The counseling agencies of Life Strategies and the Consciously Parenting Project are currently offering local and tele classes based on the popular book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control. These classes cover the first 5 chapters of BCLC and focus on severe behaviors in children with diagnoses such as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), ADHD, ADD, Bi-Polar, and more! There are many “techniques” and “methods” out there aimed at changing behaviors such as lying, stealing, hoarding, cutting, defiance, etc…but Beyond Consequences is different! Instead of managing these severe symptoms, we will teach you to look beyond those symptoms and really get to the CAUSE of these behaviors. These classes have been extremely successful in even the most severe cases of foster and adopted children, but this paradigm definitely applies to all families.
See an article about us in the McMinnville News Register. http://web.newsregister.com/news/results.cfm?story_no=248635
If you are interested in learning more, or to see our current schedules of classes and prices, please click the links below and finally get the help your family needs!
Local Classes offered by Life Strategies
or call 503-435-4840
Tele-Classes offered by the Consciously Parenting Project
or call (888) 631-4441
I was lying in bed last night, thinking. Just random thoughts coming in and flying out even quicker. I was thinking of my friends and of my books and places I’d like to go and how I’m going to fix my house. Randomly, I remembered that day at the coffee shop, in the little town where I grew up. Our table was wiggly and we spilled our coffee. I asked him, “Why do tables have four legs anyway?”
He said, “Huh?”
“Well, three points define a plane,” I said.
He just looked at me funny. Sometimes he says I’m crazy. Sometimes I think he’s crazy. Finally he simply said, “Yes.”
So here’s why that’s important: because I was lying in bed last night thinking…..about everything. About this past year and everything I’ve been through. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been left. I have seriously been hurt like I’ve never been hurt before. And I hate writing that. I hate even thinking that. Because somewhere in me I don’t really believe that. Because right now I feel fine. In fact, better than fine. I am happier now than I have been in 3 decades. So it’s hard to remember the nights I spent curled up in a ball, crying into the covers, asking “why???”. That memory seems so vague all of a sudden.
And I guess the thought I had last night is that perspective is strange. It’s so crazy…so undefinable…so whimsical. One minute it’s one thing, the next minute it’s another. It depends on who you are, on where we are. It depends on every experience we’ve had so far in our lives. And it depends on where we are in the moment.
So it was dark and there were shadows on the wall. I was lying in bed, down comforter crisp and cold. I lay motionless, staring at these two chairs up against the wall. And I thought to myself that if I had never seen a chair before, I would think that you either get this one or that one. That there were only two types of chairs in the world. Only two choices. And I thought, “Hmm, if there was even one more chair, I would realize that it wasn’t just this one or that one….and I might wonder if there were more out there…more choices…Hmm….” And then I fell asleep.
Three points define a plane. The thing is, they cannot all exist on the same line. Very interesting….
You cannot define your plane without leaving the path you are on. It takes that other point somewhere else in space in order to gain perspective on where you really are. It takes that third point in space to say, “Yes, I am right here.” And I am fine.
So my point here is only this: Things aren’t just one way or another. There is always another point to be found, in fact, an infinite amount of them. Maybe you can’t see it. Maybe you don’t believe it’s out there somewhere. But science doesn’t lie. That point is there somewhere. And when you find it, you will have a table — sturdy, steady, where coffee doesn’t spill. That third point will give you perspective on where you’ve been before, and better yet, on where you are right now….and where you’d like to go from here.
Just know that when your table is wobbly, look for your third point in space. Reach out for it. Don’t just stay stuck on the same path you’ve always been on. You might believe in symmetry, but you have to believe in trigonometry, too. Your third point will be there and it will save you. Because you will suddenly realize it’s not just this way or that. You will have a new perspective and for the first time you’ll see a million opportunities ahead. Your third point will define your plane, and that’s what will make you steady and strong. And it really will all be ok in the end.
(And yes, those really are the kinds of thoughts I have before I go to sleep.)
As you know, I blog from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Known for it’s rain, we hardly ever get snow that sticks on that valley floor. Well, this week we have surpassed all usual expectations. We have truly been bombarded with quite an unusual winter storm. We’ve had temperatures in the teens…during the day! Winds have been gusting and to top it all off, we’ve had at least 3 inches of snow that has been hanging around for days.
Because the roads are a solid sheet of ice, the schools are all shut down. Many stores are closed. Most of my neighbors have been home from work and been hanging around the neighborhood. My neighbors and I like to watch and see exactly which of us on this street dares to jump in their car and go anywhere. As soon as they return we hover over them asking about the outside world. Did they see people? Where the roads open? Were they able to get groceries???
