Learning What We Want to Teach

My last three blog posts have been dedicated to helping us understand how a child’s young brain develops. Understanding both the present limitations and the future potential of these incredible developing child brains is not only transformational for parenting — it is equally transformational for us adults. In fact, it may be the gateway we need to help us understand ourselves better.

If we overlay this new whole brain parenting template on our own childhood, it will become very evident that few of us got what was needed to provide integration between our young nervous systems and our future upper brain processing. The old parenting models did not have the benefit of the recent neuroscience and neurobiology breakthroughs; nor did these models address the invaluable role our emotions play in our mind/body connection.

This is precisely why Dr. Dan Siegel is such a strong proponent of adult personal growth work. We can’t teach what we don’t know. And in all likelihood, we were not taught emotional awareness and regulation, mind/body connection, and core relationship skills. I know that I never heard about co-regulation, attunement or attachment styles when I was growing up; and I didn’t read about them in my dog-earned copy of Dr. Spock’s child care book and no pediatrician ever explained brain development to me.

I had no idea that my own personal growth journey, started eight years ago, would lead me back to my childhood. It’s taken me a long time to excavate, unravel and detangle myself from the pitfalls of that old parenting model.

So many times throughout my eight years of self-discovery work, my friends and I would lament, “I wish I knew this stuff when I was younger.” That’s the gift embedded in hindsight. We truly can look back –with the insight and knowledge we now have — and see much more clearly how complicated our lives and experiences were because we were using coping strategies instead of meaningful life skills.

This is precisely why I feel so “connected” now when I’m interacting with my grandchildren — especially when they are overcome with big emotions. I intimately know how it feels to be little and overwhelmed; and I now have much better knowledge and tools for responding to them. I am playing an active role in teaching what “I wish I knew then.”

Looking Back Through the Lens of Hindsight:

I grew up in a very unpredictable and dysfunctional Petri dish. Like most in similar environments (very commonplace for my generation I have discovered), my coping strategies became my “super powers”. Just like Brene Brown, I too became hyper vigilant for the inevitable volcanic eruption of big emotional clashes between my parents and siblings. I became a first responder – calm under pressure; assessing both the situation and the damage quickly; applying first aid where needed and cleaning up the broken pieces. But my Nurse Nancy crisis tool kit had only “aftermath” tools in it. I can’t tell you how many times as a little girl I longed to live in an environment where first responders were not the order of the day.

I went out into the adult world wanting calm stability more than anything. I naively believed that I could somehow “create and maintain” that stable calm; possibly avoid unnecessary drama and routine chaos and crises.

Hindsight is the crystal clear rear view mirror that reminds us that life is as unpredictable as the ocean. We can’t avoid stormy seas, bad weather and engine troubles with our boat. All I brought with me from childhood was a tattered Nurse Nancy first aid kit and emergency responder capabilities (i..e. poor coping strategies and childlike behavioral patterns). What I have come to appreciate is the value embedded in Whole Brain Parenting — of being raised to be the “captain of our ships”, to trust our internal GPS system (emotions), and to have a fully integrated operating system (all parts of our complex brains).

Imagine the confidence and empowerment that would come when stepping into the adult world better pre-loaded and prepared for all the elements. Eighteen years of real life experiences, in meaningful, daily apprenticeship with our skillful parents, learning how to successfully navigate good times, adversity, obstacles and necessary course adjustments. This just takes my breath away — it is so exhilarating.

That Sticky Emotional Undertow:

Regardless of the entry point for self-discovery and personal growth, sooner or later we will come to realize that what happened in our childhoods did have some long lasting impacts on how we view ourselves and how we are showing up in the world as adults. That has surely been my personal experience. As I began to peel the layers off my own life onion, I discovered blind spots and behavioral patterns that had their origins in my childhood.

