- by Carolyn Bergen
You may or may not have met me, but allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Carolyn and I am an author.
The above line is a BIG deal for me, and brings tears to my eyes and a happy, silly giggle to my face. It is a symbol of the significance of the power of community. In that sentence lies the soft, gentle miracle of connection.
Early summer of this year, I created a book for our waiting room. Clients come to see us have to wait for their appointment in the waiting room...and most people who come to see a therapist do so in a time of struggle. And often they feel a sense of shame about having a struggle...the (false) belief that one should be able to fix one's life or one's marriage without help is alive and well. The myth that "I should be able to do this on my own" persists...and so when folks come to counselling, they are often feeling a little like a failure...and then in a session will be talking about a very vulnerable part of their lives while they are feeling that feeling of "not enough"
That takes nothing short of raw courage to be authentic about a painful area with another human being.
So...I wrote a book to keep them company...to remind them of the strength it took to get to the waiting room. I thought a waiting client might like to know that we value their courage and will honor it in the session. The book has beautiful pictures, so if a person isn't in a state of mind to read, they can just be calmed by pictures of nature.
They were for our waiting rooms in our offices. The intended audience--2 waiting rooms in Winnipeg.
I brought one along to The Daring Way(TM) training, tossing it in the suitcase at the last minute, as part of perhaps sharing ideas with one another, because we have found them helpful. But I'm a person who has always believed that to draw attention to myself is pretentious or assuming, and so I wasn't sure if I would actually show it to anyone, and--after all--it is just a little bitty picture book anyways. (You've talked yourself into "no big deal" too, right?)
The Daring Way(TM) is about "showing up and being seen", and about, of course, "daring bravely"... and if our clients have enough courage to show up for a first appointment, I figured it only made sense for me to do the same.
It took nothing short of raw courage to be authentic with one of the group leaders. I stuttered and stammered a request for her to please glance at the book.
She didn't glance. She read it. And her only question was, "have you submitted this to a publisher?" I LOL'ed for real.
And when L. took one look over her shoulder, she insisted immediately, "I want one of these"...and I told her there were only two like it. She didn't back down, and said she had to have one too. And I laughed and told her she was sweet in her request. This is not sweet, she said...this is not my sweet face...I want this...and she took it and showed several others, who immediately asked to also purchase.
She was kindly bossy in telling me to find out how I could print more, and figure out what to charge, and add in a profit margin for her and the others to buy it. It was a little much, in a good way. How could she like something I made enough to insist on purchasing it, even though she didn't have a price? She persisted in her expressing her perception until it would have been disrespectful not to believe her. (Crazy how a person can disregard positive feedback, even tho negative feedback sticks like velcro. Y'all do that too sometimes?)
I showed the book today with a new friend at lunch, saying I had now ordered some. She handed over money for a copy on the spot.
Another at the table read it and said, "You wrote a great book!"
And I said, "There's not a lot of words in it, and so it's not really like I wrote a book"
We do that sometimes, don't we...minimizing, discounting, devaluing ourselves...I'm not the only one, right?
The next one over holds up her phone and says to me slowly, "This is a phone." She points to a glass, "This is a glass", and she points to my book, "This is a book...You did it. This is your book."
That. Hit. Home. ...in the sweetest, most poignant of ways. These wonderful people at this conference were not letting me stay small, they were celebrating what I created...and they were not going to let me get away with discounting something.
I'm not all the way there yet. I still have some shyness about putting forward this book and believing it can go anywhere. (Somehow it is easier to call it shyness rather than shame, but it's really shame, I think). But I'm going to borrow their faith in the book and see where this goes. One handed me the contact info for her publisher. An organizer asked for a copy to show Dr. Brenė Brown.
Y'know, often we think of vulnerability and authenticity as tough slogging, requiring huge amounts of labor and risk and pain. And yep, I've had that. But being vulnerable about this book has had me surprised by the utter joy of incredible support that feels incredibly authentic...and in that authenticity, feels "wow" on levels that are hard to explain. Sometimes, when people are patient and kind and genuinely delighted and excited for another, it creates this bubbling up of awesomeness from deep inside that is simply unforgettable.
The tapes in my head said:
Tonight, I don't hear them so much either. (Wow, eh?)
And that feels good.