These are all the conveniences of our community that we take for granted. It’s amazing what happens when you take away our cars. Truly amazing.
What I love about our deep freeze experiment is how all the families have been taken out of their normal routines and forced to hang out together at home. I just look out at all my neighbors and laugh in secrecy. All those families who are putting on and taking off their kids’ winter clothes twenty times a day as the kids keep coming in and out, in and out. The looks on the faces of the mothers whose kids are with them 24 hours a day. The looks on fathers’ faces having to deal with their exhausted wives. Ha ha ha. I love it.
But seriously…the deep freeze of 2008 has given me a lot to think about. The forced slow down that brings families back together. It’s sad to me that families aren’t already together like this. It’s sad to me that people have to have some sort of natural disaster that forces them to spend more time together at home, just hanging out, just living their lives together.
I’m just hoping that some of the families who have unknowingly participated in my Deep Freeze Experiment recognize how wonderful it really is to just throw the world away outside and just stay tucked away inside their warm, safe homes together. Aaahhh….yes. It seems I’m always looking for that shift in people.
All I know now is that there truly is nowhere else I’d rather be than here with my babies. Because I really have nowhere else to go that could possibly be any better than this. So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
I realized I was at a crossroads. A stupid road, with a stupid point, where I had to decide which way to go. I hate roads like that. But every road is like that, so maybe it’s just me.
I’ve come to realize that everything I’ve ever needed to know, I’ve learned from the fire in my living room. The way it takes such care, and contains so much power. It can either save your life or kill you. You either have to stoke it or let it die. And long before you can stoke it, you have to find a tree, chop it down, season the wood, split the logs, chop kindling, crumple the paper, find a match…..there is a lot that has gotten me to today. So much planning and pain-staking, back-breaking, labor. But none of that matters when the fire goes out. All your work is for what? For practice? Because you get to do it all over again. And again, and again…and again.
The proof is in the fire. It’s not something you can fake. It’s either going well or it’s not. You’re either warm or you’re cold. It’s either blazing or it’s going out. And it might be cold inside, but it’s always colder outside. And sometimes you see it dying, and you look outside at the 5 cords you have, and sometimes you just think to yourself that it’s easier to just curl up inside the down comforter on your bed and worry about the coldness in the morning.
One thing I’ve learned is that coals are only good if you plan to light it again. Or if it’s already too hot.
Well, this is neither of those things. I’m cold and I don’t plan on relighting this fire.
And he has been trying to tell me that. But I wasn’t able to hear him. I so badly wanted it to keep on going. I had convinced myself that it would. Someday. But it’s not. It’s not going to blaze again. It’s over. It’s dead. The fire is out.
And I really did even try an acrobat. (Thank you, Wilma.)
I grew up in a small town in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Although it’s history is deeply rooted in the logging industry, that little town has now become the icon for art and tolerance and hippies-turned-yuppy. It is clean and prosperous and to be a kid in a town like that was very unique. It was a nice mix of cultures to be seeped in. To be part of a shift in a community that sheds its history to uncover it’s potential. I like that and I am proud to have been a part of that, even in such an insignificant way.
My little town was very small while I grew up. I would ride my bike up and down the streets at night, knowing who lived in every single house. And not only that, but I could have named their dogs and their cousins and tell you what their fathers did for work. And nobody ever kidnapped me, even though sometimes I wished they would. And I swam in the creek with no adult supervision, everyday of every summer. And I survived. I would walk back slowly from the creek, down the long gravel road to my house, picking blackberries and eating them along the way. I knew my brother would be there waiting for me or at least I knew where I could find him.
That’s just the world I knew. Me and my cats and my brother and my creek and my gravel road. For sixteen years. I was born in that hospital and I lived in that same house until my freshman year of high school. I could describe every sliver of wood in the paneling and every tree and where it was and what it grew. I loved that house. It was all I ever knew.
Last month I had an old friend come back to town to visit his family for the holidays. I met him downtown for coffee. In a shop that I knew oh-so-well. Across the street from the Palace Theater, where I spent every single Friday night of my entire life, we sat at a table by the window. And he said, “If we sit here long enough, we’ll find at least 50 people we know.” And every time a car would pass, we would laugh and say, “Oh, I think I know that guy!” Just then the mayor walked in, up to the counter and ordered a drink. We recognized him. He spoke to us briefly. He was the same guy who walked up and down the aisles of the movie place with a flashlight, telling us to “keep it down or get out”. He still had a bike.
Would you believe I left that town almost 20 years ago and have literally never gone back until now? It really has been that long. 17 years to be exact. And every day I’ve been away I think of that little town. And all my friends there, and how I knew who I was there. I knew the way to the drug store and I knew my way home in the dark. It was safe there. Predictable. It was home. And I miss that.
