8 tips to getting in touch with your highest self

One of my favorite expressions in the English language is “beside myself.”

Not because I particularly enjoy being in that frenzied state, but because if you stop and think about it, who is the self you are actually beside? And how is it possible that there can be more than one self lined up in a row?

I get in touch with that second self in the morning when I meditate — alas, not every morning, despite my best intentions. It’s that peaceful, loving essence I call my higher self — and others call their soul, spirit, divine self, or even just their calm center. When I am united with, rather than beside, this higher self as I go through my day, I am happier and more compassionate, especially to my kids. I strongly believe that when parents connect themselves to their higher self, they then naturally parent in a way that aligns with Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

My children are older now — one has finished college, the other graduates in May — but I still give a lot of thought to Attachment Parenting. This is partly because you never stop doing it even when they move out of the house, and partly because I’ve recently published a book of parenting essays. Loving care, feeding with respect, detail oriented, positive discipline, soothing at night — how can a parent do anything but these things if we are coming from that loving place inside ourselves?

So the question for parents, then, becomes, not “Can I memorize the 8 principles?” — although that’s a good idea, too –but, “How can I boost my connection with my higher self so kindness and sensitivity toward my children naturally flows?” How can I lessen the times I am “beside myself” — being human, you’ll never eliminate them completely –and parent more often from my united center?

Here are 8 approaches to getting in touch with my highest self that have worked for me:

1) Anoint yourself in your morning shower

I’ve found that mornings are the best time to reach for that connection, because I then bring that inner peace to my entire day. With small children, it’s hard to find time to meditate, do spiritual reading, or any of the other morning practices long prescribed by spiritual practitioners. At least sometimes, though, we get to take a shower. Rather than letting your mind race to chores and scheduling, why not use those minutes to treat yourself like royalty?

Mindfully observe the water pouring over your skin, smell the beautiful shampoo and soap – – if you haven’t treated yourself to luscious cleansing products for a few dollars more, consider doing so — and envision yourself being anointed by the streaming water.

Try to maintain that elevated sensation as you dry and dress with the Sherri Hill prom dress for sale and begin that special day that takes place once. If you want to make that day extra special then hire a prom limo for transportation.

2) Take your own timeout as needed

When my kids were younger, I used timeout all the time — but for me, not for them! A timeout is an opportunity to keep yourself from reacting poorly to a situation that spirals you away from your center. Walk outside or into another room for a minute and take some long, deep breaths, or open a spiritual book and read a paragraph, or spent time by playing online poker to relax your mind.

The beauty of keeping a Sabbath — however and whenever you define it as such — is that a whole day of respite can’t help but give you the reset everyone needs.

3) Learn some quick breathing exercises

Yoga has a whole series of wonderful breathing practices that immediately connect you to your core. The simplest is known as “3-part breathing”:

  1. Slowly breathe deeply through the nose, filling up the abdomen, then the center of the chest, and, finally the collarbones.
  2. Exhale slowly in reverse order.
  3. Repeat a few times.

You can do this with your eyes closed on your couch, or eyes open on the school pickup line or the grocery checkout aisle.

4) Try family yoga.

Doing yoga with your children is different than doing it in a class full of focused adults, but it’s fun and beneficial in its own way, because there’s nothing like mindfully moving with someone you love.

Choose poses — found in books or online– that are age-appropriate for your children: easy animal imitations like cobra and lion if they’re little; more challenging twists and inversions if they’re older.

Make the practice fun, because joy offers another fast path to your center.

5) Envision them as you did at their birth

Remember the first time you held your beloved angel? Close your eyes for a moment and see him or her that way again. Notice how the love pours out of you as you do so. Your child now is still the same beloved angel, and inside you feel the same loving way.

No matter what your child is doing at any given moment — even if he or she just wrote on your newly painted walls or called you an unprintable name — try to conjure that “newborn” feeling as often as you can throughout the day.