And I am grateful...thank you, dear people.
- by Carolyn Bergen
So...today we began the "3 day intensive", participating as clients "doing the work" the same as I will when I'm facilitating the groups in Winnipeg. There are no exceptions to the route to becoming a certified facilitator of The Daring Way (TM)...all therapists are human, and all humans with capacity for empathy carry shame. Being unaware of how shame is a force in one's life makes a person dangerous to others...likely doubly so if one is a therapist!
- by Carolyn Bergen
Well, Day 1 is finished in San Antonio...I am taking the certification for The Daring Way (TM) cirriculum with Brene Brown. Her Ted Talk has millions and millions of views...because she talks about the feeling of being "not good enough", vulnerability and authentiticy in a way that equips people to live richer, fuller, more connected lives.
Her stuff makes sense to me...and to the folks that I talk to in session, in workshops, presentations, etc. It matters, and it's relevant. It's evidence based...meaning she only teaches others what her research with ordinary people who talk to her tell her. She combines the results of what 1000's say...and gives us a language to talk about the things that get in the way of living fully, and about the things that enhance joy, creativity, connection, and love.
Day 1 gives the following insights:
- by Carolyn Bergen
Around our house, I used to say, "Remember to mind your manners, offer to help out, ask them questions to show interest, and say 'thank you'", and so on, whenever one of my junior tribe members would go to a friend's house for dinner or a sleep over.
After a while, as they would be heading out of the car or out the door, I would take a breath, and start with, "Remember to…" and there would be a quick interruption that would say, "yes, yes, I know, mind my manners, say thank you, blah blah blah."
So, after another while, when they would leave to go to a friend's house, I would just say, "Remember to blah blah blah, the whole speech, k?"
Sometimes we forget the value of very simple practices of speaking to another that make such a profound effect on relationships.
Y'know, sometimes it's just nice to have a reminder about the basics of connection in relationships…and if can be a little cute, too, so much the better!
Gee…I've suddenly got this weird craving for corn dogs.
- by Carolyn Bergen
The holiday season can be a difficult time...in our rush to make it "perfect" for our loved ones, we run ourselves ragged trying to get everything ready, and start trashing ourselves for not doing it right, or not doing enough...and ironically, as we get stressed out, it affects the experience of those around us...sabotaging the efforts we've made.
A study earlier this year explored what kids want most from their parents:
They wanted their parents to be less stressed and less tired.
Make no mistake…the developmental stage of children has them thinking about their stressed parents in a way that is quite narcissistic. Quite simply, less stressed and more relaxed parents have:
What would it be like this Christmas to relax and enjoy the season...
- by Carolyn Bergen
We are created for relationship. Pure and simple.
A video on loneliness hardly seems like a little boost to get a person through the week, I know.
But this is beautiful, clever, and the graphics say just what the voice does, ever so eloquently. Ironically, it just feels like something a person should share with another.
It contains truth that will challenge all of us who use the computer to connect with others.
- by Carolyn Bergen
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh published a study this fall that looked at the relationship between teens being yelled at and their behaviour. The results were inconvenient, to say the least, to parents who use yelling as a form of steering their teenager into appropriate behaviour. To put it quite simply, the study found that children who are yelled at in a psychologically harming way have more depressive symptoms, and:
...the study found that not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youths, it actually appears to increase such behaviors. Parents' hostility increases the risk of delinquency by lowering inhibition and fostering anger, irritability, and belligerence in adolescents, the researchers found.
So…while your parents may have yelled at you, and you survived, it's quite likely it wasn't helpful. Think back…how much did it really help? Researchers looked at it with scientific rigour…and turns out it really is destructive.
Let's take a step back. Remember when that teenager was a little baby snuggled in your arms…he quieted when you picked him up when he was fussing. When she skinned her knee, she came running to you for comfort. When the kids picked on him at recess, you gave him hot chocolate and you listened, and told him you thought he was great and he deserved so much better. Parents are designed to be a child's safe place.
When the safe place becomes dangerous, that's confusing for a child. And scary. And frustrating…because they need parents to be the safe place. A safe place they can go when someone has offered them drugs, or made fun of their clothes or their glasses, or they just need a place where they know they are loved and accepted.
Teens need their parents to be their stable base…adolescents don't generally give their parents the satisfaction of letting them know how important they are, but parents are vital to teens. A good connection is important!
