Archive for Attachment Panic

All Roads Lead To Abandonment

Some of us are equipped better than others for quieting the anxieties attachment challenged children are haunted with. Since TV raised me (mostly), I wasn’t that well informed.  Mr. Spock from Star Trek was my role model.  I had to learn about soothing through the experience of doing it. I quickly discovered that all roads led to abandonment for my children, so anxiety was the mood of every moment.
 
Today I am having two minor medical procedures.  I had to tell my son because I will take to my bed when I get home.  Immediately he went into anxiety mode thinking I might die, so I spent the good part of last night reassuring him that I wasn’t.  For me, this is like lying to children for years about the existence of Santa Claus.  One day I will die–probably not today, but who knows?  He will likely deal with that inevitability like he did the unveiling of Santa–YOU lied Mom! What else are you lying about?
 
Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, Tooth Fairy, Elf On A Shelf, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer…me dying someday.
Parents can’t be trusted.
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Oh, the conundrum of lying to children.

Next Trust-based Parent Course is planned for March 28th and April 4th.  Save the date.
Please share freely.  Your community of support can sign-up for their own Daily YOU Time email by clicking here.
The Attach Place/Neurofeedback Solutions is an active supporter of The Wounded Warrior Project. We give free neurofeedback treatment to veterans.  If you know someone  in the Sacramento area who is suffering from the effects of war, we are here to help one soldier at a time.

Sporadic Outbursts

Sporadic outbursting is not a sign that your regulation challenged child is a brat.  Your child’s brain is developmentally unable to manage high emotion–sometimes.  Period.
 
Outbursting needs healing, not punishment.  
 
Do your best to intervene within the first two minutes of a meltdown because you have a slight chance of turning the tables if you do.  If you wait until the tornado gets on the move, you have missed your cortisol/adrenalin window to bring the sun back.
 
Intervening looks a lot of different ways.  Here are a few:
  • Oh, did I say something that upset you Sweetheart?
  • I know you really wanted to do that longer.  How much more time do you think you need?  Let’s negotiate that to 5 more minutes.
  • You can finish that game before you take your bath in 5 minutes. Would you like to do that?
  • Which would you like to do first, clean up your room or take your bath?
  • I can see you are very upset.  I am not trying to make you mad. Tell me what you need right now Honey? I love you.
  • Oh my, Mommy said that kind of loud, huh?  I am sorry.  I must have scared you.
  • (Touch a hand, arm, back gently.) You are safe Sweetie.  
  • There is plenty of food.  Would you like another snack? 
  • I can see why you are getting upset.  Let’s figure this out together.
  • I’m sorry.
  • I didn’t mean to upset you Babe. We just don’t sing during dinner.  
  • I love you and I want you to feel safe.
  • It’s okay to be angry.  Tell me what you are angry about.
  • Uh oh, tickle time.
  • Uh oh, wild hugging time.
  • Uh oh, stomping our feet time.
  • Hey Sweetheart, look at my eyes.  Can you see the love in my eyes.  I am not mad at you.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. I make them all the time.
  • I know you feel bad.  You are not bad.
 
The Attach Place Logo Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

YOU are a precious child in my eyes.  Make sure your eyes are saying that.

NOTE: If you are planning to sign up, please go ahead and do it because I think the space will end up being limited this time around. The next REVISED Trust-based Parent Training Course in Sacramento, CA is scheduled for January 24th and January 31st. Register here.  If you have been through this course in the past, you will be getting significantly more hands on experience than ever before.
 
Please share freely.  Your community of support can sign-up for their own Daily YOU Time email by clicking here.

Parent the Brain of Your Child Before the Mind

When your complex traumatized child is what you interpret as “disrespectful” or “defiant,” take a breath to soothe yourself before you say another word.  What comes next depends on it.
 
Most of our children have an “implicit” memory of devastation hardwired into their brains from neglect, abuse, abandonment, and/or institutional living in the early years. They usually have no “explicit” memory of the events.
 
When I was 17, my mother was killed in a car accident.  At first I didn’t feel much but the chaos all around me.  Over time though, I started to feel a violent grief in the depths of my being that couldn’t be satisfied by anything except releasing a wolf-like howl for hours into the cold night of my empty room. I thought I would die of it.  
 
