Latest Articles from the Blog

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…

The Cost of a Hardened Heart

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Essential Development | 0 comments

We all harden our hearts from time to time. But if our hardness becomes chronic, we suffer and cause suffering to others.   Self-protection can severely limit our lives   Vulnerability has become a dirty word in our culture, largely because it has become synonymous with weakness. But nothing could be farther from the truth. To be vulnerable is to allow yourself to be touched, moved, impacted. Yes, this sometimes means we feel difficult feelings such as disappointment, pain, and rejection: we are susceptible to feeling “wounded” when we are vulnerable. But as most wisdom cultures teach us, “The wounds are where the gifts are.” Being open to all that life has to offer us is the way into our fullness as people. You don’t become a Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, or Eckhart Tolle by staying safe in a cocoon; you develop into your unique fullness by trusting that you can handle whatever life brings you and leaning gently into the truth of the moment. When you bring courage and openness to the circumstances of your life, you become increasingly gifted to your birthright: a fully feeling and resilient heart and the development of unconditional confidence. This is the confidence not that you will get everything you want in life, but rather that you will be nourished and ultimately thrive through the good, the bad, and the ugly.   “There are places in the heart that do not yet exist. Suffering has to enter in for them to come to […] Read more…