I have been avoiding that town for so long, for way too long. I just couldn’t figure out how to go back there without feeling overwhelmed with a sense of unfairness. Because it just seems so unfair that that was ripped away from me, without my feelings considered whatsoever. And on top of which, I was just expected to “be fine”. So all these years I’ve worried about going back and running into people I know and have them ask me how I’m doing. I would have to smile and just say, “fine”, because that is what they expect. And I guess I am fine. I am. But there is always a hole in me, too, a void, that has never been filled. It’s that sense of having been ripped out of the womb I needed to survive. Like seeds that are scattered in the wind, only to fall on rocks and wait. Wait until the wind comes and blows them back onto fertile soil. That’s how I have felt. And in many ways, I feel like I have always been waiting. To go back. To fill that void. To have a place to call my home. To know who I am and to be able to find my way back in the dark. Because it’s not fair to take that away from someone.
My friend and I drank our coffee, spilled some, too….and then we had to go. We walked out of the shop and onto the sidewalk outside. We came to a crossing where he had to go one way and I had to go another. He gave me a big, big hug and I just soaked that up. As he was walking away I looked back at him, with what was probably the saddest face I’ve made in a long time. He called out, “What is that for? We’ll still talk!” But it wasn’t that. I knew we’d still talk. It was just that I didn’t want to go. Not yet. I wasn’t ready to leave that sidewalk. I wanted him to stay with me there. I needed to stand there for a little bit longer, taking in all the sights and smells. I wanted to look inside every window of every shop and look deeply into the eyes of everybody that walked by me. I just wanted to stay in that moment for a long, long time. There is a void in me where those things belong.
I got to my car, where my dog was waiting patiently for me. I put the keys in the ignition and my hands on the steering wheel. I turned back and looked at the elementary school where I learned to read, where I met my first best friend, where I chased a boy at recess…and something just came over me. I just cried. And I cried and I cried. It was so cold in my car and my breath was fogging up the glass. So I just wiped my face and drove away, completely “disorganized” in every way.
I am so fortunate that the Captain took me there. And that he stayed with me for as long as he possibly could. I didn’t tell him I cried my way home that evening. I don’t know if he would understand that. But it makes sense to me. And I need to do that again. I need some more time to be on that street, looking in the windows of the shops and recognizing people that I keep in my bottom drawer. Because that is what made me, me. And I need to go back and remember that. To open up that drawer and remember that it isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s good in there. It is. I’m lucky that way. That I have goodness inside of me to fall back on, to remember. I am lucky that I even have a void, let alone to have the circumstances to even try to fill it.
What’s funny to me about the house I live is this: it’s currently falling apart. The hardwood floors need refinishing. I need a couple of new vinyl windows for better insulation. The bathroom needs to be re-tiled. The yard needs to be better landscaped so it looks pretty again. But that’s because this house is over 60 years old. It’s older than my own mother, gasp! (and that’s really, really old, huh Grandma?) So after all the years of wear and tear, you’d expect that by now it would need some work. That’s just life. Without maintenance, things don’t stay perfect forever.
But what about when the house was first built? Can you imagine the architect standing on the plot, looking around, with a vision in his mind of what he was about to create. He works hours and hours and hours to design his vision with precision. He rolls out the blueprints on the table and with his pencil and eraser, he sketches and erases, and then sketches again and again. He has to get the house “square”, he has to place the doors and windows just so, and the support beams need to be in exactly the right places. And even beyond the mechanics of it, there is a certain feel, an ambiance, that he is striving to create. So he continues to work…and work…taking that feeling from a 2-D idea all the way to a 3-dimensional realistic structure. He buries himself in the task of creating a place where a family can live. Forever if they take good care of it.
How much more complicated are human relationships than one dumb stick-built house? How much harder is it to get our relationships “square”? Putting all the support beams in just the right place, creating a “feeling” and a structure that is safe and secure?
The thing is, building a house is similar to building a relationship. Much more complicated, but still the the same. Relationships, like houses, require the right “blueprint”. A foundation upon which to begin laying the stones. The blueprints we have for these relationships come from our experiences in our lives. Did we have a mother that held us a lot and took our feelings into account? Was our dad supportive and gentle, or was he stoic and strict? These are the foundations upon which we begin to lay our parenting stones with our own children. Think back to your past relationships. What kind of “blueprints” have you been given? What kind of foundation did they lay for you to build on?
