Relax and be an Imperfect Parent


Imperfect Parenting

We’re imperfect parents, but we so want to get it right.  Am I providing enough security? Am I being consistent? Will he absorb my disappointment in myself? Will he absorb my anxiety? Am I telling her enough of what she needs to hear? Will she be self-conscious like me?

We try to be conscious parents. We want to do it better than our parents did . . . because we know more than they did and our little ones deserve the benefit of all that knowledge.

But this unrelenting conscious attention to our parenting can block our awareness to the beauty right here. It robs us of the gentle moment where we could share a laugh or notice the uniqueness of our child. Constant anxiety about our parenting also prevents us developing ourselves as autonomous adults, something our kids need us to do . . . so they can be free to do the same.

What I want to offer today is what I am literally learning, right now. Self Care is our most powerful parenting tool, and yet it’s the thing that seems most irrelevant. You want me to sit in the hot tub while my daughter fails chemistry?  Yes. I want you to relax. Do whatever you need to do to slow down thought and be in touch with your body – for 15-20 minutes. Here are some thoughts to help you embrace your imperfect parent self.

Relax and . . .

  1. Know you’re a good-enough parent.
  2. Know you’ve got a good-enough kid.
  3. Take good care of yourself. Your kid needs you to be healthy and happy.
  4. Do what brings you joy. This will show your kid how to do the same.
  5. Let your child push against you. It’s his job to resist, disagree with you, think you’re full of crap. Breathe and let it go.
  6. Let your child hear you laugh, a lot. Let them see you cry. Allow them to see your humanness.
  7. Find good attributes in your spouse or co-parent. Your kid needs to know the positive you see (or saw) there.
  8. Let your kid fail, screw up, and experience disappointment. It’s painful but essential to her sense of self.
  9. Know your child has his own path and own inner compass. You have no ultimate control . . . nor should you. If you try to exert false control of their personality and choices, you can really make a mess of things and restrict growth in both of you.
  10. Trust that your kid loves you. They have to love you. They will always love you, even if they don’t like you.

We Are Enough.

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Woman-Hate and Somebody else’s PTSD

Traumatized patriarchs learn woman hate as neglected little boys.

traumatized patriarchs

The Political is Personal for Every Woman

My woman clients said, this week feels scary, out-of-control. Sunday evening, I had heartburn like sawdust in my throat, before, during, and after the presidential debate. When I tried to sleep, my guts roiled.

I usually try to keep politics (mostly) out of my blog, so it took me all week to write this. When several woman friends told me they had migraines or were up all night after watching the debate, I decided, it’s time to stop censoring myself and just tell you what I see.

I came to graduate school at 23, fresh out of conservative Christian college, groomed to be an obedient wife. My professor handed me Carol Hanisch’s 1970 essay, “The Personal is Political,” and it turned me upside down. I still sort of blamed myself for not being sweet enough. Hanisch wrote that those impossible standards for our looks and behavior – and the rampant violence against women – were not about us as individuals. She said women’s problems were deeply systemic. I thought a drug addiction and an unwanted pregnancy were a woman’s own fault. Hanisch said, in effect, that woman is all of us.

Hanisch believed we should stop blaming ourselves for these problems and start talking publicly about our real lives.

We recoil from the morbidly obese woman; we shake our heads at the woman who loses her children to a state protection agency. But deep inside we fear becoming like them. What separates me from her? Maybe an understanding grandmother. A college education. Not being prostituted as a young girl. We know this. But we absorb the loathing (fear) for women and women’s problems from the larger culture. Then we see it in our sisters. We see it in a sister who has the audacity to run for president.

We need to forgive ourselves for not fitting a mold manufactured from somebody else’s PTSD.

I forgive me and every woman.

Our guilt and body hate, fears of being alone, dread of growing old, revulsion at women who act too masculine . . . all come from the traumatic attachment processes of countless powerful patriarchs over the centuries.

traumatized patriarchs

traumatized patriarchs

Those so-called “locker-room” comments (an endorsement of rape culture) have their roots in early childhood attachment trauma. This Frontline episode explains much of the early trauma that created Donald Trump’s woman-hate. See if you can detect how unmet need for secure attachment leads to womanizing and a desperate bid to possess and control female energy.