In my last blog post, I shared that my number one goal as a parent was to “calm” a distressing situation as quickly as possible. That was my childhood conditioning taking charge of what I was feeling coursing through me – even though it was now my own child who needed my attention first and foremost. (Just a little relevant reminder here — I stepped into adulthood craving calm). I did not have any bandwidth left at that time to cope with what I perceived as unnecessary hardships and drama.

My poorly functioning emotional system had a faulty modulator. My own emotional discomfort at witnessing my child in distress hijacked my logical brain. I needed things to be calm; I wanted my kids to be calm again — but all along it was me who needed to be the calm. The emotional undertow from my childhood was strong; like a rip tide.

I grabbed my first responder kit and leaned hard on what got me through my childhood, with a heaping dose of good intentioned consoling in the form of special activities, cookies or fun distractions — after all, I had the agency now as a grown up to offer these comforts to my child. (See the pattern? See how I was not able to “pre-load” and “teach” what I didn’t know?). My instinct was “get to calm” quickly and my “go-to’s” to achieve this was consoling (not connecting); tangible comforts with a short shelf life (not teaching emotional awareness, regulation and resilience). It was the old paradigm of dismiss those feelings, get back to happy, have a treat.

The flip side of this double-edged conditioning was that in my adult relationships, I’d stuff my emotions to give the appearance of being calm, reliable, self sufficient. I had a black belt in this coping strategy from childhood. I was the compliant child, the one my parents could count on to never make a scene or cause embarrassment. What I didn’t know was that stuffed emotions become the tempest in the tea pot.

These exiled emotions don’t go away and they don’t go silent. In fact, they will just keep pounding on the door trying to get our attention for the things that do matter most to us. When my emotions demanded that I let them out of storage, I would have an uncharacteristic, unreasonable blow up over something minor — which would cause me both shame and embarrassment. Or….I’d be engulfed in the mire of resentment on the inside while I gave the appearance of being the happy, efficient, dependable “helper” on the outside.

Stuffed emotions will most assuredly not ensure calmness. Stuffed emotions rock the boat.

Both of these scenarios — of me as a parent and of me as a partner – show how taking those childhood blueprints into the adult world become a “doubling down” of the very things we are trying to prevent. I’d ask myself over and over (for decades) why my well-intentioned parental lessons weren’t sticking; and why I was often cleaning up other people’s consequences of their own actions. I could not see the neon yellow post it note on my forehead that said “First Responder”.

Learning What We Wish to Teach:

I am no longer swooping in to stressful situations unconsciously trying to soothe and comfort my own younger self. Yes, I now have awareness that so often throughout my life, I was often doing just that — unconsciously trying to comfort myself at the same time I was attempting to care for others. I could literally feel my emotions (both old and new) swirling all through my body and I did not have the awareness or tools to attend to myself first — and then turn my full attention and skills to another.

As parents and grandparents, we have to put our own oxygen mask on first.

Being swept away in our emotional and somatic vortex will not help us attend to the basic human needs of our children in the calm and grounded foundational ways needed to be effective “teachers.” It will also not help us in being healthy, flexible, supportive partners.

This is precisely why Dr. Dan Siegel believes that the key to becoming a better parent, partner or grandparent is to begin by examining our own childhood:

How you make sense of your own past is the best predictor of how your child will get along with you. So, try out that work first. It’s amazing how often people then find unbelievable liberation — by just that knowledge…..that it isn’t what happened to you, it’s how you made sense of what happened to you.”Dr. Dan Siegel (on Becoming a Better Parent)

Dr. Siegel suggests we begin with our childhood attachment style. Discovering that our childhood attachment style may have been avoidant, ambivalent (anxious or preoccupied), dismissive or disorganized can shine a lot of light on our present day issues in life and our relationships. As he reveals, it can even help us discover why we may be having trouble relating to our own kids (in spite of our best intentions).

