This article is republished with permission from the author.

As a nation we are horrified by an epidemic of mass shootings at the hands of young killers, and an escalation of bullying in our schools.  Though many constructive solutions have been offered, something is being left out of our national dialogue.  This something is what science has to say.

Findings from decades of child development research have given us a new lens with which to understand children’s needs, and may shed some light on the escalation of violence at the hands of young people. The field is exploding with new information, yet pediatricians, educators, and mental health therapists are often unaware of this science, or the breadth of the research and its implications.

I was heartened to see that, recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics incorporated some of this information into a policy statement warning that toxic stress early in life, or even before birth, can harm children for life.  (Pediatrics 2012; 129:e224-e231)

Research results tell us that babies and young children are much more sensitive to stress and to nonverbal communication from adults than we ever knew. Scientists are also telling us that mutual interactions of joy and delight between parents and children, especially in the early years, are crucial to healthy brain development and to their ability to manage strong positive and negative emotions throughout life.  This ability to regulate the highs and lows of emotional life is the key to stable mental health as an adult.  Difficulties with emotional regulation are at the core of most mental health disorders.

For children, a “felt sense” (different from an intellectual knowing) of being valued and understood on the inside is essential to the regulation of their nervous system, and their ability to have full access to their neocortex.  When there is something stressful in the child’s environment— everything from mom and dad being stressed about everyday life, to a divorce, to someone died, to moving, to a medical procedure—children need to have someone they can trust to help them understand how it makes them feel.

We now know that children can be easily traumatized by everyday events without adults realizing it.  There are specific tools that can be taught to parents, to educators, and to every adult who relates to children, to help them help children manage these stressful events.  This would include right brain to right brain communication which soothes the limbic system and develops autonomous emotional regulation—for example, paying attention to eye contact, tone of voice, and timing and intensity of communication; offering validating comments such as “That must have been scary!; or “So, that’s how it was for you!”; or enjoying sensory rich activities together such as kneading dough, drawing, music, playing sports, or dancing.  Also, children can be taught to identify stress in their bodies, techniques to reduce their stress, and what to do if they are about to “flip their lid”. When this type of relationship connection does not happen for a child, we often see an escalation in difficult behaviors, from obstinacy to extreme violence.

Attachment Theory scientists talk about “attunement.”  This is a special kind of connection with the child where the adult is completely undistracted, and can relate to the child almost as if the adult were in the mind of the child.  Attunement fosters spontaneous sharing, a feeling of being understood, and allows the adult to gently explore what is on the child’s mind.  Attuned communication has a huge impact on a child’s overall behavior, and builds their mirror neurons.  Strong mirror neurons are what gives children the ability to have empathy for others—not moral teachings or zero tolerance policies.  Empathy in turn prevents aggression and violence.

Doctors Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, in their book Hold on to Your Kids, explain “counterwill” (disobedience) and the “the making of bullies”. They convey that, though counterwill (“I want my own way.”; “You can’t tell me what to do.” etc.) is normal in children, it can be tamed through, and only through, a strong attachment relationship, not methods to control and punish.  That means that if children feel truly connected to their parents or to the adults in charge, and feel safe to lean on them emotionally, they are more likely to listen and to drop their counterwill impulses. In other words, if I, as a child, feel safe to tell you how I really feel inside about stuff, and trust that you are not going to judge my feelings or dismiss them, I am going to feel close to you and want to listen to your rules even if I do not want to. I am also going to absorb your core values.  You do not have to drill them into me.

Neufield and Mate go on to describe bullying as a lack of emotional vulnerability stemming from weak attachment connections.  If a child does not feel emotionally safe to lean on an adult attachment figure, then they harden their tender feelings, such as fear, anxiety, love, caring, etc., and defend them by lashing out.  Or, they may turn against themselves and harm themselves. They may also try to find an attachment substitute by becoming obsessively attached to their peers and push away their parents.  But this doesn’t feel safe either, because another child cannot protect them.

Mate and Neufield explain how a strong peer orientation culture is harmful to children and that; in fact, there is much about our modern life which interferes with the type of attachment relationships children need for healthy mental development.

