Posts Tagged ‘helping manage emotions’

Don’t Sniff Don’t Smell: When Kids Hate On Parents

October 26, 2011

How might thinking about Gaddafi’s lurid death help us to be better parents?

Collective rage and murder wrought upon a crazed dictator pulled from a sewage drain wearing gold pants and packing a solid gold gun, while bizarre on the one hand, also illustrates an important dynamic in human consciousness:  idealization and devaluation.

Whether plotting a coup or parenting a toddler or a teen, the relationship between idealization and devaluation is infallible:  idealization masks secret devaluation; devaluation masks secret idealization.

Teens, for example, often exhibit know-it-all contempt and pseudo-independence (if they are safe enough to swagger), but they eventually tame it down and transition from rebel-with-an-allowance to worker bee in the collective hive, that is if we have a hive worth working for.

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Relinquishing Resentment

October 5, 2011

While we’ve been attending to fear and how it inhibits parenting and lives well lived, it’s worth keeping in mind the relationship between fear and anger—and anger’s brooding distant cousin:  resentment.

When we feel scared we may run away, freeze up or go into fight mode.  This marks the workings of our primitive brain.  Thus fear and threat are generally the root causes of anger.

When we are scared of things that do not truly pose a dire threat to us (but make us feel, and react, as if our very lives are threatened), or when we are scared that things may happen which in truth have already happened (like being, or feeling like we were, abandoned as children and thus chronically fearing abandonment) we move into the more neurotic realms of functioning, or perhaps dysfunctioning.

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Zombies on the Couch

September 28, 2011

I’ve been writing a fair amount this year about fear, primarily because our unresolved anxieties can be a significant obstacle to both optimal parenting as well as a buzz-kill to a life richly and fully lived.

While it’s often relatively easy to see other people’s “issues” in stark relief, it’s our own Shadows that lurk behind us as we face the sun.  Hence a tour of one of my worst, albeit absurd (at least for a “grown-up” who is also a clinical psychologist), fears…

It was a Saturday night and my parents were out (but then, at least in my mind, they were always out.  They would say otherwise, but the fact that they made me feel that way speaks, at the very least, an emotional truth—and I digress here because parenting is not a legal proceeding, but an emotional reckoning and we want our kids to feel like we enjoy them and to feel like we’re actually there, which happens to be the opposite characteristics of zombies, but now I’m getting ahead of myself).

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Peeling the Gibson (or, Why Brave Men Run in my Family)

September 21, 2011

“Gibson.”  Def.: A martini garnished with a cocktail onion.

I heard that Mel Gibson is planning a movie about Judah Maccabee, the Che Guevara of Hanukah (click for an amusing interview with Mel by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic).  I heard many Jews are outraged.  I hesitate to write about this because you don’t want to encourage bad behavior by paying attention to it.  But just as Mel can’t control himself when he gets loaded, sometimes I just can’t control my fingers at the laptop.



MEL GIBSON HOLLERS at a WOMAN COP.  We only hear fragments:

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Shadow Work

September 7, 2011

I was in a rather good mood on the way to work after chatting with Nate about On The Road, deeply appreciating his take on “rootless soul-searching” and the “selfishness of Beats who couldn’t deal with intimate relationships.”  I opened the top of my car to see the sky.

I had dreamed of the bear the previous night—a recurring dream symbol that first leapt out of the blackness when I was four, and has shape-shifted in myriad forms and meanings over the years.  In the latest dream a mother bear challenged me, in a vacation home, where I was protecting my family—suddenly she was all teeth and claws and we were embraced in wild conflict as I awoke.  In waking I intuited that the problem was mine and not hers.  The Shadow brings us our power, and the illumination of our own dark places… unless we resist.

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August 31, 2011

Greetings.  Now that we’re in that back to school time of year, I thought we might take a moment to consider the concept of courage, especially as it relates to parenting.

In a sense, courage is the antidote to fear, or at least the opposite of succumbing to fear, and thus it is a “virtue” we want to cultivate in the service of better parenting (and lives more richly lived).

Courage is defined as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

I might expand this definition to suggest that “the quality of mind and spirit” that does the trick is love; thus courage is love in the face of fear.

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Brushstrokes and Butterfly Kisses

August 3, 2011

Do you ever feel like you’re getting the same message in stereo—from multiple sources, perhaps in Surround Sound or Dolby?

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight was recommended to me by both my mom (for better insight into my dad’s stroke) and by Andy (who thought it rather interesting) and by Mark at The Committed Parent.  But we don’t listen, do we… not until some strange dark night of the soul sends us scrambling, under a fully agitated moon, fingers restlessly crossing bookbindings and dust like a spider, searching for wolfsbane, or phosphorus, or just the right page in some arcane alchemical text… searching for the balm, for just the ticket to soothe the savage heart.

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July 20, 2011

“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles,” or so famously begins Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero.

This past weekend there was construction on a freeway in Los Angeles and for more than a month the media built up terror to the point where people were a) leaving town, b) planning to stay close to home for the entire weekend or c) planning on allowing outrageous amounts of extra time if they had to get anywhere.

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A Little Love for the Very Very Nervous

March 23, 2011

A recent LA Times article by Mary MacVean about over-anxious parents in our age of hyper competition made a key point worth pondering:  if the majority of “experts” are telling us that we need to calm it down a notch (or three), why is it that we continue to parent like chickens with our heads cut off?

My friend, Sonya Gohill, a pediatrician in Brentwood (and a fellow colleague in a group of parenting experts who meet privately to discuss such matters) is quoted as saying, “For my patients, I have a lot of moms who are extremely well-educated, who were practicing lawyers or have their MBAs, and they’ve retired to be stay-at-home moms. They’re rechanneling their energy. Their kids are their project. The outcome is so important because they’ve put so much time and effort into it.”

Sonya highlights one of the starting guns that sets off the race to nowhere:  the failure to fully recognize our children as separate others.  Other triggers to our misdirected fear include the pervasive notion of scarcity—the idea that we are all competing for limited resources.  “No child left behind,” not only leaves plenty of kids behind, but furthers the manic idea that we’re all boarding lifeboats as the Titanic sinks; hardly an optimal emotional message to facilitate love and learning.

Being terrified lowers our IQ in the moment… and thus we are a culture of smart-when-calm people who are neither calm nor smart about parenting.

Yet we all know this.  My aim today (in keeping with my theme of wishing to help parents calm down, since they already know they are nuts with anxiety and still do not know HOW to actually calm down) is to be reasonably brief, and in the service of encouraging greater security and basic trust in whoever stumbles across these words:  in those I recognize to be my fellows, and with whom I am not competing… only connecting.

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Let’s Start in Child’s Pose… again

January 5, 2011

Happy New Year.  I’m not a big fan of resolutions, as they seem to set us up for rigidity, perfectionism and, all too often, what feels like failure.

Instead, perhaps we might set intentions for ourselves.  In that spirit I invite you to think about (and share if you care to) what sorts of intentions you might like to embrace for 2011.

An intention can be whatever we choose dedicate our striving, loving, learning and giving to.  It can be as simple, even seemingly corny, as:  I dedicate the folding of clothes, the driving of children, the earning and spending, the helping, the exercising, the writing and creating, and/or the playing and laughing to… (our collective spirit, our children, our world… all of the above).

This sort of deliberate intention makes life into “yoga” (even if you don’t call it that)—the binding of body, mind and spirit to a common focus.

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