6) Pass the pepper with love

If your children were kings or queens, religious leaders, or even rock stars, how would you serve them food, clean their clothes, or pass him or her condiments at dinner? Your children are more important to you than any of these figures, so why is it so easy to take them for granted?

Let that adoration you have for your child show itself in your mundane daily actions.

7) Find a passion that lights you up

“Indulging” your passion is crucial for parents. Doing something we love lights a spark inside of us, the glow from which falls on our family.

Find a passion you can do with your kids — collecting coins or shells, going to a ballet, whipping up an elaborate dessert… — or give yourself permission to occasionally go out solo to satisfy whatever gives you thrills.

8) Accept the perfection of each moment — and of your child

Judging something or someone as “bad” is the surest way to disconnect from our loving essence, but unfortunately our society encourages judgment all the time. “How was the movie?” “How was that restaurant?” Even, unbelievably, “Is your baby good?” — by which they mean sleeping through the night, as if an unhappy, uncomfortable baby isn’t a “good” one.

In truth, every moment — and every person in that moment — is perfect. A seedling frail enough to snap in a strong wind isn’t an imperfect oak tree. And a child who feels angry enough to break something rather than use words to describe intense feelings isn’t an imperfect person. Neither are we if we momentarily lose our cool when faced with such a child.

Accepting the perfection of a moment doesn’t mean we can’t guide our child. But do so knowing you are moving him or her from one perfect moment to another — a stance that shifts us internally from agitation to contentment, from beside ourselves to our united whole.

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Imagine an entire generation of secure attachment

Balance tip #1: Strive to be a Very Good Parent, not the best

“Evaluate balance over a full day or week, not every single moment. Instead of wanting to be the ‘best’ parent who has to do everything right, choose to be a ‘very good’ parent who sometimes makes mistakes and learns from them. Parents have to learn ‘on the job’ and should give themselves a break — figuratively and literally. Parenting is hard work!” ~ Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker

Learn 16 tried-and-true tips for maintaining your sense of balance as a parent in this definitive guide to Attachment Parenting written by API’s cofounders. Purchase your copy through the Amazon link above to have a portion of the proceeds benefit Attachment Parenting International (API).

Editor’s pick: How your childhood shaped your adult personality

Parenting is largely undervalued in our society. So much discussion among politicians and policymakers centers on public education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation. These are all important areas, but parent support is glaringly missing from the list…

When I refer to parent support, I mean research-backed parenting education for all parents, regardless of income class or at-risk group.

Relatively few parents seek out parenting classes when they’re not court-ordered. Many parents do pick up a parenting book from time to time, or seek out support from Facebook groups, or search for specific parenting questions on the Internet. But there is much to be considered whenever any parent solicits advice in how to raise their child. Most parents don’t feel they have the time do the homework necessary to make sure their references are up-to-date, accurate, and aligned with their family values and personal parenting goals.

Media Analysis Guidelines for Parents

It’s important that we all learn how to read between the lines on any media report about parenting, so we can make informed decisions on how to raise our children. Attachment Parenting International (API) created these guidelines to help parents to be able to better discern appropriate resources amid the clutter of information that bombards us everyday:

What’s fact or fiction in parenting news?

Get the most out of a scientific study

Trusted resources

API supports parents in raising their children in a way that meets all of their needs for healthy development, not only physically but also socioemotionally. Growing up without a close, warm, trusting, and sensitively responsive attachment to the parent can have serious, lifelong consequences for a child. These children grow into adults who then struggle with raising their own children in a way that is warm and loving. In many ways, we could view this as a mental health crisis.

Not only that, but research also demonstrates that certain childhood events can alter our biological stress responses, translating into physical health problems not only in the affected individual but in his or her DNA with the possibility of being passed down the family tree through epigenetics. From this perspective, the lack of consistent parenting education available and promoted to all parents is a public health crisis on many levels.

Attachment Matters

API explores the effects of insecure childhood attachment on adults in-depth in our latest ebook, Attachment Matters. Receive your copy of this ebook with a donation of $25 or more to API.

