Step 5: Becoming Aware: I am an Emotional Coach to My Child

At the ages of 7 and 5, my daughters lost their father.

To be honest, they lost their dad at the ages of 5 and 3. Many who have dealt with cancer in their lives will understand when I explain that the illness had taken hold and the man that was their father was not able to be present for them during his final years on this earth. It did not matter how much he loved them – he loved them dearly, and tried with all of his might to be the best father he could be given the trying circumstances. But his mind soon let him down, as did his body, and on September 27th, 2012, the girls found themselves fatherless.

Three weeks after our eldest daughter was born, the diagnosis came. It was leukemia, and it was moving rapidly. But after three rounds of chemotherapy, and many long nights in and out of hospital, he returned to the family in very good shape. Some would argue he was even better than before. He began running regularly and was the strongest I had ever seen him.

When the news came that we were expecting again, something shifted in his spirit. I could see him struggling to find his happiness. He was thrilled with the prospect of another child, but he was scared. Finally, when we found the first lump on his throat, he opened up and explained that he was worried that he was going to relapse. And when he did, the diagnosis was bleak. The only option was a bone marrow transplant. So we signed him up and we tried our best to find the courage in our hearts to do this all over again. We both knew what this meant: both our children would have lived their early years visiting their father in hospital, spending time in hospital daycares so that I could visit with him during the day, or spend the time with family so that I could spend the night at the hospital when things took a turn for the worst.

If there was ever a moment in time when I felt I needed to become an emotional coach for my children, it was during the period following their father’s bone marrow transplant. No amount of love in the world prepared me for the shift in personality that came with the intense drug treatments. And with a newborn on my hip and a toddler at my side, the challenge to remain grounded, present, and positive was unbelievable.

So we made it through some very difficult times, and now, re-married, and with hopes to expand our family, being an emotional coach for the children is an integral part of our lives. But I have also realized that being an emotional coach for my children can only arise if I am first, and foremost, an emotional coach for myself.

I learned the hard way as I dealt with cancer and the untimely death of the children’s father that I cannot be there for the children if I am not firs there for myself. The notion of self-empathy, then, rings true: If my needs are not met, and my emotions and feelings are left unattended, it is not only me that suffers. The children suffer as well. I cannot be a supportive parent if I do not find ways to support myself in times of need. And, if it is true that all of our behaviours are based on needs that we are trying to get met, then becoming aware of our needs is an integral part of opening ourselves up to truly be there for our children.

I also believe that modeling self-empathy for our children has huge benefits. Given that we live in a society that often implies that ignoring our personal needs is good, teaches that attending to our own needs is “selfish”, and suggests that a “good parent” is one who puts everyone before themselves, it is essential that we model a different type of being-in-the-world for our children. Modeling for the children the need to attend to our feelings, to develop the vocabulary to ask for what we need as well as having the presence of mind to know what we are feeling and needing is a huge part of being an emotional coach for our children.

Becoming an emotional coach for our children allows us to play an important part in the development of their emotional intelligence. And as they become accustomed to paying attention to their feelings, naming their emotions, and speaking up about their needs, we are changing the face of parenting one child at a time. What is amazing is that being the children’s emotional coach is not fulfilling only in times of need. There starts to be an undercurrent of peace that runs through our families as we re-assess why we do what we do, and how our emotional realities are impacting upon other members of the family. And then we can take that out into the world. Emotional coaching at home is moved into the communities when our children begin to ask their friends how they are feeling, and when they begin naming emotions that their teachers may think are well beyond their understanding. Emotional coaching at home also moves into our communities when we ask our colleagues at work how they are feeling about decision, and when we ask someone at work what they might need to make the project they are working on feel better to their spirit.

Being an emotional coach for a children is something we do without realizing it. We teach our children how to relate to their emotions whether we mean to or not. But it’s in the awareness of the lessons we can share with our children as their emotional coach that we truly engage in the biggest parenting shift ever imagined.

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

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Step 4: The Answer Is Always YES! Shifting Limiting Beliefs

Can we shift our limiting beliefs?

Yes!

The answer is always yes!

Do we always know recognize that we are operating on a limiting belief? Well… that’s where the hard work comes in.

What makes shifting our limiting beliefs difficult is that the ones that are having the largest impact on us are often unconsciously held. In my own life, for instance, I know that self-esteem can be an issue. I know that where others might take a leap of faith, I might shy away from the challenge, worried that I am not smart enough, good enough, or capable enough to achieve great success. And for a long time I worked on creating and reciting positive affirmations to help change that self-perception. It was not until I was introduced to the Quantum Mindshift meditation that I realized that the tools we select to help us shift our limiting beliefs must be strong enough to meet our unconscious minds head-on. Until that time, only superficial changes can take place, and in no time we will find ourselves back to our regularly programmed patterns. In my life, the affirmations were created based solely on what I could see as limiting beliefs. And, often times, whatever the belief was that I held that was troubling was challenged through my affirmations by repeating the opposite. For example, when I grew tired of being in debt, I saw that I spoke of my debt more often than I spoke of my wealth. And so in no time the affirmation was created to help guide me to financial abundance: “I attract wealth and prosperity to my life” became my mantra each morning while getting ready to begin my day and each evening as I prepared to put my weary body to bed. But one question remained – why was I in debt? What was happening that kept a young, creative, and bright woman with her doctorate in hand from living a life of financial prosperity? And it was the Quantum Mindshift Meditation that provided me with the ability to relax my body and allow my mind to help me work through my personal history… to tap into the belief pattern that was operating at an unconscious level and always keeping me in a cycle of debt.