Start exploring who you were as a kid, who were your parents and how they influenced your development. It is not what happened to you as a child, it is how you made sense of what happened to you. People often freak out and are very resistant to going back to examine their dysfunctional or painful childhood. Yet if you focus on your own history — and in a methodical way — go through your memory systems, go through your narrative system, you can actually liberate yourself from the prisons of the past. This is supported by brain plasticity studies.” — Dr. Dan Siegel (on Becoming a Better Parent)

For the record, the prisons of the past are limiting beliefs we have about ourselves, emotional triggers that hijack us from staying calm and present in the moment, poor emotional regulation, our default (outgrown) behavioral patterns, and our inner critic. Clinical psychologist, Becky Kennedy shares that “our voice to our kids becomes their voice to themselves.”

I can attest to the liberation that Dr. Siegel says is possible. Going back through both memory and narrative was well worth my time and effort. I’ve often shared with friends that I opened up a lot of “real estate” for new and better ways of being. This inner work serves as a really good indicator light when I am faced with a familiar situation, but can catch myself before stepping into an old unhealthy pattern or reaction.

If we don’t cultivate our self-awareness and replace outdated reactions with better life skills and tools, we will inadvertently be teaching our kids the very patterns and coping styles we adopted in childhood. Good intentions alone are not the path forward. We need to be working on the same emotional regulation skills and relationship tools that we wish to teach.

I found the enneagram to be a very helpful accompaniment for this methodical work that Dr. Siegel proposes — and for teasing apart all the ways that childhood attachment styles contribute to our emotional armor and adaptive behavioral patterns. Even if you don’t determine what your own enneagram type might be, reading through all nine types descriptions and typical behavioral patterns is incredibly helpful for understanding ourselves and others.

The enneagram can be a window into the inner world of others and what may be submerged in their childhood. I found that it really helped me to recognize that how others were “showing up” in life was driven more by their core needs than by the relationship dynamic we’d created. This fresh perspective was enough to help me shift how I could show up in better ways for others; and it helped me not to take things so personally.

This is a meaningful link between attachment style and our behavioral patterns. We are often using those old childhood blueprints to get our adult needs met only to discover things are backfiring. We push away what we want the most; we make it hard for people to support us; we aren’t clear in our needs or boundaries.

The enneagram helps us understand just how those developing little brains of ours lacked the integration of what we were feeling in our young bodies with an upper brain that could help us make sense in a logical, more mature way. If our parents were disregulated, we learned to navigate disregulation. If there was a lot of chaos and uncertainty, we learned to silence our needs. Maybe we became compliant or defiant, peacemakers or troublemakers.

These childhood strategies worked because we came to count on the predictability of the unpredictably of our internal family systems. As children, we grew to know our parents and siblings patterns of behavior very well. So even if it was a Petri dish of uncertainty, confusion or volatility, we had our own “go to” patterns — all formed out of reactivity not inner resources.

Once we go into adulthood and start building our own lives and relationships, the Petri dish changes. The once familiar predictability of our family unit is replaced with new people bringing their own internal family systems with them into new relationships. Now we are in a whole new environment and we are fish out of familiar water.

I once saw an Australian TV show where a new love interest shows up for the main character, with an entire room full of suitcases, roller bags and totes — with a shoulder shrug and an impish smile, he announces “this is my emotional baggage.” Talk about a powerful image to drive home the point about all that we bring with us into our relationship dynamics and parents. The tap roots of our coping methods and behavioral traits can be traced back to childhood.

Here’s where things get even more interesting. In Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown shares with us that a lot of emotions show up looking very similar to each other but in fact can be quite different. So, if we operate on only on sparse emotional knowledge, we may mistake a partner’s or child’s emotion for anger when it is really fear or confusion.

Brene’s research for Atlas of the Heart revealed that most of us have a very limited emotional vocabulary — happy, sad or angry. How can we possibly be teaching our children the invaluable gifts of our emotions if we possess such a limited understanding ourselves?

The relatable personal stories woven into Brene’s book will help shed even more light on how our childhood impacts our adult relationships and parenting. Atlas of the Heart is yet another remarkable resource for becoming better “teachers”. Brene Brown expands our emotional vocabulary and granularity from three to 87 familiar emotions and lived experiences.