Because of this experience, I am keenly aware of attachment panic that feels like going crazy or like dying from despair. It was explicit to me. I knew the cause of the pain. Our children have this kind of violent despair implicitly.  They have no idea why they feel the way they do. 
 
Children from difficult beginnings are often triggered into that place when they feel the smallest slight, such as YOU saying “no,” them being pressured, or from fear of change, loss of control, or being thwarted in any small way.  To fend off the inevitable feeling of overwhelming despair, they fight, flee or freeze without awareness.  Our children are actually dissociated, operating on implicit memory, and from every cell in their being struggling desperately to survive.  If YOU happen to be the one triggering the event, YOU are in danger of being acted-out upon in very negative ways.
 
So, soothe yourself before your next sentence in the face of your child’s small misbehaviors, because a hint of rejection is all it takes to trigger the implicit memory of impending death that they happened to live through.
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Be soothing to your child when YOU get disrespect or defiance.  Something deeper is afoot.
Love Matters Scholarship Fund can use your contributions. Click here for more information.
 
The next Trust-based Parent Training Course in Sacramento, CA is scheduled for January 24th and January 31st. Register here.
 
Please share freely.  Your community of support can sign-up for their own Daily YOU Time email by clicking here.

The Quirks of Human Brains

The whole Ebola situation in the U.S. tells a cautionary tale, but maybe not the one you are thinking. If you connect with the greater world via TV, Internet, newspapers, and magazines, you may have found yourself feeling a little worried about when Ebola is going to break out in your town.  Of course, it could happen (and did for those in Texas), but you are far more likely to get into a deadly car accident today, than you are to catching Ebola–and that isn’t very likely either. Just to be on the safe side, go knock on some wood (if you can find something still made out of wood.)
 
The human brain is quirky.  Much of how we think is based on pre-historic conditioning.  Yep, our brains still function as though something big and scary (maybe even hairy) is plotting to eat us at any moment. So, hearing something repeated over and over–Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola–our brains start being hyper-alert and a bit fearful to the point where someone coughing in public sends us running for our pocket-sized hazmat suits.
 
Don’t get me wrong. I am not making fun of Ebola.  It is a terrible, deadly virus. When unchecked, like in West Africa, it is one of the worst public health crises since the Bubonic Plague.  I am, however, making a point about our human brains.
 
If YOU are telling yourself over and over again that your attachment challenged child is going to grow up to be a criminal (because your child’s brain is pre-historically conditioned so s/he lies, steals and breaks rules), then YOU are scaring your own pre-historic brain to death, causing yourself hypervigilance and over-the-top parenting, and making the situation worse.
 
Pre-historic fear or love?  
 
Fear or love?
 
Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

 
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.
And nerves of steel.

Hypervigilance

If something scary happens to a baby (BABY of any age–1-day-old to 3-years-old) like being taken suddenly from the mother and given to another person who is definitely not the mother, the brain goes into survival mode and the baby becomeshypervigilant, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  For most of these babies, thehypervigilance becomes the norm for life. “Felt safety” is the only cure, and getting that is extremely hard.  Eventually, getting safety in an adoptive home is possible, but “felt safety” is harder, like creating a sculpture out of water–extremely elusive.

Hypervigilance can look many different ways in our kids.  In my house both of my children had to know what was going on in our house at every moment.  They inserted themselves into everything. When they were very young, I couldn’t clean the toilet without an audience.  By the way, this did not make them excellent toilet cleaners either. I could barely pee alone.
Today, my son is 5″10″, 17.8-years-old, and still popping out of his room the minute he hears me move about the house.  He comes rushing in my direction to ask a question; to tell me something random; to get food; to check on the dog; to get a hug; sometimes he can’t think of a reason and just stands awkwardly right behind me.  Every day when I get home from work, the second he hears the garage door open in the basement, he runs down the stairs toward my car. He cannot help himself. His need to know persists.  Before I get home he looks out the window for me dozens of times.  He isn’t scared, per se, he is anxious and hypervigilant.
I feel sad for the level of anxiety he carries that makes him so alert, on edge, and intrusive with his presence.  I used to feel badgered to death by little nips, but that is long over.  Now I feel more for him, for his internal life, for his lack of “felt safety” despite how safe he has actually been for the past 15 years.
He takes medication and neurofeedback for his anxiety.  He copes by deep breathing and thinking skills. I sooth him with hugs when he finds himself near me for no apparent reason.  His brain has 10 or so more years to fully develop.  I am hopeful that continued support in this way will lead him, ultimately, to a “felt sense of safety” in his own mind and body. I am hopeful.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Believe that change can happen and it does.

