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Is it really about the Skeletons?

In my last blog I talked about trauma in previous generations of the family and how knowing about this can be helpful for the current generation. Now let’s talk about the benefits of knowing about family, not just about the traumas.

Psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University in Atlanta Georgia asked children from 48 families 20 questions about their family history. They called this the “Do You Know” scale. Marshall Duke points out the major criterion for inclusion in this set of questions was that they test knowledge of things that children could not possibly have learned firsthand, thus relying on having learned these through the telling of family stories or other indirect sources. What they found was that children who knew more had:

  • a stronger their sense of control over their own lives
  • higher self-esteem,
  • lower levels of anxiety,
  • fewer behavioural problems
  • improved chances for a good outcome if the child faces educational or emotional/behavioural difficulties

They also found that the families of the children who knew more functioned better. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush reassessed the children in these same families shortly after the tragedy that was Sept 11. The families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, but they had all experienced the same national trauma at the same time. They found that the children who knew more about their families proved more able to moderate the effects of stress, were more resilient.

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.”, a sense of their history and that their identity stretches back 100 of years giving them connection, strength and resilience.

The research shows that children who have a strong “family narrative” in particular one about the ups and downs of life and how the hard times were overcome, enjoy better emotional health. Dr Duke asserts that negative family stories can be even more important than the positive ones for fostering children’s emotional resilience.

So this is good news right, all we have to do is teach our kids the answers to the “Do you know” questionnaire and they will have all these benefits. An easy fix is really appealing but of course there is more to it than that. We need to look at how it is that some children know more than others and what are the factors in the family that contribute to this.

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Tapping to Help with Stress?

I recently attended a workshop on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping, and was amazed to learn about the benefits of this technique.

To be honest, I was somewhat dubious before I attended this training and questioned how tapping could bring about benefits for so many types of emotional and physical problems. But I saw firsthand the benefits of tapping doing this workshop and also saw that it was backed up by empirical research!

So what is EFT / Tapping?

Tapping combines principles from Chinese acupressure and psychology to treat both physical pain and emotional distress. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while addressing negative emotional experiences or bodily sensations, can calm the nervous system, thereby reducing stress and providing healthier ways of responding to daily stressors.

How does EFT work?

EFT recognises the connection between mind and body. Whilst ancient Chinese populations have known this for a long time, we are now beginning to find and have discovered through research, that our bodies are equipped with an energy system that runs along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that EFT helps to stimulate these pathways, and when we verbally or mentally target the cause of distress, energy that is stuck or blocked can begin to flow naturally.

The basic technique involves tapping with the fingertips on 12 of the body’s meridian points, whilst addressing negative emotions, bodily sensations or physical pain, and repeating this sequence between 5-7 times. At this point, and having done tapping on myself, you start to notice a shift and a reduction in the experience of distress or stress. It is truly phenomenal!

What can it be used to treat?

Another incredible thing about tapping is that it can be used to treat so many types of emotional problems and pain. It can be used for stress, anxiety, phobias, chronic pain, addiction, weight loss, negative core beliefs and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

Benefits of EFT

Along with reducing emotional distress, tapping can improve memory, increase positive feelings, lower stress (cortisol), control inflammation and immunity genes and down-regulate heart and blood pressure.

Probably one of the most amazing features of tapping is that, once the process and sequence has been fully learned, it can be practised by anyone, at any time and is FREE!

I would like to express a word of caution in this regard, if there are complex psychological problems (such as PTSD), it is best to undertake EFT with an experienced mental health provider or psychologist.

So if you are interested in trying out EFT, feel free to book in with one of our experienced psychologists at the Drop Of Life!! J

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3 Things you Absolutely Need to Know About Finding your Sense of Self

How do you define who you are?

Do you rely on the different roles and relationships you have, eg mother, teacher?

Or

Is it more about your thoughts, emotions, and knowledge of the world that you live in?

Or

Is it about your Self Esteem and how you view yourself and what you look like?

Or

Is it about if you LIKE yourself?

 Or perhaps

 Is it what you think you can achieve and accomplish in life?

GUESS WHAT! Its ALL of these things!