Cultivating Self Awareness and Honing Our Teaching Skills:

Just look how much we have changed with each generation in order to protect our kids and learn from our past experiences. To be honest, a lot of the things we take for granted today were met with a lot of resistance early on. Just listen to Malcolm Gladwell share how reluctant we were to use seat belts in our cars! Can you imagine any new parent not putting their newborn in an infant car seat, in the backseat, for the drive home from the hospital? Can you imagine teaching a young child to ride a bike without a protective helmet?

All that we are learning from neuroscience, neurobiology, epigenetics, psychology and the social sciences are making very clear where we can do better — for ourselves and our children. As I have shared before, in just one generation, we can make the giant pivot in the right direction for present and future generations; for quality of life, the ability to successfully navigate the uncertainties of life, for strong inner resources, flexible relationship skills, emotional literacy, empathy and a grounded confidence in their own self worth.

The first step is learning what we need to teach. That requires being amenable to looking back at our own childhood with self-compassion, with honesty and clear eyes. Dr. Dan Siegel says that people are resistant to this because they don’t want to revisit painful memories. As Shrek would say “better out than in.”

“Better out than in” – one of Shrek’s most notable lines – means that rather than stuffing things (emotions, events, waste and irritants) into your being, it’s far better to have them processed, integrated, and/or released.

I believe in this process of looking back at our childhood and learning from our experiences through the lens of hindsight and new research. It is liberating and it feels expansive to be unburdened from old self imposed limitations.

I strongly believe that reframing parenthood as an “18 year apprenticeship for life” will lead to great teaching moments with our kids that we otherwise may have missed.


Listen to this converation about parenting with Adam Grant and Clinical Psychologist, Becky Kennedy:
Bringing Out the Good in Kids — and Parents
What a timely episode of Being Well. This one is chock full of invaluable insights about the body/brain connection and somatic psychology
Using the Body to Heal the Mind with Elizabeth Ferreria (2/27/2023)

You’ll want to listen to this podcast on Attachment Styles – Dealing with Common Symptoms and Becoming More Securely Attached (2/20/2023)
Please visit Dr. Dan Siegel’s Website to access all his incredible content and tools for Whole Brain Parenting, for his groundbreaking development of Mindsight and for greater insights into the impact of childhood attachment styles.

Putting It Into Practice….

My recent blog posts about Whole Brain Parenting have led to some great story sharing with parents and grandparents. It is these real life interactions with children that truly open our eyes and hearts to the positive impacts we can make.

One of my friends asked me if I could share an experience where I responded differently to one of my grandchildren, using what I am learning from Whole Brain Parenting. This is what I shared: My five year old grandson was crying uncontrollably, visibly shaken from a sudden scare. Although he was safe, he was still caught in an emotional tsunami. Dr. Dan Siegel’s framework popped into my head. I knelt down beside him, getting just a little lower than his eye level. I wrapped him in a gentle hug and said “that was so scary, wasn’t it?” He nodded between sobs. I assured him that he was now safe and I would stay with him while he cried. He told me that he wanted to stop crying but he wasn’t able to. “That’s normal” I told him. “you are just a little boy and at your age it does take a while to stop crying. It’s okay. I am right here helping you.”

It’s so natural to want to soothe and comfort a crying child, but this time I also could sense that I was in fact the “training wheels” he needed in that moment to help him regulate those really big, scary emotions. I could see how my calmness, my words and my gentle touch were taking effect – his little sobbing body full of tension beginning to relax, his breathing becoming steady, and soon the torrent of tears drying up. I offered him some cold water. After a big sip, he picked up his legos and began explaining to me the complex vehicle he was creating. All of this happened in just under 5 minutes.

As I walked to the kitchen with his now empty water cup, I took a few moments to reflect on what that experience felt like not only for my grandson, but also for me. There it was again — that word “awareness”.