So, yes, we need to get assault weapons off our streets.  And, as a society, we need to stop producing bullies and mass murderers.  Children are not born that way.  Society creates them.  No, it is not a specific gene.  The science of epigenetics tells us that the caretaking environment helps to determine which genes are expressed.

I hope that we can bring this vast amount of empirical science into our local, state, and national dialogue. We have the scientific evidence to prevent violence, but will our culture and our politics allow it?

FAMILIES UNITED
CHRISTINE A. WALKER, LCSW
PSYCHOTHERAPIST

408 EAST MARKET STREET SUITE 204
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA 22902  

434-923-8253

cwalker@cstone.net
www.christinewalkerlcsw.com

A Center for Integrative Psychotherapy and Psychoeducation
Families/Children/Individuals

Solomon’s Seal and I upon boulders

betwixt bubbling streams

absorbing rays through Spring green.

Luscious scent of Russian Olive

everywhere.

Spiritual Maturity: How to Know When Your Brain’s Kickin’ It New Skool.

An entry from a blog I’m subscribed to:Surprising Elements of the Heroine’s Journey. Finding brain/nervous system research relevant to the evolution of my healing arts practice and personal journey.

Protect yourself this winter with herbs,
supplements and Wise Woman Ways

We are in the season of going within, doing less and being more. Unfortunately, most of us have obligations that do not allow us to rest as Mother Nature intended for us during this dark time of the year. Still, I encourage you, if you feel tired, rest. It is the best remedy for not succumbing to illness.

This article is written to support so many who are on the run, taking care of children and so much more all week. The herbalists out there may find some of this useful too. But mostly this is written to make it easy for those who aren’t.

Some herbal and supplemental remedies I keep on hand and use when I feel the slightest inkling of a cold coming on are; Olive Leaf Extract capsules to alkalize my body, as viruses cannot survive in an alkaline environment,; NAC (N-acetyl-carnitine), an amino acid that thins mucus so passages stay clear more easily; and zinc lozenges.

A couple of weeks ago I felt a raw spot in my throat. I bought a roll of zinc lozenges at the co-op next door to my office and kept popping them, slowly allowing them to melt and coat my throat for a couple of days. That, combined with the olive leaf extract seemed to have nipped it in the bud, thankfully!

When things get more uncomfortable, or as a staple winter brew, make fresh Ginger Tea;

Cayenne Pepper

1/2 -1 inch fresh ginger grated

1/4 lime

maple syrup to taste

pinch of cayenne pepper

Put the grated ginger into a french press, and reuse the herb, as it will make a very strong tea. This aids circulation, digestion and warm extremities.

If things get really uncomfortable with deep lung congestion, try the remedy for Onion Poultice. It is an old-timey remedy that really works! Here is a link to a homemade recipe I find amusing, and I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet it works; Goot; Cold & Flu Remedy .I also always keep some medicinal teas around in the winter from two companies; Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea. Some favorites are; Breathe Easy, Throat Coat, Gypsy Cold Care and Herbatussin. They are very effective, and I sometimes steep one or more of them in a tea pot , depending on my symptoms, and keep near my bed if I am feeling really poorly. They taste good too!

I share these with you to empower you in your own home, to encourage you to draw on your own resourcefulness. Avail yourself and reconnect yourself to the healing powers of nature. She provides healing, peace and joy in so many ways!

As I write this I keep thinking of more and more things I could add. But those will have to wait for another day. That’s all for now.

To your health!

~Angela

Please remember, I am not a doctor, and this should not be construed as medical advice. I am offering education about what other people have found helpful in the past. Please see you physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Your local actions create the future;

Locally, though receiving little press, Maryland midwives are fighting for their right to exist. Over the last few years there has been a nation-wide effort by the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG) to take away the rights of CPM’s to attend births resulting in more than a few local seasoned midwives to have charges brought against them for practicing medicine without a license. These wise women are being terrorized for practicing their livelihood, and are in fact threatened with loosing their ability to practice and provide this sacred work to mother’s to be.