SENSE OF SELF is the way we think and view ourselves, our traits, values, and it incorporates what we believe and our purpose in the world and how we interact with those around us and the world in general. SO, ITS BIG!

Our Sense of Self is a very complicated concept because it’s both the inner and outer working models of self. We cannot separate how the two interact with each other. Its WHY we do what we do and choose the things we choose.

Often however, sometimes we get lost in the outer world and other opinions and ideas and lose that feeling of being connected with our actual self!   This is not hard to do as we are continually changing. You are certainly not the same person your parents brought home from the hospital! Yet you are still you! We are meant to GROW and LEARN and as a result, so does our Sense Of Self (or SOS as I like to call it because it’s our beacon in the dark to give us direction!)

1.   Self-Image – This typically relates to how you view yourself and includes things like your personality traits and physical description eg I Identify with being loyal, a Psychologist and tall, and a certain age (which will remain a secret for the moment ;-) ) . It is usually the first thing that we identify with when we are young. You will often hear a little child tell you with great pride “I am 3”, or I’m a big sister, I am good or bad etc. At its lowest level, our Self Image affects how we think and feel and also how we interact within our world, Self-image affects how we think, feel and behave in our world. It is basically all that you know about yourself.

2.   Self Esteem – Is basically how we view ourselves and what we think is true of ourselves. This is typically established in early childhood with what is mirrored to us by our parents. So, can often be faulty as they were set up from the eyes of a child and an immature brain. As adults, we are continually drawing on these sometimes-old faulty beliefs and deciding on how we are supposed to act and behave within our world around us. As you would imagine if you have flawed negative views of your self or are very critical of yourselves, this will impact on your self-esteem and how you view yourselves. Therefore, it is necessary to challenge old faulty beliefs, so they do not continue to impact on your life.

3.   Ideal Self - This basically the concept around the person who we would like to be. It is where our aspirations and goals about our future are, and it is always moving and changing.   For example who you thought you were as a child is not the same as when you were a teenager or today.   There is always a struggle between our ideal self and the way we behave because let’s face it, we can all act poorly at times and out of character with who we identify with being. This very real struggle comes from the need to fit in and be part of the bigger social world. We are continually adjusting and comparing and deriving information from our social interactions. We all seek external validation and comparison of how to respond and behave, and as a result, we are continually changing to meet these social roles. This means that we are continually struggling to match and align with our Ideal self. What we present to the world and who we think we are and how we should behave often don’t match. This will result in fear and self-doubt, which makes us feel lost.

This is the reason why I have developed courses and workshops that deal with this specific concern because it is constant within everybody.

Imagine if you could be more aligned with yourself and act according to your values more than you don’t. Imagine if you could be aware of the faulty belief systems that are continually sabotaging your behaviours and moving you further away from that ideal self.

Thank goodness this is achievable and not as hard as you would think.

If you are curious simply fill out the quiz to see if you would benefit from some insight and tools to help you.

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Skeletons in the closet. To know or not to know. That is the question.

What do you know about your family history? Often difficult or traumatic things are not talked about, this was particularly so in the past. These things then become the skeletons in the family closet. Is it worth the effort of finding out about the previous generations?

Some of us would prefer to leave the past in the past. This is understandable, it can be anxiety provoking and painful to explore family history and build the connections we need to do so. Not only that but often there is the belief that what is done is done and that the influence from the past is fixed and unchangeable.

The study of trauma has documented ways that human biology carries stress reactions into future generations. Trauma can lead to disturbances in stress hormones, the immune system, metabolism, the development of inflammation and disruption in brain connectivity. These effects play their part in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, obesity, heart problems, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and other chronic illnesses in adult survivors and their descendants.

So yes the past of your family has an effect.

However the effect of the past is not fixed. Research on epigenetics has looked at the various ways that stress reactions are passed down over generations through biology, as well as through the ways family members relate to each other. This processes in the relationships of the family members’ influences whether these genes associated with vulnerability to stress are expressed or silenced. The expression of these genes then influences the next generation.

Ok what have we got so far, trauma in a previous generation can affect the current generation, however these effects can be moderated through family relationship and epigenetic processes. What are the kinds of family relationship processes that can moderate the effect? Well that is a big question.