That book – Whole Brain Parenting – informed my awareness about what was happening in the brain and body of a five year old. My full attention turned to meet his needs; needs that I now better understood. And all the while that I was comforting him, validating his emotions and normalizing his inability to tame them right away, I found myself feeling really connected to this new approach.

The “magic” in this integration approach is not lost on me. I didn’t have this whole brain parenting knowledge and accompanying skill sets when I was raising my own kids. I am sure that I soothed them when they were in distress. I am also sure that I inadvertently dismissed what they were feeling in the moment. My most pressing goal was to get them back to calm as quickly as possible. I am pretty certain that my old way took a lot longer than 5 minutes. There may have been a cookie involved too.

To be very candid, I wasn’t very skilled at “co-regulation” as a young parent. My own stress level was probably on high alert so its doubtful I was “cool, calm and collected” while attending to my emotional child — especially if all this was going down at the playground or grocery store. Depending on the circumstances, it’s likely I was as freaked out by a fall from the jungle gym as my child was; or awash in embarrassment watching my toddler have a full blown meltdown in the cereal aisle.

So why was I feeling so “connected” to this new approach? The answer to that question is embedded in all that I have learned (and continue to learn) through my own personal growth journey. When we are not taught the value of our emotions, healthy coping skills and emotional regulation, our life and relationships are so much harder. I know firsthand how it feels to go through life denying or hiding emotions; even being afraid of some of those very natural, human emotions. I’m well aware that stuffing emotions is very detrimental to living a wholehearted life. I’ve got the messy experiences to prove it. A lot of unprocessed emotional baggage kept me from living in alignment with my core values – especially when I was in high stress situations.

The hard work of unlearning, untangling and unearthing all the armor, the childhood behavioral patterns and the invalidating messages we were told takes a very long time. It also takes a lot of awareness, acceptance, self-compassion and courage. It takes commitment, dedication and practice. It can take a lifetime.

Did you know that the self help industry is a $13.2 billion business with average annual gains of 5.6%? Think about all the time and money we are spending to help people address the issues stemming from dysfunctional childhoods and a lack of knowledge about how our complex brains and bodies develop, integrate and regulate. What could we do with all that time and money if we didn’t create these problems in the first place? How might so many of our difficulties in life be reduced or even eliminated?

The bottom line is that we cannot teach what we ourselves do not know.

Ask anyone who has been doing their own personal growth work about how the quality of their life has changed, and they will share insights with you that are revelational. A familiar refrain is “I wish I had learned all this decades ago.”

Children are sponges for learning, so much of it occurring by example and osmosis — often mimicking the coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns of their parents. They will find a way to armor up to protect themselves when they are feeling vulnerable. They will learn how to make sense of their world with or without our help.

The real pivot point is recognizing that our kids can just as easily be taught these better life skills and tools. Dr. Dan Seigel makes it very clear in his book Whole Brain Parenting that “teaching” these skills to kids makes the lessons “stick”. It’s the integration between nervous system and brain that “pre-loads” them with the capacity to engage their upper brain as they get older, when emotions could potentially hijack them.

Proactively teaching our children has positive benefits that go both ways. As parents and grandparents, we get plenty of opportunities to hone our own emotional regulation and better life skills. Children will be witnessing how we are dealing with daily stress and the inevitable moments of emotional hijacking. We get consistent, diverse practice and our children get what we are teaching reinforced by watching us.

When we are using these better tools and skills to live within our core values and integrity, we build strong scaffolding for our children and grandchildren to do the same. They will gain confidence to ask for their needs to be met; it will be second nature for them. They will have a strong inner compass and be able to set boundaries for acceptable behavior with peers and even authority figures; they will have a well-honed sense of right and wrong. Within the safety net of their families, children will learn that we are all unique in our talents, gifts and emotional landscapes. They will come to respect and support differences in how others respond to unfolding events. Again, it will become second nature for them to “meet others where they are” and they will have a bulging toolkit of relationship resources to use for encouragement and empathy.