Harsh verbal discipline happens when parents use psychological force to cause a child to experience emotional pain or discomfort in an effort to correct or control behavior. It can vary in severity from yelling and shouting at a child to insulting and using words to humiliate.
Swearing, name-calling and other forms of psychological violence cause shame and humiliation. You may look like you're changing behaviour in your teen to something that's more desirable, but you are using psychological force to coerce them into a certain behaviour. That's not true change.
Using loud volume, cursing and name calling to change behaviour will quite possibly change it on the outside, but quite likely not change it on the inside. In fact, it may increase the resolve of the teen to not change.
That teen may need to not change in response to nasty yelling in order to defend and protect themselves--as a way of saying "I don't deserve this."
Anger is a cue that something isn't right. Anger is a good thing, cuz it cues us that we as parents need to address something.
The tricky part is that yelling is a great way to discharge anger…spewing angry words in a loud volume is discharging energy and blame and vitriol…quite simply…when people are angry, mean yelling comes very naturally.
The challenge is that yelling as response to the internal angry feeling helps the yeller feel better, but not the person yelled at.
Being yelled at is a threat…a form of psychological violence. Remember Charlie Brown's teacher whose voice was just simply noise without words? When we get yelled at, the meaning of the words gets lost because the part of our brain that responds to threat is the "flight/fight/freeze" part that doesn't have language. It cannot listen to the content of the yelling because the front part of the brain that thinks and understands and reasons has shut down.
Yelling with swearing and name calling attacks the person, rather than addressing the inappropriate behaviour. That's hard and it's damaging.
So, yes, I'm inviting you to stop yelling at your teen. The yelling might help the yeller feel better, but it's not constructive.
For sure... Kids mess up, and we are human. You will be mad. This is not about stopping natural emotion.
However, one of the reasons why parents get mad is we look bad when our kids mess up. Parents can feel like:
But when children betray your trust..say they go to a party and drink alcohol, after they promised up and down that there would be no alcohol there, and how dare you suggest they would drink any even if there was…anger is a normal and appropriate response. Anger often overlays fear…when a child is late for curfew or engages in risk-taking behaviour, parents get furious because we know what could happen…and that terrifies us.
The key is to channel that anger in a way that will allow you, as a parent, to effectively raise the child to make better choices, be more careful, put more effort into their studies, etc.
Great question, thanx for asking!
First of all, remind yourself that underneath the hot flash of anger lies a bedrock of love for this child. Find it and remind yourself of it…even as you're furious with your teen, promise yourself that you will hold onto that, and better yet…communicate to your child so as to leave no doubt in their mind that you are completely besotted by them.
Second, know that when you're very angry at your child, chances are that you are operating out of the "flight/fight/freeze" part of your brain…meaning your language skills and ability to articulate yourself well is far from your best. This is not a "teachable moment" because, frankly, you are a lousy teacher in that state. This is the time to bring out a line that you have rehearsed ahead of time because, chances are, you won't be able to come up with it on the spot…something like, "I'm very very angry now, and if we have this conversation now, I won't be able to represent myself the way I want to, and we'll both lose because of that. I'm going to talk with you about this after I've had a chance to settle some." Does that sound impossible and hokey? Don't criticize it too bluntly in the comment section below, because I'm a sensitive sort, and that's my "go to" line. :)
Third, watch the tone you use with yourself when you're angry and barely in control. Y'know that inner voice that we talk to ourselves with…and if you are yelling at yourself about how poorly you are handling the situation…well, yeah, think about how well that'll work. Nobody does well with yelling, including you…
Ironically, it's often our parent's critical voice that we hear in our head when we're upset. And often we are hard on others and yell at them, because we are even harder (and louder) on ourselves. And if our parents were yellers, we'll use their words and their tone on ourselves while we're upset.
Adolescents are learning…part of learning is messing up. Kids who don't mess up are dead or severely disabled. Seriously…your adolescent is normal when they make mistakes. Some mistakes are more painful and costlier than others, for sure, but mistakes of some kind are a given in parenting teens.
Adolescents are moving towards adulthood. They are within a few years of needing to fix their own mistakes as an adult. Parenting adolescents needs to transition from completely structuring the child's behaviour to moving towards a facilitation/guidance as they seek to manage their own. This is a gradual process.
