Category Archives: parenting

The effects of childhood abuse

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The effects of childhood abuse

The effects  of childhood abuse can last forever. It can influence your thinking, emotional state and the way you relate to others way into adulthood.  Child abuse takes a wide variety of forms.

The most common forms of childhood abuse are:

sexual abuse

neglect

emotional/verbal abuse

physical abuse

parental substance abuse and/or mental illness

children witnessing domestic violence

The long term effects of child abuse

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, lack of emotions and hypervigilance. The traumatic past event can be triggered by a smell, similar situation or sounds.

Errors in thinking

Adults who were abused as children may have the view that the world is a dangerous place. They may distrust others and isolate themselves. Some adults behave in the opposite manner by becoming very dependent on another person (sometimes referred to as “co-dependency”). Abuse often leads to an adult who struggles to relate to others, often due to their beliefs that others can’t be trusted. Fear of intimacy can reign and cause havoc.

Emotional Distress

Severe stress as a child can alter brain chemistry. It can also affect the way the brain develops and matures, leaving a person more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Anger is another common symptom of emotional distress.

Avoidance and disassocation

As a child, we are extremely vulnerable and don’t have a way to escape our situation. As a result, children have to learn a way to cope with the abuse on a mental and emotional level. What often happens is that children learn to disassociate and ‘compartmentalise’ the unpleasant emotions. They somehow find a mental ‘box’ where they stuff the unpleasant experiences and emotions. In its extreme form, children create separate personalities knows as multiple personality disorder. Children who are abused can form personality disorders – a distinctive and dysfunctional way of viewing the world. The brain creates unnatural pathways to cope with abuse and this affects lifelong functioning.

Some abused children go on to avoid experiences that caused upset in their childhood. The other extreme is to over compensate. Parents underestimate their influence on their children.

The first step to dealing with childhood abuse is to acknowledge what happened and that it wasn’t healthy. Therapy can help immensely, allowing adults who were abused to understand they did not deserve the abuse and that it was their parents who were to blame, not them.

We cannot change the past but we can update our thinking and beliefs about the past. An abused childhood can hold us back but only if we allow it to. As adults, we have the power to reject old childhood messages from our parents and re-create another life that is more healthy and conducive to love and happiness.

Mandy X

Do the opposite

 

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Do the opposite

We’re creatures of habit so we rarely do the opposite. It’s human nature to repeat the same patterns often without even realising how often we act in a certain way. Think about it. Do you always go down the supermarket aisles in the same direction? Do you always put your underwear on before your socks? How do you make your tea and coffee? The same way each time I’ll bet. And when it comes to more important things like relationships, we tend to behave in similar ways too.

When we feel insecure, some of us become more needy, some of us pull away to protect ourselves. When it comes to friendships, some of us act aloof, some of us try too hard.

Whatever your patterns of behaviour are, I dare you try shake it up and do the opposite. I am trying this in my own life and it’s working! Of course, you need to find out what you do out of habit before you can do the opposite. Being self aware is part of the issue, as often we race through our lives like rats in a maze, hitting our heads against the same wall every time.

Think of each time you do the opposite as a ‘life experiment’. Try small things first like a new route to the grocery store or go up and down the aisles in the opposite direction and see if you notice any new things or products. If you find that you end up in similar situations with intimate relationships and/or friendships, see if you can identify things that you do in each relationship and try doing it differently next time. See what happens..take a chance.

Mandy X

How to deal with emotional blackmail

 

emotional blackmail

How to deal with emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail is a form of psychological manipulation. When someone tries to make you feel fear and guilt if you do not do something, you are probably being blackmailed emotionally.

Manipulators love to use emotional blackmail. They are very adept at knowing your weak spots – the areas that lead you to feel guilt or shame and they will target that mercilessly. They will make you feel you are a bad parent, a bad child or a bad spouse with emotional blackmail

Examples: If you loved me you would take me to see that show.

A good father would pay for me to have that outfit.

The give-get ratio is out of balance and you may not realise you are being manipulated. Even though you may not fully realise what is going on, you will more than likely feel bothered or may even feel anxious and depressed.

Is there someone in your life who always seems to be judging you as “good” or “bad”. Do they judge your actions and use emotions to explain why you should or shouldn’t be doing something? Are you doing things for others that you don’t feel entirely comfortable with? It may just be that you are the victim of emotional blackmail.