Think about the self-awareness and tools that we are teaching kids with the Whole Brain Parenting approach as the protection you want them to have when they are out in the world on their own. These are the “forever” life skills that are their helmets, seat belts, guardrails and values.

Parenting is hard work but maybe it has been harder than it has to because of the old parenting models we used. The lessons weren’t sticking. Author James Clear offers this insightful wisdom:

Goals are good for setting a direction but systems are best for making progress. We fall to the level of our systems. Our goal is our desired outcome. Our system is the collection of daily habits that get us there.

Remember that I shared my parenting goal was to get to calm as quickly as possible? I was focused on the immediate outcome. That old parenting approach was like playing whack-a-mole. When the lessons weren’t sticking, the game got old and I was exhausted.

Whole Brain Parenting gets the lessons to stick. I discovered that the “system” actually takes less time too. Each interaction, each intervention that begins with validation and provides integration “training wheels” becomes a much more productive and rewarding building block for parent and child…..or in my case, for grandparent and child.

Both parent and child not only “feel” more connected and in sync in these teaching moments, they both are literally making neural connections that are life-changing.

I’ve spent over seven years on committed personal growth work to unlearn all that I operated on from childhood that made my life more challenging than it needed to be. At long last, I have a life skills tool kit that serves me well and keeps me in alignment with who I really am. What I value the most these days is my calm consistency; my ability to recognize what I am feeling and honor it without letting it hijack how I want to respond to others. I will forever be a helper and a harmonizer – that’s my true nature. The difference is that I am showing up now with healthy skills and tools that support both me and those I love in much-improved ways.

Best of all, I am better resourced now to handle the hard times in life. We owe it to our kids to prepare them for those inevitable challenges. No one gets through life unscathed; there will be heartbreaks, losses, and adversities. We wouldn’t send our kids on a mountain hike without the gear they need to be prepared for any situation that might occur. We can cultivate their resilience, grit, resourceful and problem solving skills by teaching them how to breathe to calm a racing heart, how to disengage from racing thoughts to get to clear-minded rationale, to think through all potential options and choose wisely. We equip them with a mental checklist and a “system” that helps them meet these obstacles more skillfully.

One of the biggest mistakes we made in the past was ignoring how much our children need us to help them process grief. This may be one of the most pivotal changes that we can make. Grief is a very nuanced emotion that is woven into so many “every day” and “normal” life experiences. Grief is present when a cherished toy is broken, when our little souls are crushed by someone’s hurtful comments and we believe what they have said about us. Grief is present when a family has to move, when someone passes away, when we break up with a first girlfriend, or if there is a divorce. Watch the movie Inside Out to gain a deeper perspective on how children wrestle with competing emotions (including sadness and grief). Kids need us and our training wheels most during complex emotional events. We know how our emotions, and our sadness, can ebb and flow for weeks and months after life altering events. We need to be more attuned to our child’s inner emotional world during these long haul life experiences. Trauma can get lodged in us if we are unable to process it. You’d be surprised at the dramatic difference validation, normalizing, and empathy can make in these big moments.

Dr. Dacher Keltner is an emotions expert, and the Director of the Greater Good Science Center in Berkley, CA. He was a major consultant on the movie Inside Out. Dr. Keltner is a renowned resource for learning more about the important role our emotions play in the quality of our life – and especially how we can help our children understand and process complex and competing emotions.

The reason that I felt so “connected” to myself, to my grandson and to the whole brain parenting approach was that it felt so natural, so comforting and also empowering – for both of us. I was in alignment with my values and I was offering to this little emotional guy exactly what I would have loved to receive when I was a small child. He was not only receiving my comfort and support, he was taking it in and all on his own, he was able to gain emotional regulation. He quickly returned to what was bringing him joy in that moment — his beloved legos. I felt “connected” because we really were feeling what happens when we are seen, heard and valued.