Guidance happens best when everybody is thinking clearly. Adolescents respond best when treated with respect and dignity. This is not glossing over inappropriate behaviour, or "letting them off the hook". This is about being curious with your teen to allow him/her to genuinely explain themselves…they get to hear themselves. Calmly and vulnerably stating your position allows for receptivity on the part of your child…which is prime emotional space to learn enough to not repeat the error!
Most teens are capable of dealing effectively with a problem with some time lapse. Everything does not have to get fixed at the time of discovery of the screw up…in fact, mostly likely it's unlikely to deal with it well at the time.
Injuries happen…when we yell at anybody, it does damage…and love survives if those injuries are acknowledged and healed. And apologizing for your verbal violence doesn't dismiss their bad behaviour, it does take responsibility for yours.
If you're human (and you are), you will "lose it" on your teenager. No doubt you will. For sure.
There are a few positive things that can/will happen when you rage at your teenager:
Ironically, to be a perfect parent with no room for error or to be human actually can increase the pressure in parenting which may make a "blow up" even more likely.
And again, ironically, when we yell at our kids, many of us then turn around and yell at ourselves for yelling at them. I'm not the only one, am I? Not helpful…truly.
Instead, work to remain true to your values as best as you can, extending compassion to yourself for inevitable slip ups. Establish some inner "lines in the sand" that you promise to yourself that you will not cross when angry at your child…e.g. no four letter words, no name calling. Call out their behaviour as bad, rather than the child as bad. Know what your body does when you're well on your way to rage…and know when you are past the point of representing yourself well…parents do well to have a time out. Know that when you or your teen are under the influence of a alcohol or other substance, the discussion simply should not occur…it will not be helpful.
We've come to accept as a culture that giving a kid a black eye or bruises on their arms or a punch to the gut is not acceptable way to parent. Cursing, name calling and yelling to humiliate and shame cause invisible but very real emotional wounds. Kids will recover from both…though most people will say that physical wounds heal quicker than emotional ones.
For many parents, they parent the way they were parented…and parents pass on what they know.
That doesn't make it right.
On the other hand, life gets complicated as we find out more and more what's bad, and it starts to feel like parenting is done with handcuffs on the parent:
As many commenters have already pointed out, this leaves parents’ hands even more tied than they were already. No spanking. Timeouts don’t really work. Bribery is wrong. Death-stares, displaying no reaction, walking away, distraction, and gentle explanation of wrongdoing are all suboptimal. Now yelling is off the table, too.
Parenting is micromanaged and informed by increasingly complex rules and guidelines…which shift or even reverse themselves over time… what sort of car seat to buckle them into (and this gets more complex regularly), what foods are bad for kids (and they get rotated from bad to good to bad regularly, it seems), the importance of wearing helmets, the dangers of trampolines, the dangers of time outs, the dangers of this and that and this sort of discipline. It can start to feel like there are no tools left for improving a child's behaviour.
I get that. It's hard to be a parent.
That's where community comes in. I've been speaking to some parenting groups lately, and the wisdom that gets shared when you open up the floor to hear about ways that parents have had cool success moments of parenting is amazing. We need each other. We need to brainstorm strategies that work. We need to support each other as parents, to acknowledge it's hard, to commiserate during the moments when we feel like it's brutal, and to fill each other's tanks so we can go back into the parenting arena with some gas in the parenting tank.
Parenting is hard. But putting energy into it will be worth it. I promise you.
- by Carolyn Bergen
What if I told you a way to sustain the quality of your marriage could be done in 3 chunks of 7 minutes of writing three times a year..21 minutes to ensure your marriage doesn't deteriorate? Would you do it?
Sounds too good to be true?
I love life hacks…simple strategies that can make a measurable difference in one's daily life.
So…this is a relationship hack. A way to halt any deterioration in your relationship…in satisfaction, love. trust…heck…it even sustains a couples' sexual passion.
Yep, for reals…I've been doing the power posture regularly this fall. This personal rule I created where I will not allow fear to have me turn opportunities down is mighty inconvenient, as I've been doing things that terrify me, regularly. And you'll find me using Amy Cuddy's power posture in the car on the way over, off stage before I start, or even in a nearby bathroom stall before I move forward on a task. And. it. works. I feel more courageous, have less butterflies, and feel like I can speak out of my best self. It doesn't remove my fear, but it does help it not to interfere.