For many of us, looking back at our blueprints is confusing. It’s confusing to be asked to build something that you don’t have the blueprints for. What do we need when our own blueprints are not ideal? We need support. We need to find a person or a group that can “reparent” us. We need them to teach us what it feels like to be heard and cared for. We need to have an experience of unconditional acceptance and the safety to express ourselves. It is only when we have these blueprints, that we are finally able to pass that on to our own kids.
Sometimes I work with parents who have been torturing themselves, trying to parent their children in this love-based parenting model. But after years of trying, they still aren’t getting very far. The relationship continues to collapse and crumble all around them. Sometimes they paint the outside, but underneath that paint, it’s still that same old, deteriorating relationship.
To these parents, my heart goes out. I feel their struggle. I have lived it.
There are many places out there where we can go to acquire the blueprint we need to parent these children. There are instructors and therapists that know exactly what support beams you need and where to put them in your life. So reach out to one of the support groups listed in the side bar. Post to the Consciously Parenting forums or to the Daily Parenting Reflections group and allow the other parents there to hear your voice and to tell you they love you. Allow them to support you, right where you are. Stay in it, soak it all up. Put your fears to the side and just take in that support. Because each time you experience that, you build a little more of the blueprints your kids need from you.
Because that’s just what they need too. They need to be heard and made to feel safe enough to express those big, big feelings. They need to be unconditionally supported. They need to be loved. And so do we. I have to say, I’m only alive today because somebody loved me. And not because they had to. But just because they chose to. Thank you for that.
(This one is for Rebecca, for finally giving me the blueprints I have needed for so long. I’ll “pay it forward”. You know I will.)
I’m sitting down to write now. About what, I do not know. But whatever comes out is what is supposed to. That is about all I know. Something about being at a crossroads. And the Captain said, “It’s not a court thing, but an emotional thing.” That made me mad. REALLY mad. But two days later and I realize that he is right. He is always right. I hate him for that. But I love him for that at the very same time.
Because I’m so sick of being in charge. I am raising these kids alone and making money alone and sleeping alone and eating alone and stacking wood alone. And all the decisions are always up to me to make. And I am so exhausted from that. It gets frustrating. And my brain is fried. So much “cognitive noise” that it’s disgusting. That’s why I’ve turned it off. It’s all off. And all I am left with is the silence. The golden silence of the present moment. Now I know why they call it golden. It just is. Worth every ounce.
There is this popular song called “apologize”. It says that it’s too late. I can’t really say that I believe that. I don’t believe it’s ever too late. If someone wants to say they’re sorry, then why can’t they just be sorry? Why do we have to put up our guard and say no? Who are we to judge hearts? And motives? And intentions? Aren’t we all just getting by in life? Aren’t we all just as screwed up as everybody else is?
You know, someone from highschool just called me “cool”. I told him that I resent that. I wasn’t lying. I do. Being called cool makes me very uncomfortable. He has no right to call me that. No more of a right to say I’m good than he does to say I’m bad. Why can’t we all just be who we are? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
The Captain is right, though. It is an emotional thing. It so totally is. It all is. It all is so raw to me. So deep inside of me. And I can make no sense of it whatsoever. I don’t know which way to go at this cross roads. I don’t even know if I’m at a crossroads. Maybe this is just the path I’m on. And there is no choice to be made. Do I love him? Absolutely. Do I think he’ll ever love me? I don’t know. And that scares me, because I don’t understand it. Is that about him, and his inability to connect, or is it about me, and my insecurities?
I just don’t know.
So now what?
Maybe instead of telling someone else that it’s too late for him to apologize, maybe I should just beg for his forgiveness. Yep. Say, please forgive me. For not knowing what I want. And for not knowing where I want to go from here. For not knowing what is best. For not wanting to be right anymore. I just don’t care. And for that, I’m sorry. But I just don’t care anymore about any of it. I just want to be happy. And right now, I am. That’s enough for now. Don’t you think?
There is one. A connection, between the mind and the body.
We’ve already talked about how memory is stored. It isn’t stored just in the cognitive brain. It is stored much, much lower inside our bodies. All the way down to the cellular level. Trauma, especially so.
I have talked to so many people who understand this. Yet more that don’t….sadly. And the ones who don’t just keep trying to “talk it out” in traditional therapy or with traditional parenting. They don’t understand that just talking does not reach deeper than the cognitive level. But the fact is, not everything is something we can “talk out”. We must also rewire our entire neurological system at the same time.
So how do we do that? There are many options: massage therapy, neurological “reorganization”, psychosomatic experiential therapy, etc. But the first step is simply education. Do the research. Read the books. One excellent book on this is written by Candice Pert and is entitled Molecules of Emotion. Dr. Pert also recently appeared on the Larry King Live show and talked about how this connection is not just figurative. But literal. What happens to the body also happens in the mind. And what happens in the mind also happens to our bodies. Much of this wiring occurs within the first three years of life. But we also know that the human brain is plastic, meaning that it continues to change and grow forever. Nothing is ever etched in stone.