It’s not about us.

If we see how someone else’s trauma drives the misogyny in our culture, we forgive ourselves for weighing more than 120 pounds. If we trace the history of boys’ early childhood attachment trauma through the generations that lead to masses of men supporting Donald Trump, we let ourselves off the hook for being real humans with need. And if we see Donald and his men as desperate baby boys who did not get their needs met, we can support our sisters (including Hillary Clinton) instead of criticize them for being too much whatever.

Traumatized patriarchs learn woman hate through emotional neglect.

traumatized patriarchs

Remember that all those traumatized, woman-suppressing patriarchs were once little boys raised to deny their emotions and hide their need for mothering. They had no choice. But we have choices about how much of their rhetoric we buy. We have choices about how we treat each other. Choices about how we spend our money and judge our bodies and judge the bodies of women around us. We can raise our boys with nurturing. We can listen to our girls. We can meditate for Donald Trump and all the other traumatized patriarchs out there who starved for unconditional love.

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Food=Love: Attachment Trauma & Eating Problems

Food, Love, Attachment

Food, Love, Attachment

Food, Love, and Attachment Trauma

Eating is fraught with complications these days. I’m not a nutritionist, but I work with people who have food issues….People who binge and then feel ashamed and worthless, people who starve and then binge, and people who eat mindlessly as a de-stressor (this was me, last weekend…on a road trip…with a bag of oatmeal-raisin cookies). Some of us who are most afraid of food develop eating disorders. Some of us just wish we could manage our food intake more consistently.

Over the hundreds of hours I’ve spent with clients who struggle with food, I’ve noticed a pattern. People with the most serious food problems distrust food and distrust themselves for needing it.

Here’s my theory…

Eating Problems are about ATTACHMENT.

Or more precisely, ATTACHMENT TRAUMA. That is, a breach in the safety of our earliest attachment moments – which probably involves feeding, to one degree or another.

When we’re born, the very first things that happen to us, or that should happen to us, involve being held and fed. We babies know instinctively that we must have the loving, nurturing presence of our mothers if we are to survive.

Food, Love, Attachment

Food, Love, Attachment: Our eating attitudes get set here.

If our mothers are calm, safe, and responsive – and if we get our little bellies filled consistently, we learn to trust that food is plentiful, available, and that we need only signal our hunger and we’ll be fed, loved, and accepted completely as we are. This is a lot to pack into one feeding scenario, but it’s all there. I’m hungry, my mother notices this and takes care of me, so it must be normal and okay for me to NEED.

But if our mothers are distracted, sad, sick, depressed, anxious, or otherwise compromised, this sweet picture looks very different. Instead, we signal (cry) and the response is delayed or nonexistent – or maybe fraught with negative energy (fear, grief, or anger). Think of refugee mothers here. Think of mothers who don’t have enough resources to feed themselves or their babies. Think of mothers who are abused or otherwise unsafe.

Food, Love, Attachment

Food, Love, Attachment

As babies, we feel all of this. We know all of this…but we have no tools or language to make sense of it. The situation becomes coded in our bodies as implicit memory, an emotional state that has no words. This makes it powerful and difficult to identify. On some level, we feel:

  1. I am bad, unlovable, or wrong for needing. I’m alone.
  2. Food is scarce or scary or too important to be trusted.
  3. I can’t count on food or love to be there when I need it. So I better not need it. Or I better grab all I can get while it’s in front of me.

This is attachment trauma. And it’s how eating problems start. AT THE VERY BEGINNING. (Now, when I ask you about your birth, you’ll know why).

Lest you think I’m blaming your mom for how you eat, just consider what was happening to her and around her when you came into the world. Get the story. Take notes. Look at photographs. Ponder her emotional states. And then picture yourself there, as a tiny infant, a bundle of need.

All is not lost though. You may have the symptoms of a full-blown eating disorder. Yes, this problem was set into motion forty years ago. But we have the tools to heal it now. And if your mother wants to join us, all the better. EMDR repairs attachment trauma and helps the nervous system rewire itself for mindfulness and healthy eating. Let me know if you’d like to learn more about how EMDR can help you resolve the earliest trauma and move forward into a healthier lifestyle.

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