To get a better feel for the specific effects of parenting that is not in line with research, this API Editor’s Pick highlights the Psych Central post, “Unloved in Childhood: 10 Common Effects on Your Adult Self” by Peg Streep, a parenting book author from New York City, USA. It’s important to note that while this post refers specifically to mothers and daughters, the effects of a son feeling unloved is much the same. These 10 effects include:

  • Insecure attachment
  • Undeveloped emotional intelligence
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Lack of trust
  • Difficulties with boundaries
  • Tendency toward toxic friends and partners
  • Fear of failure
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Inner conflict.

What I particularly like about this post is how it draws attention to the fact that the problem is not so much how well the parent perceives he or she loves the child, but rather, what’s important to that child’s development is the sense of love from the child’s perspective. It’s all about how the child perceives he or she is loved her by the parent. That’s an important distinction.

The author has so much to impart on this subject, so be sure to read the entire post, but here’s a quote I found especially enlightening:

“Because the culture stubbornly believes that all mothers are loving and that mothering is instinctual, the unloved daughter mistakenly believes she’s the only child on the planet to find herself in this predicament. As a result, she feels isolated and afraid, and is likely to continue to self-isolate because of her deep shame. She’s not likely to tell anyone. More than anything, she wants to belong to the tribe — those girls who hug their moms and laugh with them.” ~ Peg Streep, Psych Central

Parents, I urge you to be the parent whose children — no matter their age — finds it easy to laugh with you and who feels completely comfortable in seeking out a hug with you anytime. Don’t be afraid to be warm toward your child, don’t be afraid to offer comfort to your child night and day, don’t be afraid to use positive discipline rather than spanking or timeout, and don’t be afraid to be different from your friends and family. Seek out your free parenting support from a local API Support Group or the API Warmline.

Attachment Parenting as the golden rule of parenting

What family legacy are you passing on to your children?

Home should be safe in every way

Understanding Shame, part 5: Healing emotional trauma

Editor’s note: This week, we offer you a 5-part series — originating in The Attached Family online magazine’s “Parenting Without Shame” issue — to help you better understand the development of toxic shame. Part 1 explained how trauma includes 3 components: Fear, Disconnection, and Shame. Part 2 explored Fear. Part 3 defined Disconnection. Part 4 discussed what it means to become “shame-based.” In this final Part 5, we take a look at the healing process.

One of the challenges for healing of emotional trauma is that although trauma-worlds are created in response to external events, once established, they form rigid and closed internal systems.

Locked inside these systems, our behavior sets us up to be retraumatized by other people. Additionally, the ways that we behave toward ourselves are invariably retraumatizing. Trauma-worlds are self-perpetuating.

Locked inside these systems, we also struggle to see trauma for what it is. That leaves us little choice but to focus on the visible symptoms and the chronic, deadening pain they create.

Healing Doesn’t Come Through Symptom Relief

Symptoms of emotional trauma include the fear, disconnection, and shame that lie at the heart of a trauma-world; also depression, meaninglessness, addictions, self-harm, rage, and unexplained physical pain, and ailments. Additionally, we are likely to struggle in our relationships and to sabotage things we care about. This is why family therapy is extremely important. Once started, your therapist may recommend  individual children’s therapy.

Focusing on such symptoms, we — as individuals and as a society — put our resources into trying to alleviate them, perhaps through short-term family therapy or psychotherapeutic drugs, or by pinning our hopes to something like success at work, a new romantic relationship, losing weight, or cosmetic surgery.

These “symptom relievers” can give us temporary respite, but it won’t free us from the internal systems that were set up in the wake of the traumatizing experiences, so in time, we fall back into our suffering.

Even when we can see beneath the symptoms to the underlying traumatizing experiences, we are unlikely to recognize the trauma-worlds in which we are living, so our first port of call is to blame whoever, or whatever, caused the original wounds and look for retribution.