When we experience something, our bodies literally wire itself to fit into that experience. If it was a positive experience, our cells literally remember that and will seek it out again. An example of this is human touch. If we had positive experiences with our mother holding us, we will find pleasure in it throughout life. Our brains have learned that being held was satisfying. Hormones were created, pleasure was felt. We want it again. And we will attempt to replicate that throughout life.
The same thing happens with negative experiences. If we have negative or traumatic experiences, our cells will remember that and could lead us to avoid that experience again. For instance, if we lacked human contact in those first three years, our brains have not been wired to appreciate the closeness of another human being. When someone does hold us now, we feel much less satisfaction than the baby that was held a lot. We haven’t yet learned that human touch feels good. This is the case of many fostered/adopted children. They fight us when we pick them up. They dig their chin into our shoulder. They cry and cannot be soothed with a back rub or a hug. They do not quite feel the same sensation as mom does in this moment.
But it’s not all lost. Because the brain is amazingly malleable. We can change it. Just like when a person devotes themselves to learning an instrument. At first they struggle. There is far less pleasure in it. It is uncomfortable and hard. You force yourself to practice. Every day. Day after day. But as you do this, the brain begins to literally change. Connections between neurons form that were not there before. Synapses fire that have never fired before. Eventually, the more you practice, the more pleasure you find in playing. Every part of your body craves it. You have learned that it is, in fact, something desirable. You will continue to seek it out and recognize it through out the rest of your life.
When we have a child with a trauma history, it can be hard to parent them. They don’t find pleasure in us. Not at first. But we can teach them to. But it depends on us. We must reach out to them everyday. Offer affection, smiles, eye contact, soft touching and lots of physical contact. It is through this repetition that the brain will change. The entire neurological system will change. Over time, this child will begin seeking it out. More and more. And each time, they will find a little bit more pleasure in it. Pretty soon, you will be their drug of choice. Oxytocin and all of that.
So keep “practicing”. Keep touching each other. They might not “get it” at first. Maybe you won’t either. But eventually you both will. You just need to breathe and just be in the present moment. Regulated and safe for them. And it will change. I promise. Science promises. So do John and Paul. Now THAT’S a pretty good reference! 🙂
It has been brought to my attention that my posts are candid. That I don’t really hold back when I write on here. Well, I guess I didn’t think of it like that before, but it’s true. I am just writing whatever comes out at the moment and I am not really editing to make it fit into anything nicely. I am just typing as quickly as my fingers can go. Thoughts rambling. Ideas popping up. Situations in my life that need to come out, come out. All the dizzy stuff inside of me is given words and in the end it begins to make sense. And man, does that ever feel good.
The best part is, I really don’t care what anybody has to say about it. I honestly don’t. Because it’s not about them. It’s about ME. This is really one of the only places in my life that is only about me. No interruptions, no editing, no planning ahead. Just me. When I am writing on here, I am literally just in the moment, completely oblivious to anything around me. I am in a deep place inside myself. Very in touch with myself. In a way, it’s a good practice for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I hear that people don’t know how I can take time like this out for myself. And that touches me deeply. Because it makes me recognize that that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking time out for me. That is so true.
And what I have come to learn about that, is that my kids need me to. I need to vent and to process and to put words to experiences. I NEED to. It’s not indulgence. It’s a necessity of my life. And I am so proud to know that I appreciate my own needs enough to do something like this. Something as write. Something that comes so naturally to me, so easily. Something so tiny. But it’s huge. Thank you for helping me to see that. That it’s huge.
What I want to say to you (and you know who YOU are) about this is: write! Get a journal or start an anonymous blog. Spit out your words. Even if only a few words at a time. Just write. Write it all down. Get it all out. Put words to all that stuff that’s been floating around inside of you. Because as my friend Yael says, “there’s a beautiful mess inside“. And how can we stay outside of that? Go deeper than you’ve ever dared.
So give it birth, Jazmine Gene! You deserve it. And you are worth it. And YOU are as important in your family as those babies are. Mabye even more so. You’ve given birth to them. But maybe now it’s time to give birth to YOU!
I love you. (I always have and I always will. You have been with me along the whole way, whether you knew it or not.)
To hear a free tele-seminar by Janet Conner, author of Writing Down Your Soul, please click here. By filling out the quick form on the link, you will receive the free recording which you can then listen to on your own time or even download to your iPod. Thanks again Consciously Parenting Project for another great resource!