Set personal boundaries for yourself. Decide what you will and won’t do and clearly define what is acceptable to you. Stick to this no matter what. A blackmailer will try to confuse you and throw in all sorts of issues to distract you and make you doubt yourself. Often they are complete hypocrites who do all the things they say you are doing or not doing. Double standards are something emotional blackmailers live by.

Manipulators will often try force someone into making a quick decision. Never feel pressured and take your time if you are unsure. Trust your instincts.

Learn to say no and stick to personal boundaries. These are the most important strategies to deal with emotional blackmail. Learn to cultivate emotional distance from what the person is threatening you with. If you fear you will lose the relationship and keep giving in to them, they will keep manipulating you. You have to be willing to lose the relationship and stand up for yourself for something to shift and for you to regain power in the relationship. It is only once you take a stand and refuse to give in to the emotional blackmail that a positive shift can take place.

Mandy X

 

4 Tips for raising happy, emotionally healthy children

 

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4 Tips for raising happy, emotionally healthy children

It can be tough raising happy, emotionally healthy children in a world that is so full of emotionally unhealthy people. Children spend at least twelve years in an educational system that is sadly, ill-prepared for teaching our children how to manage their emotions effectively and how to deal with stress. In a world so sorely lacking in good advice and positive role models for children, the onus falls on parents more than ever to equip their children with effective mental skills and strategies to encourage resilience and staying power when the going gets tough.

Here are a few tips on how to better equip your children to navigate through their emotional world and cultivate mental and emotional strength.

Encourage emotional expression

Helping children to identify their emotions without judging the emotion as good or bad is a healthy way to teach children to own their feelings and be self aware. Emotion is a normal part of life and allowing children to express them helps children to accept and deal with their emotions rather than suppressing them. When children are taught to suppress emotions (eg. boys don’t cry, be a big girl now…) this suppression can lead to anxiety, depression and possible panic attacks. A panic attack occurs when a child denies their emotions – the emotion gets pushed down and the body is forced to ‘push it out’ on a physical level – that energy has to be released some how. Identify and label emotions.

Exhibit pro-social modelling

Be a positive role model and let your children see how you deal with your emotions. Children learn by observation and they will watch how you deal with your own anger, frustration and sadness. Some parents try to hide their emotions from their children but this is a bad idea as you are depriving your children of the chance to see what you do with your emotions. Let them see you sad or angry and show them how to deal with these emotions appropriately. Talk it over with someone, get some fresh air or exercise – whatever you do, make sure your children sometimes see how you deal with your emotional landscape – this is very valuable learning for them.

Teach psychological flexibility

It’s not so much what happens to us but rather how we perceive what happens to us that can make or break us. Bad things happen, yes and there is no way to make something bad seem good but the story we tell ourself can lessen the distress we feel. For example, if we fail at something, we could start an internal dialogue that goes something like this, “Nothing ever goes right for me. This just shows what a loser I am. What’s the point of even trying? I just fail at everything”. OR we could tell ourselves this story instead, “I failed and it sucks but that doesn’t mean I am a failure – it’s just that what I tried didn’t work.” The second self-talk dialogue will lead to a lot less stress than the first one. This is the beauty of psychological flexibility. There is ALWAYS more than one way to look at a situation. Thoughts lead to feelings and then behaviour. Ensure you teach your children to manage their thinking process and not catastrophise.

Preserve self esteem

Never tell your children that they are stupid. Always separate the behaviour from the child. What they did may not be ideal but never label the child as “bad, stupid, fat or lazy”. Love your children unconditionally. Your love for them should never depend upon achievement of any kind. Teach them that they are fundamentally valuable just as they are. Never compare them to others – each child has their own individual strengths. Learn to love your children just as they are. If you feel disappointment on any level – question whether it is your issue rather than your child’s issue. For instance, if your child doesn’t seem to have many friends, do not make an issue of it if they seem happy enough. If you imply that they should have more friends, you may inadvertently leave them feeling inadequate. Always check whether the issue is your own before addressing it with your child.

Parenting unfortunately does not come with an instruction manual and no parent gets through without making mistakes. Being informed is a great way though to try avoid some of the more common mistakes.

Mandy X