Grieving Is A Process

Our children grieve things they do not understand or know about.  They grieve the loss they feel in their cells for their birth mother and they grieve the loss of the imaginary perfect mother who gave them away.  They grieve getting YOU, because YOU are real and flawed and here every day. YOU don’t measure up to the fantasy, so there is the overwhelming grief that causes their rejection.
 
Your adopted child may tantrum in grief, rage in grief, cry in grief, reject in grief, defy in grief, withdraw in grief, or cling to strangers in grief.  They may do this for years.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t attaching to YOU.  It does mean they are fundamentally changed because they have this pain like dying in their guts now because they were abandoned (and some were both abandoned and abused.)  There is no worse pain on Earth for a human being than to lose connection with one’s mother forever.
 
In order to act as an attuned container of empathy for your child’s many permutations of grief, YOU will need to grieve your own idea of the perfectly loving child YOU thought you were adopting.  When that is done, YOU will be better able to “hold” the emotional depth and upheaval of your child’s grief and loss.
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

When your child wants the birth mother say, “Oh my precious sweetheart, I know your heart hurts so, so much.  I will help you hold the pain. Come into my arms, my circle of love.  I am here for you, when you feel that terrible pain in your heart, in your whole being.” 

Your Child Is Not Really Angry With YOU!

Calling all parents of angry attachment challenged teens: Hang-in, hang-on, don’t give up. They really aren’t angry at YOU.  They are, however, very wounded and have erroneously claimed their victimhood.  This error can wreak havoc without concentrated efforts to get to work on the inside.  YOU may need help from a therapist to do this. Find one that understands the underbelly of abandoned children who can move beyond the surface anger at YOU into the subterranean pain at the root.
 
Under that anger is a hardwired attachment wound that cannot repair or be healed without digging-in, excavating, feeling the pain, soothing the core, understanding the cause, changing the internal whispering demon dialogue, learning to care about the past/present/future, taking responsibility for hurtful behavior, making new choices, staking a claim, grieving the losses, letting go, forgiving, and accepting the challenge to live a different life with love and support from an attached family.
Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • This upcoming weekend we are holding our Trust-based Parent Training.   Sign up here.
  • Save the Date: Next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend is September 19, 20 and 21, 2014.  Email for more information:  jennifer@attachplace.com.
  • Save the Date: Next Trust-based Parent Training is September 27th and October 4th, 2014.  Email for more information: ce@attachplace.com.

I Wish

There is a part of me that wishes I didn’t have so darned much to offer in this daily email.  I wish my life were smooth as silk and I woke up each morning digging through the reference books for something salient to say that would help you, rather than simply tuning into my own life and drawing from here.  I know this way is more helpful to YOU.  I know it is and that, of course, is why I write it.  I want desperately for my attachment challenged life to have meaning beyond itself…that is the “why” I write this for me.

So many times I have listened to parents lamenting the relentless disappointment that comes with the two step forward, one (or three) step back way our children have of learning. It is so bewildering and yet so much “how it is.”

This week I had such a wonderful all-nighter talk-a-thon with my 17-year-old son that I felt my heart fill with renewed energy and soar.  I know many of your hearts soared with me.   And, I am pleased by that.

Yesterday, “three steps back” arrived in the form of my T-Mobile phone bill.  I discovered $80.00 in gaming money surreptitiously charged to my phone.  Sure wasn’t me.  To his credit, my son did not lie or deny.  He said he felt ashamed and retreated under his bed covers.  Unfortunately, his dysregulation was great, so he skipped his chores, failed to keep a promise, and broke a house rule that day.  When I got home from work last night, he was still under the covers.

