impulsive part of the brain (amygdala) triggers the chemicals that cause the child to scream louder or cling harder to get help; this is simply how the human brain functions.  The parent mistakenly assumes the child is having a “tantrum” or a “meltdown” and responds by further withholding that which the child needs the most in that crucial moment: empathy, connection and understanding.  As the scenario develops, the more upset and demanding the child becomes, the more withholding and distant the parent responds by continually commanding or imploring the child to “Calm down.” The child screams louder and more frantically.  This continues as parent and child disconnect further. The child, who has less power, ultimately wears down physically and emotionally.  Red-faced and exhausted from the trauma of crying, the defeated child finally appears calm–almost as if in a stupor. At this point, the parent approaches the child, possibly with affection, and assumes the child has learned that comforting comes only after the child has obeyed by “calming down.”

But, in truth, what has this child really learned?

Let’s explore this.  Something happens to hurt or frighten the child; the amygdala in the child’s brain takes over and the child cries for help.  Rather than help, the parent instructs the child to calm down first before help will be administered.  The child physically can not obey this command because the brain already released the toxic chemical cortisol, that is driving the hysterical crying. The child wants to please the parent and calm down but is not capable of doing so.  The scene then plays itself out as described above but this is not an isolated incident that happens once in this child’s life.  The requirement from the parent to “Calm down,” when the child is physically and emotionally unable to do so, is one that happens repeatedly–maybe daily, weekly or monthly until the child gets it.

And what exactly does the child get?

In the example above, when the child finally appeared calm, what actually happened was that the child surrendered to the hopelessness that Mommy/Daddy would empathize, understand and respond to the genuine need for help. Intuitively, energetically, the child also gets that Mommy/Daddy doesn’t want me to show my feelings, doesn’t want me to feel my feelings, doesn’t want me to have feelings.  And perhaps the most psychologically damaging message the child gets is that Mommy/Daddy will only listen to me, pay attention to me, or help me if I am subdued, passive–or in their words–“calm.”  And to take it one step further, the child learns that Mommy/Daddy only gives me love when I act the way they want me to act. If I don’t, they will withhold their love from me and since I’m afraid to live without their love, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win it–even if it means pretending I don’t have feelings–even if it means learning how to not feel!

Is this really what we want our children to learn–that we will only give them love if they suppress their authentic emotions?

There is another way to interact; it’s based on empathy–the intrinsic capacity of our brains to connect with others; empathy engenders understanding and compassion.

Empathy Warriors teaches how to listen, speak and act with empathy.  Learn more; private message me or buy my book and start your own Empathy Warriors Support Group with your peers to learn and practice these new behaviors.  I am available to support you in your efforts; it’s my gift to you.

Some People Intentionally Set Out to Hurt Others…

Some folks appear to intentionally take pleasure in causing hardship and sadness for others!  For those of us who strive to be kind, considerate, and act responsibly, we are baffled by the behavior of those who act in an opposite way.  We may wonder what is causing their actions; we may ask ourselves if we are to blame in some way; we may lose sleep because our mind just won’t stop whirling round and round over the unpleasantness as it’s occurring.  The bottom line however, is that there may a limited number of actions we can take to stop the harassment from happening to us and so–it continues unabated in spite of all our efforts to make it cease.

When we have exhausted every means at our disposal to make the persecution end and it continues to persist, we arrive at an emotional state in which we must decide what energetic, social, emotional, and spiritual resources we have to regain our peace of mind and achieve a state of detachment so that we can feel inner peace and joy in the midst of unnecessary, contrived tribulations.

Achieving this kind of peaceful detachment may well be one of the most challenging things in life we can do.  Being a target of another’s cruelty can easily make us feel like a victim if we don’t know how to struggle against accepting victimhood as our identity.  Slipping into victim mode is the absolute worst thing we can do for ourselves because it makes us feel hopeless, powerless, and defeated.  Knowing that we do have power within us and that we can use our power to self-protect, provides us with the peace we seek. Achieving and sustaining that peace takes diligent action and then more action when we are assaulted by ill-intentioned people.

The first two action steps we must take complement and strengthen each other: one is building a community of caring friends who nurture, support, and help each other; the other is believing in one’s own ability and power to self-protect.  Either one of these actions fosters the other one and both are needed regardless of which comes first.

In my first interactive workbook, Empathy Warriors, I teach my readers step by step, how to access their power to care for themselves in ways that promote and sustain their highest and best interests.

Empathy Warriors, an empathy journal workbook, is a priceless tool for every person who wants to take control of his or her peace, potential, and destiny.

Hardwired for Happiness

It’s true; our brains are actually hardwired for happiness and empathy.  They also love to practice gratitude; every time we take a moment to be grateful, our brain gives all the cells in our body the gift of peacefulness.  It’s that simple.

Whenever I feel sadness or fear trying to creep in, I know I have to take action before those feelings get the chance to anchor themselves in my heart and mind.  The easiest and fastest step I can take to protect myself is to start naming the many things for which I am grateful.  The more I reflect on gratitude, the calmer and safer I feel.  And then of course, the next easiest thing to do is breathe–just breathe.  I close my eyes and inhale from down deep in my belly, hold it for a second or two and then exhale slowly through my mouth. This simple gift I give to myself makes me feel powerful, safe, protected and in control of this moment.  This is all I have really–this moment, this breath, this genuine feeling of gratitude and I know I am okay and I can do it again and again.