Connection allows us to explore, innovate, trust, love, create and simply be. Connection gives us the power to be who we are and to enjoy the things that inspire us.” – Brene Brown

The Whole Brain Parenting approach is the transformational portal to this magical feeling of true connection. I felt it that day with my grandson in the most tangible way. The moment of clarity about the power of connection will be in my heart forever.


GREATER GOOD MAGAZINE ARTICLE: How the GGSC Helped Turn Pixar “Inside Out” (with Dr. Dacher Keltner)


An Ounce of Prevention….

I’m pulling this thread from my last blog post — and it’s not just HOW an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure; its WHY. In my post, Whole Brain Parenting, we uncovered some hidden facts about how a child’s brain develops. We learned that we are often operating on unreasonable expectations about what those little brains are able to access — like logic and reasoning. Most importantly we learned how parents, grandparents and caregivers can all contribute to the “integration” of all the complex parts of our children’s amazing brains. We needed this foundational information and understanding.

Most of this knowledge has come from intensive, extensive research in neuroscience, psychology and behavioral science. It has dramatically shifted how we are addressing family, relationship, behavioral and mental health issues. The major pivot in counseling and treatments has been in a committed focus on “integration” of all parts of our brain. The good news is that due to neuroplasticity, we can foster this integration all throughout our lives. The optimum time to invest in this “integration” is in childhood.

And that brings me to WHY. Why it matters. Why we should care.

Emotions matter. Our emotional landscape needs to be integrated into our experiences, into our complex brain processing. It’s time we normalize being emotional. Our emotions are part of our inner compass.

Those who were raised with a lot of dysfunction and emotionally disregulated parents went armed into parenthood with a long list of the things they would not be doing to their kids but still lacking the knowledge of how young developing brains work.

Well intentioned, but still misinformed, the new parenting pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction. In attempts to make our kids feel safe, we became helicopter parents; in our attempts to make them feel special and valued, we created awards and medals for everyone; and to soothe, we showered them with ice cream, bribes and too much acquiescence. This methodology also did not foster emotional and brain integration.

On the one hand, we told kids to “stuff” or “get over” their emotions; on the other hand, we dismissed their emotions or told them sweetly “oh honey, you shouldn’t feel that way.”

Bypassing the emotional component of how we make sense of the world literally leaves us with a poorly operating internal GPS system.

As a result, we move from teen-hood to to adulthood with very little knowledge or awareness that our brains and nervous systems have stored up over two decades of experiences, emotions and stories to help us make sense of the world we grew up in. That internal storage unit can be both a treasure chest and a Pandora’s box. We unconsciously rummage through it like a small child in her costume box, randomly choosing which prop we will lean on when we are hijacked by strong emotions, old triggers, mixed messaging and our default mode negativity bias. This is where we come out of that internal storage unit wearing outgrown behavioral patterns and protective emotional armor. Cue up flight, fight, freeze or fawning.

There were two big missing pieces in old traditional parenting paradigms: understanding how young developing brains actually work — AND — understanding the important role that emotions play in both brain and body.

One major distinction with the Whole Brain Parenting approach is that we are keeping our expectations realistic about our child’s developing brain and we are facilitating the slow and natural integration process as they mature.

The other big distinction is that we are fostering self awareness by helping them identify their emotions and understand how those emotions make them feel — in their bodies and in their knee jerk reactions to how they want to respond.

No more bypassing this essential component of our inner compass.

Instead of sending our kids into adulthood still relying heavily on fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses when they inevitably get hijacked by strong emotions, we can hand them a well-stocked toolkit of skills and practices that will help guide them to stay in control, make clear-headed decisions and empower them to be the best versions of themselves most of the time.

An ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure.

There is an important caveat to Whole Brain Parenting: Parents have to do their homework.

Yes, it does take more skill to parent this way and perhaps a little more effort in the early stages. However, over time, the benefits of this newer, healthier approach will mean more connected teaching opportunities and fewer unproductive, emotional tugs of war. Imagine being able to witness our kids really gaining traction with their self-awareness and recognizing on their own where they could do a little better.