An hour later he appeared in my doorway whispering, “I’m sorry.”

Wait for it…

Emotionlessly, “Saying I am sorry won’t fix all of this this time.”

Back under the covers for another day, no doubt.  What in the world would prevent me from saying, “Thank you for the apology honey; let’s talk about it”?   Answer: painful disappointment.

Life is so delicious.  The highs and the lows make it worth living though.  I am still learning to be loving in the face of my own dysregulating emotions.  Upside: I didn’t yell or scold or punish.  I did, in the end, reject him, which shamed and caused his internalized self-hatred to spike through the roof.

Did I really need to do that to him?  Didn’t he punish himself enough already? Wasn’t my own disappointment enough?  Did I really need to rub it in, push away, incur abandonment panic in both directions?

I hope there is something in this tale for YOU.  There is nothing wrong with being accepting when your child has disappointed YOU.  It is okay; it is beautiful; it is forgiving; it is big-hearted; it is the definition love.  And love matters.

Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
www.attachplace.com

No Fear

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend where I found myself insisting that I have no fear.  She was doubting me and perhaps I protested too much.  Our silly banter made me ponder that concept a little more because I really don’t experience fear.  But why don’t I?  Then I was reminded how my children never seemed to express fear in the years following coming home with me.  They took big physical and relational risks, broke all rules, and seemed to be unmoved by my ire.  I came to know this as traumatic dissociation, because the longer I lived with them the more I saw how much fear and anxiety operated in them.  They were actually afraid of almost everything.

fearMy children and I have something in common.  We have all three been scared “to death” in our lives and survived to see another day.  That kind of trauma can have varying impacts on people.  Some become more fearful and others repress fear completely, thus NO FEAR (or any other feeling for that matter.)

Eventually, the feelings of fear must be uncovered, so life can be engaged with appropriate amounts of risk taking and caution. I think my children have work to do in this arena.  When my daughter calls in tears about how scared she is to be on her own, I hear the grief and work to soothe her.  My son still glazes over to avoid his fears.  There is more processing to be done for them to emerge feeling safe inside themselves and in the world.


So, what is my story.  Of course I feel fear, when I am in danger.  Since I am rarely in danger, I rarely feel fear.  I was scared to death early in my life and I think I did repress my feelings for a number of years.  In my twenties I faced my scary loss with copious crying that seemed to last forever. Talk about keeping my therapist flush with vacations for a few years. When the grief came to a natural close–my loss processed fully, made sense of, and incorporated into my narrative about myself–I returned to a life fully alive and filled with love.  That was my goal then and continues to be my goal now. I think living in love, without fear, AKA anxiety, is the outcome of doing my personal work.  I am grateful for that and for the ability to embrace life and accept it on its own terms.  For me, there is no other option.

unconditional love

Felt safety needs to be our parenting goal for our children, so they can face forward without fear and with love in their own lives.

Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

 
Feel free to invite your friends and family to receive Daily YOU Time emails, too. Click here to sign them up.  All you need is an email address and first name.

Sharing Info From Kate Oliver, LCSW on Delight

A parent who is also a therapist sent me this link explaining an issue that had been perplexing her about her daughter.  She found the discussion very helpful, so I am passing it along to YOU.


Find some YOU time this weekend people.  YOU need it, right?

Love Matters,

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • Day one of Trust-based Relational Parent Training.   Super great group of parents.  Wish YOU were here.
  • Next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend Workshop for Therapists and Their Partners presented by Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Ce Eshelman, LMFT is scheduled for June 20, 21, 22, 2014.  If you are a therapist and interested in attending, sign up here.
  • Big HUG and APPRECIATION for the generous scholarship contributions–YOU know who YOU are.  The Attach Place is embarking on our second round of scholarships for families with adopted children who need services but have no funding to get them. We used up the last of our scholarship money last summer and are ready to start fundraising again. This time we have a pie-in-the-sky, big, hairy, audacious goal of $25,000. If you have a dollar you can afford to contribute, that is how we will pave the way–one dollar at a time. Go to: Love Matters Scholarship Fund.