So what was the unconscious limiting belief? That it was all in my head – all the praise I had received, any positive response to an idea I proposed – it was all in my head. I had programmed myself to believe that my ideas and approach to sharing my ideas with others was a failure even before the work was presented. And so it only made sense that my affirmation – “I attract wealth and prosperity to my life” – was also bound to fail. Because, taken from a different angle, I was actually unconsciously asking the universe for failure so that my limiting belief “It’s all in my head” could be true! The universe always responds to our deepest desires, and in this case, it was no different. So I had to be ready to let go of this limiting belief and replace it with another belief that would bring my mind, body, and spirit to a new level. But even that had to come from a different level of awareness within me. It was not a matter of substituting this idea with its opposite (e.g., “It’s not in my head”). It was about finding a new pattern of beliefs that would bring to me exactly what I wanted – financial wealth through a fulfilling career. And so, during the meditation when “I am a natural born leader” appeared to my consciousness, it just made sense. It was my belief in my ability to lead that would bring me the wealth that I would seek. And as I reconfigured my beliefs, my beautiful affirmation – “I bring wealth and prosperity to my life” – finally had a chance to be realized in my life.

In the days and weeks that followed, I felt like there were moments where I lived as if in the third person. I watched myself engage with my children, my students, and my colleagues on both my old and new belief. At times, when I was unable to accept a compliment for my work, I recognized “It’s all in my head” and tried something new. The old me would laugh off the compliment, making up some reason why the work was not that great and re-focusing their attention instead on what they had contributed to the project. The new me acted as a natural born leader: “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” It was a simple, yet glorious shifting of beliefs. And, as if by magic, contracts that had been left in limbo, payments owed to me that had been delayed, and new career prospects that were on the horizon came my way.

Because I am a natural born leader, wealth and prosperity are brought to my life. And, with grace, dignity, and unwavering gratitude, I accept these each and every day.

I don’t think that we spend enough time really considering the importance of tapping into the unconscious mind. I have read that human beings only use a small percentage of their brain’s power. The bulk of what our brain is able to do is left un-tapped. I tend to agree with Bruce Lipton and advocate for a merging of traditional biology and quantum physics to better assist in understanding and achieving our true potential. And it is in trying to figure out how to connect to the unconscious patterning in our minds that real change can take place.

And so today I am committed to the step prior to shifting my limiting beliefs. I am committed to uncovering what they are and, with that knowledge, acknowledging how they affect my decisions, behaviours, and beliefs right here, right now.

With love, life & healing,

Laura Mae.

Step 3(b): Emotions that Scare Us in the Children We Love

A grieving child is not easy to see. The gamut of emotions we feel as adults when we lose someone we love run through our children as they, too, try and process their loss. When my children were faced with the loss of their father I realized how real this was. And despite the books I read to help me parent them through their grief, and the support network I created for us to help surround them with the love they needed to heal their broken hearts, I was not prepared for the anger and aggression that took place in our home following their father’s death.

For my eldest daughter, 7-years-old at the time, the anger was internalized. She became introverted and quiet and was only willing to be with me. She needed my full attention and she wanted to stay close to me to ensure that I would not disappear as her father had done. But her need to be close to me was confronted by an intense anger: she was mad at the world not only for taking her father, but for stopping her from being allowed to say goodbye. Her father’s family, hurting and opting to re-direct their pain by focusing their energies on being angry with me, decided that the children were not entitled to see their father before he died. As such, they moved him from a palliative care unit some 20 minutes from our home to the city of his birth 4 hours away. No matter what rationalization was forwarded from either his family to the children and I, or from me to the girls, one reality remained true: the girls were not able to say goodbye to their father before he died. As the anger boiled in my eldest daughter, and new synaptic connections were being made between her feelings of security and love and her understanding of family. She began to question whether anyone loved her: if her family had made this choice to deny her the opportunity to tell her father she loved him before he died, what did it mean to be loved by family? Who was there to trust? What did trust look like? How could she be sure that I would remain if I went to work, or to get groceries, or walked downstairs to check the mail in our condominium? And as her questions continued to grow and an increase of negative emotions became connected to her brain’s understanding of “family,” she was quick to anger. This resulted in her body and mind processes remaining locked in the lower, deep region, of the brain. Every decision she made was one of primal survival: flight, fright or freeze. And often, she chose “freeze,” unable to feel her body much less her emotional processing as she worked through her grief.