Regardless of whether or not you would consider the services of a midwife to support you in your own life, increasing numbers of women, as they become educated about the effects of medicalized childbirth on their own health and that of their newborn, are seeking out the support of these women. The World Health Organization supports midwifery as the most sensible choice to insure best outcomes for mother’s and babies. In fact, 26 states already license CPM’s to attend home births. Our state government, spurred on by ACOG, is seeking to limit the choices women have to give birth.

As a woman who supports women in rebuilding their health and along with it, their sense of being empowered persons, I urge you to sign the petition on the site; Maryland Families for Safe Birth Petition. And if so inspired, please write your legislators as well, at  Maryland Families for Safe Birth. This is an opportunity to shape the future by supporting empowered births, empowered women, and consequently their families. YOU!

With love, Angela

The following is something that is not well edited, nor complete in it’s aim. I just had to get this out, as my heart and brain were screaming. I will begin with the caveat that I do appreciate western medicine in times of crises, so I am not bashing allopathic medicine….but critiquing inappropriate and corrupt application. Comments are welcome.

My mind these days keeps wandering back to the book “Woman as Healer”, by Jeanne Achterberg. As well-researched, well-funded interests spin the mass-media they own to be champions of the very few, while less well financially resourced communities are forced to their knees, circumspect reflection raises questions. The fundamental question is what is driving this distortion of what is Real? Fear of being annihilated, of course. Annihilation of wealth and lifestyle, and of their very existence. Ironically, this very fear that is motivating the most unscrupulous, heartless behavior on massive scale, is the unhealed wound that will ultimately topple them. History has shown again and again and again, that actions by a privileged class motivated by fear of the populations their wealth is generated from ultimately destroys the privileged class. It is tragic, to say the least, that the vast amounts of soul healing resources and good will available to heal this fear, is, itself demonized.

This fear of lack, ironically, seeks to ensure a lavish lifestyle for the very few, devoid of a sense of collective responsibility, at ultimate cost to countless others and the very earth that supports humanities, and indeed, many other creatures’ ability to exist. Well-researched and well-funded interests have created what is known in our times as Spin Doctors. Spin Doctors are paid to pit one segment of society against the other to benefit the interests of their Multinational Corporate Financiers.  These individuals and corporate “personhoods“, otherwise, and in other circles, known as hoodlums , without conscience, construct scenarios, manipulate language to create mistrust, fear of other, and foster strife for profit.

I’ve just returned from a meeting in Baltimore of Maryland for Midwives. Now, some of you might think at this point: oh, this doesn’t concern me. Think again. Suppose you had an emergency at home and an EMT were called. They came, tended to you, and advised you that in their estimation, you should allow them to take you to the hospital. You feel the situation has been resolved, and refuse to go. If at this point they were to cart you off to the hospital anyway, against your wishes, that would be kidnapping.

Now, suppose you are a woman about to give birth. You chose to give birth at home.  All the medical/insurance personnel insist you give birth at hospital or you won’t be covered by your insurance, or they will refuse to treat you, against your free will.  After all, women since the beginning of time, have always given birth at home, or in the field, or wherever. What’s the difference?

Some of you may know of the home birth midwife who was charged with and convicted of a felony earlier this year? She was put in jail for a week, without being tried. She was brought into the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and shackles on her wrists and ankles. Doctors have had many babies and mothers die. Does this ever happen to them? The numbers show that hospital mortality rates for infants and mothers are way above those for home birth midwives.

Last week I heard through a doula client of mine that another beloved veteran, home birth midwife has had her license revoked. Today I have heard of a third. All in practice for many, many years. All the student home birth midwives I know are terrified to practice now, as things stand. Make no  mistake, there is a “witch hunt” going on, designed to take this option off the table for families who want it. It is the single most empowering right of passage a woman goes through. Back to my first sentence, where I mention the book “Woman as Healer”. History shows that in desperate economic times women are persecuted, excluded and prosecuted for sharing what they know, for supporting those who value their knowledge and wisdom. We are in those times again. It is time to look at your choices people. Who and what are you supporting by where you choose to spend your dollars? Are you aware that you pay for “health insurance”. It comes out of your pay. Where does it go? Does it support the people with whom you trust your health, your child’s health?