Latest Articles from the Blog

When Development Becomes Stunted

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Essential Development, Practical Parenting | 1 comment

One of our primary jobs as parents is supporting the natural developmental processes at work within our children. And the core of this is helping their hearts remain open and capable of facing vulnerability. “Emotion is the engine of maturation.” Gordon Neufeld Over the last few blogs, I have written about the general costs of a hardened heart the 3 primary ways a heart becomes hardened the 3 categories of brain defenses we use to continue functioning in stressful situations In this blog, I will focus more specifically on what capacities a child loses if her heart becomes hardened and stunts her inherent, dynamic developmental potential. (Once again, Gordon Neufeld is my primary source of wisdom here.) The Primary “Feelings” that Drive the 3 Growth Processes If emotion is the source of maturation, their must be discernible affects: what we “feel” when emotion — energy into motion — is moving in us. The first, and most enjoyable category, are feelings of fulfillment. When our primary needs like food, safety, belonging, and connection are met, we feel fulfilled and the energy bound-up in the drive toward getting our need met is released and channeled into our learning and our personal growth. Here specifically, the emergent process becomes activated. The next group of feelings are exactly the opposite: the feelings of futility of fulfillment. When we don’t get what we want, feelings like disappointment, sadness, and loss arise, bringing us deep into vulnerable territory. If we can stay with these feelings — […] Read more…

3 Ways the Brain Protects

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Essential Development, Practical Parenting | 0 comments

When vulnerable feelings begin to overwhelm us, our brain steps in to save the day. The brain protecting itself from distress It is wonderful that we have brain mechanisms to protect us when we feel too vulnerable. These defenses allow us to continue functioning in the face of stress. But these defenses can also be a curse. Lets start by looking at vulnerability. The word “vulnerability” has many meanings depending on how it’s used. In the physical dimension, vulnerability means “to be susceptible to attack or invasion.” On the emotional level it is often used as “being susceptible to experiencing some degree of pain or uncomfortable feelings like hurt, rejection, fear, sadness, powerlessness, guilt, or shame.” But vulnerability, or more accurately — our ability to tolerate the experience of it — is the doorway to courage, authenticity, wholeheartedness, connection, and fulfillment. It is nearly impossible to live a satisfying, heartfelt life without being able to tolerate some degree of vulnerability. But it takes a long time to learn how to function effectively while remaining open and vulnerable. Why is this important in parenting? One of the most important aspects of being a parent is to help our children become able to navigate the stresses of life without developing a hardened heart or a tuned-out brain. So lets look at the specifics of how the brain moves to protect our children when facing a vulnerability it perceives as too much to bear. One of the most useful summaries of these defenses […] Read more…

3 Ways the Heart Becomes Hardened

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Essential Development, Practical Parenting | 3 comments

A child whose heart has become hardened has more trouble learning, more behavioral and relationship problems, and their development slows down. So how does a child’s heart become “hardened?”   “…the common denominator across a myriad of problems, syndromes and disorders.” Gordon Neufeld   To review from last weeks blog, vulnerability — the ability to be touched and moved by life — is a pivotal factor in the development of ones personality, the ability to learn, and in self-regulation and behavior. More to the point, when a child loses the ability to stay with vulnerable feelings — when their heart becomes chronically hardened — all kinds of learning, behavioral, and relational problems appear. Lets look at the 3 factors that cause the heart  to harden, and what we parents can do about it. [Note 1: “Hardened heart” is a metaphor for when the brain, extended nervous system, and body stiffen into rigid patterns of self-protection. We will detail these defenses in the next blog.] [Note 2: Most of what I have learned here is from the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld – thanks Gordon!] 3 Factors that Increase a Sense of Vulnerability (and can lead to a hardened heart) Sensitivity — Some children are simply born much more sensitive to stimuli (external or internal) than others. The more intense the experience — of noise, touch, light, or the feelings evoked — the more likely the child’s brain will evoke the defenses designed to protect him. This “sensitivity set-point” is likely […] Read more…