One of the things that plays a part is knowing about the family history. Researchers have looked at the intergenerational impact of trauma. Eileen Gottlieb has done work with the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Katherine Baker has studied the descendants of the survivors of Stalin’s purge. Both have found that those who were able to get in contact with family and know the facts of the family history had better health and healthier family lives that those who remained cut off from their family and past.

Knowing about the skeletons, the trauma’s experienced in previous generations certainly seems to be helpful. How it is helpful is a topic for a future blog.

What I would like to explore next is whether there is value in knowing about family history, generally, even if you don’t find too many skeletons.

 

Nicole Hinchcliffe 

Psychologist

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How to Support your Teenager with Depression

As a parent, you are used to taking care of your children, especially when they are ill. But when kids are transitioning to their teenage years the parenting role changes to a more supporting role. This can be difficult and is even more so for teens who are struggling with depression. Depression is a serious mental health condition that has an impact on someone’s social life, work and physical and mental health. The number of children that are diagnosed with depression has been increasing every year. Statistics show that in Australia, one in 35 young Australians aged 4-17 y old have experienced a depressive disorder. Teenagers who experience depression need support, though they have to want that support.

So how do you know if your teenager has depression? The following are signs that your teenager might be depressed:

  • Your child has lost interest in the things he usually enjoys doing.
  • They have been sad or irritable most of the day, and most of the days for at least two weeks.
  • Eating or sleeping habits have changed.
  • His/her energy levels have dropped, and they experience a lack of motivation.
  • Your child is feeling worthless, hopeless about their future and experiences feelings of guilt.
  • Your child struggles at school caused by difficulties in concentrating.
  • He/she might have experienced suicidal thoughts. If this is the case, it’s key to have your child evaluated by a mental health professional.

Professional attention is advised when your teen has more than a few of the signs above. As a parent, there are a couple of things that you can do to support your teen. The most important thing is to simply be there for them and be accepting. So, how can you achieve this?

Strengthening your relationship
Strengthening your relationship with your teen is one of the main things that you as a parent can do for your child. This can be achieved by validating their emotions, instead of their unhealthy behaviours. In order to be able to validate their emotions, it’s important to be empathic, listen to your teenager and try to understand them by putting yourself in his shoes. For instance, you can say to your child: “I sense that you have been really down the last couple of weeks, is that right?” Key is to make it clear to your child that you are willing to understand what’s going on for them without trying to solve their problems.

Positive reinforcement
It’s important to focus on the positive things that your teenager does. These can be small things such as going to school, doing their home-work or cooking a meal. It’s key to notice these positive behaviours and to praise your child for doing them as this will ensure that your child feels valued and experiences a feeling of achievement. Similarly, avoid reinforcing your child in a negative way by highlighting their downfalls or the things that they are not able to do anymore because of their depressive mood as this can cause your child to feel more frustrated and down.

Find professional help
When you suspect that your child has depression, it’s advised to seek professional help. However, some teenagers will be resistant at first to the idea of therapy. If this is the case, try to be patient and acknowledge them by addressing that they must be going through a difficult time and that you have some ideas that could help them. Also, let them know that they can talk to you about these options whenever they feel the need to. Eventually, ifyour child agrees to see a therapist, it’s key to find a therapist that your child is feeling comfortable with as this usually leads to better therapy outcomes.

A variety of evidence-based treatments are available that can reduce the symptoms of depression. For instance, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Family-based Interpersonal Therapy have all been shown to be effective for teenagers who suffer from depression. While therapy alone might be effective for teenagers who have mild to moderate symptoms of depression, evidence has shown that a combination of medication and therapy usually obtains better results. In order to receive medication, a specialised child psychiatrist needs to be consulted first.

Self-care
Finally, it’s necessary that you also take care of yourself by making sure that you receive support from your friends or other family members and also keep on doing things that you enjoy, as it can be emotionally challenging to be a parent of a teenager that deals with depression.Know that you are not alone and that you can find the support you need. 

If you or your teenager would like to receive help book an appointment with Wendy or another psychologist at Drop of Life! 

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