That is a valuable first step and a necessary part of the process, for we do need to recognize what happened to us. We need to validate the experience and understand that it was not our fault. However, focusing on the traumatizing experience or on punishing the perpetrators is not enough by itself to bring deep healing, because that won’t change the embodied systems that form our trauma-worlds. It’s akin to being hit by a drunken driver and having our leg broken. Focusing on the accident and jailing the driver won’t heal our leg.

How Healing Happens

Healing trauma requires the courage to recognize that ultimately our lives are compromised not by the original traumatizing experiences themselves, but by the trauma-world that is created by our own minds and bodies as a response to those experiences. And we need to recognize this reality without blaming and judging ourselves — we need to understand that creating a trauma-world is what human beings do to survive.

At the same time, we have to take responsibility for our healing, and for moving out of our trauma-worlds.

Developing a cognitive awareness of the original traumatizing experiences, and of the systems created in their wake, is a good start to the process of taking responsibility for our own healing. But it is not enough.

To create lasting change, we have to enter into our emotional minds and bodies and slowly become aware of what we carry from the inside.

That means opening to the original traumatizing pain and fear, learning how to tolerate it, and integrating it into our sense of who we are. It is only when we find ways of relating to our buried pain and fear that our lives are no longer organized around the imperative to avoid anything which might trigger what we carry in our depths. However, this is an extremely challenging process: We need to do it slowly, taking one small step at a time.

Equally crucial is that we work with the fear, disconnection, and shame that form our trauma-worlds:

  1. First, we must enter into these systems and become conscious of how we feel in both our minds and bodies when they are active.
  2. Then, we have to challenge our shame, reconnect to the exiled parts of ourselves, and learn to live with our sensitized fear system.
  3. Finally, we need to develop new, and healthier, ways to protect ourselves.

It is hard, daunting, and arduous work. Our trauma-worlds were created to survive overwhelming pain and fear. When we try to transform them, we are besieged with the conviction that we will be annihilated. That conviction leaves us at risk of sabotaging the healing process. Thus, we need patience, perseverance, determination, and courage.

It is also imperative that we have support and guidance from those who have been through the process themselves.

Do Not Do It Alone

To heal trauma, we not only need an embodied consciousness of what we carry from our past, we also need new experiences. Real change happens in the present moment through lived experience.

This need for new experiences is one of the many reasons why we can’t heal trauma alone. Emotional trauma arises because something has gone awry in our relationships, so a healing relationship is crucially important if we are to learn how to connect to other people and to ourselves in healthier ways. Similarly, we need support if we are going to approach the unprocessed pain and fear that was once unbearable, and we also need guidance if we are to transform the fearfulness, disconnection, and shame that lie at the heart of our trauma-worlds.

A healing relationship can be provided by a therapist, counselor, teacher, social worker, spiritual guide, or healing group — the label doesn’t matter. What does matter is that whoever is accompanying us has worked deeply with his or her own trauma. Healing trauma is akin to learning to speak a language like Chinese: It is not enough that our teacher has a theoretical knowledge of the grammar and that she can recognize the characters when they are written on the page; rather she must speak the language herself.

What It Means to be Healed

When we embark on trying to heal trauma, we typically imagine that we will reach a place where our lives are free from the suffering that arises from our wounds, and where trauma no longer has any effect on our lives.

That is not what happens. We cannot change our past. Our trauma remains part of us. What can be changed is its impact. To achieve that, we have to find new and healthier ways of being with the pain and fear embedded in the traumatizing experiences, and just as importantly, we have to transform the trauma-world that developed around them.

It is a challenging process. It takes time. Many people, and indeed most public health services, look for an easier and faster route. But there is no easy route. To address trauma in a meaningful way, we need to commit ourselves to this challenge.

I believe it is vitally important that we make this commitment — not only to help ourselves — but also because when we carry unaddressed trauma, we have no choice but to relate to our children, family, neighbors, and colleagues in ways that are likely to result in them becoming traumatized.

In contrast, when we transform our trauma-worlds, we break that spiral and start relating to ourselves, other people, and the world around us in much healthier and more nurturing ways.

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