For my youngest daughter, 4-years old when her father died, the anger and rage was overwhelming. To release her rising emotions, she would yell, grunt, and scream any chance she got. She began to attack the people around her, including her sister. She was typically joyful and optimistic, but with her father’s passing, she struggled to understand what had happened. How was she to go on without a father in her life? Why did she have to accept that he was gone? Why did he look so frail the last time she saw him? Why was he so angry? Why didn’t he have hair? Why couldn’t he walk or run? Why didn’t he play with her? Why did she want to cry so much?  I realized as we tried to work through her feelings and address her experiences with her father that she had never known him healthy. And I think that this bothered her as well, making her angry that she was denied happy experiences with her dad. When I told her he died, she asked for a picture of him with hair. It was then – watching her look at his picture with a blank look as if she was staring into the eyes of a stranger – that I realized that his battle with cancer, unending treatments, and physical effects of a life filled with a cocktail of drugs served to him on a regular basis in a clear, plastic bag marked with a skull and crossbones image to indicate it was hazardous material, resulted in our youngest daughter never having a father in her life who was able to live up to the expectations of dad’s among her friends. Thus, for her, the synaptic connections made between “father” and “family” and “unhealthy” and “sick” were truly troubling. She was mad that her family did not look like others, and she was struggling as this was reinforced by healthy fathers picking up their children from daycare. And with each experience, the connection between “family” – “father” – “sickness” – “unhealthy” – “anger” grew and cemented until she was filled with rage needing an outlet.

For all of us, this time was nothing less than trying. My reaction was not always positive. I was grieving too, and saw ahead of me an eternal challenge to figure out why the girls were yelling and fighting. And though I understood intellectually that they were grieving and they were in emotional pain, I was not able to find a way to re-direct the behaviours or create new, more peaceful synaptic connections within any of us. I also wanted to scream – maybe this was what their mirror neurons were sensing as the girls’ anger boiled over. As my neocortex or the higher region of my brain went offline, I mirrored that, too, for the girls. We lived together in the house, but we each felt isolated and alone. That was what preempted my attempts to find ways to help us re-center, find peace, and find ways to strengthen our bond so that we could collectively – as a family – create a new life for ourselves. I began to call this “our new normal” and the title became our hook. It was a way of helping us think more simplistically about what it looked like in practice to create more positive synaptic connections in our brains moving forward. In fact, this helped us begin to strengthen our family values. Sure, we weren’t like the “typical” family anymore, but we were still here. And we wanted peace and knew that the anger and rage being expressed no longer assisted us. It was time to release the anger and, as Siegel and Hartzell explain in “Parenting from the Inside Out,” no longer be ruled by our limbic system or emotional centre. We could make different choices. And we are. Every single day.

With love, light, and healing,

Laura Mae.

Step 3(a): The Quantum Mind Shift That BLEW MY MIND!

I knew that I was stalling… procrastinating, if you will. But I also knew that this was a “normal” response. I had access to the meditation, but I was scared to go there. But guess what? When we are presented with an opportunity to be great, we often take a moment to receive that gift. I can easily imagine the internal dialogue that many of us have gone through:

“So, hey… you there. I’ve got something that will really blow your mind!”

“Sorry, are you talking to me?”

“Yeah… you. I mean, this is going to blow your mind! Turn you into a whole new person. Make you experience life on a level that you never imagined possible.”

“Wow. That sounds great. But are you sure you have the right person? I’m pretty stuck in pattern of thinking that feels really comfortable right now, you know what I mean?”

“Are you serious? I mean, you have the opportunity to turn your world upside down and you’re trying to justify your old patterns? This is going to blow that out of the water, man! This is the ultimate experience. Come on… just take a peek would ya’?”

“Well, I’m a little busy being angry. Can you come back tomorrow?”

I recognized this a little earlier. It was in a Jay-Z song when he made simple for the fans: “Just let me be great.” And that’s what the Quantum Mindshift did. It just let me be great!

This meditation allowed me to find and face a limiting belief. I was small and nobody heard me. As I was led through various sounds and asked to enter into the feeling, I began to recognize that there was something else there. This limiting belief was holding me back. This limiting belief was also blocking my throat – making it hard to breathe – and closing my belly – making it hard to conceive. And this limiting belief no longer made sense. I was a natural leader and I was strong. The new belief grew larger and enveloped my spirit. I could feel the weight of the gift I was being given. I could feel my energy pulsing through my veins. The new me – a me who was rooted in where I had been and how far I had come – was ready to make its appearance. The new me was here.

The Quantum Mindshift blew my mind. And I offer this gift to you. Take a minute to be curious about what holds you back, to recognize that our own mental roadblocks are stronger than anything someone or something outside of us can do to stop us from becoming great. And then, listen to our spirit. It begins quietly, whispering to you before it expands and grows and envelops you and all that you do. And, most importantly, it allows you to trust in your greatness.

With love, light and healing,

Laura Mae.