If you're in a bit of a rush…start it at 10 minutes to get to the good part! :)
So…here it is written out.
1. Write about your most significant conflict/disagreement with your partner in the last month:
2. a)Write about the conflict again from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for everybody—for you and your spouse(in other words, look at this from a larger perspective other than your own. Develop compassion/empathy/understanding for the other's perspective. Remember that your spouse isn't just a deliberate jerk, but has a set of frustrations/insecurities/failures/challenges/old wounds that make being a saint in all situations difficult)
b)What obstacles will you confront as you try to adopt this perspective?
(in other words, what might make having empathy difficult in situations as you move forward into further conflicts? How do your insecurities/frustrations/hangups/challenges/old wounds interfere with you being able to have benevolence towards your spouse?)
c)How can you surmount these obstacles?(in other words, how can you develop strategies to deal with the factors that make compassion/empathy difficult?)
Do you see what this is gonna do?
It's gonna sting a bit as you think about this from a neutral perspective. You're gonna have to look at your own behaviour and how that matters. You're gonna have to see how your responses shaped the whole event, and the collateral damage that may have occurred as you defended your position.
What we're talking about here…is how can you develop empathy for your spouse? Even in the midst of conflict, can you find compassion for your partner? How can you step outside of your position to also hold an understanding about what this is like for him/her? How can you recognize that life is more than this immediate issue…that the conflict is part of the context of a relationship where two people have committed their lives to each other because of LOVE?
Your'e gonna have to think about what makes this hard to think about. Now, to be sure…there is good reason why it's hard to think about it from a neutral third party position. Few people are unfair/mean/self centred/upset for no reason.
You're gonna have to think about what you could do to deal with the barriers that make empathy, compassion and kindness difficult.
That's not easy, but it is worth it! It's gonna take courage--but you got the stuff!
Couples that trouble themselves to answer these questions three times a year found that though they had just as many conflicts that were just as severe:
Print this document six times…one for you, one for your partner now, for four months from now, and for 8 months from now. Go on, put it into your daytimer on your Smartphone so you'll remember to do it.
Isn't your relationship worth it?
- by Carolyn Bergen
We are made to live in community…and we do well when we help each other out. I saw this video recently…only 68 seconds long, it inspires me to look around and make myself available to help another who needs it.
Darnell Barton is going along, doing his job, and notices that someone needs help. He doesn't panic, he doesn't get dramatic, he just goes along and offers simple connection…he offers a hand…literally. He goes on to finish the rest of his shift.
This world is a gentler, kinder place because of folks like Darnell.
Consider offering a hand to a stranger today?
- by Carolyn Bergen
So…last post about the man cold…and this one about the woman cold.
And now is when the woman say, "What woman cold? There is no such thing as a woman cold. I don't have time to be sick".
That would be the exact context of the woman cold.
You see, women struggle with being "enough"…with being
Women deal with this conflicting web of expectations:
This first of all is more than a little tricky, when some of them are competing and opposite--no one can do opposite things at the same time…you try being casual and formal simultaneously, for example.
Try doing these things…all at the same time…
And you have an entire gender trying to do it all, while trying to make it all look easy.
Women have been trained to try to "do it all" and do that "all the time"…and the most important of all of these roles is "caregiver".
When talking about the man cold, Jean Berko Gleason, PhD, professor emerita of Psychology at Boston University says:
"Women aren't supposed to fall apart when they have a cold...So men who are needing some nurturing might take advantage of that on occasions when they aren't feeling well to get some care and love from the people around them."
"Women tend to be the 'carers' "Gavin Andrews…from the video
A place to breath and realize that trying to do everything for everybody, especially when under the weather, isn't realistic…even while they battle to fight on because of "what will they think?" You know, the very powerful but nebulous "they" that can run a person's life.
Creating space for a woman to authentically pull back from the busy-ness of life when she is ill is one way to really listen to her.
The Daring Way(TM)...updates on the training.
Hump Day Nudge...Reminders about the basics of connection
Actually enjoying Christmas…being less tired and stressed…a free printable to remind yourself of more joy, less perfection.