What’s in your toolbox, mom and dad?

Brushing up on our own self-awareness will reveal the areas that we want to shore up before we begin shifting from disciplining to teaching. Cultivating more patience and calmness is number one. Honing our active listening skills is number two.

Now let’s dive a little deeper into some of those toolkit resources that are the super-powers of Whole Brain Parenting:

Emotional Literacy:

When we can help our children name their emotions, we are teaching them a whole new vocabulary. Not only will they become better at understanding what they are feeling for themselves, they will be able to communicate more clearly to us what they are experiencing.

Brene Brown’s extensive research for over 20 years offers compelling reasons why emotional literacy is so empowering:

Most of us only readily identify 3 key emotions — angry, sad or happy. The truth is that our emotions and experiences are very nuanced; we often are feeling several emotions all at once. Some are even competing emotions which can be really confusing to a child. The bigger our emotional vocabulary, the better we are able to name and understand the nuances. This is emotional granularity. Kids can learn an expanded emotional vocabulary as readily as they learn how to describe in great detail their favorite toy or TV show.

Different emotions can actually show up very similarly when we are observing them. We are not mind readers, not even with our kids, and we may unconsciously respond to an emotional state thinking it is “anger” when it is really “scared to death”. We might think our kids are being stubborn and uncooperative when they are simply overwhelmed and trying to sort things out in their young brains.

Kids need an emotional vocabulary to help them identify what they are feeling; and to be able to understand how those emotions make them feel in their body. They can learn that emotions ebb and flow (you’d be surprised how comforting this is to a child.) Most importantly they can learn that emotions are our own internal warning lights to pay attention to what is important to them. When they are quite young, this might be more about a treasured toy but as they get older, they will learn to trust these emotional flashing lights when it comes to their core values. The best way to help them navigate peer pressure down the road, is to teach them early and often about their gut instincts. Emotional literacy and self awareness are the bedrock of gut instincts.

We also need to teach our children to process their emotions. There is no right or wrong, good or bad when it comes to emotions. Even as adults, we can tell ourselves that we “shouldn’t be feeling angry or envious” but the truth is, we simply do feel angry or envious in some circumstances. Owning these emotions and reflecting on them gives us insight.

As Carl Jung has advised “what we resist, persists.” Far better to sit with our truth than to try to ignore it. We gain more knowledge about ourselves and what matters most to us when we stay with our strong emotions and get curious. How many times have you over-ridden a feeling of anger only to discover it had morphed into resentment?

The same is true for our kids. We will learn a lot about what is going on in their inner world when we listen to gain understanding. This means giving our kids our undivided attention and not rushing them. We need to listen attentively, so that we can gain understanding about their inner world. A parent’s challenge is to resist the urge to chime in with advice or admonishment which will surely interrupt this teaching moment. We may discover that our kids are wrestling with confusion over mixed messages they receive. (News flash — we often are not following the same rules we put out there for our kids; they see it, they internalize it, and it gets thrown into the pot when they are trying to make sense of their own emotions and events).

Listen to understand; remember that they have limited capacity to fully engage all parts of their brain. Let’s be honest, so do we often have limited capacity — because we are exhausted, stressed out, hungry or drained. It’s part of being human. We aren’t striving for perfection here. We are striving for greater understanding, a heaping dose of grace and lots of empathy.

Self Control and Emotional Regulation:

Young children do not yet have the ability to integrate their “lower” brain where they are feeling all their emotions with their “upper brain” where logic and reasoning help to guide us BEFORE acting on our emotions. And let’s be honest, as adults we can easily bypass this more mature ability when we too are hijacked by strong emotions, exhaustion or overwhelm.

The Whole Brain Parenting approach is for us to be the “training wheels” for this developmental integration process. The training wheels are “co-regulation”. The key is staying calm, using a softer tone of voice and making a sincere supportive connection.

We may think that this tactic is often reserved for emergencies, like when the airlines tell us to put our oxygen mask on first before helping a child…..but the reality is that the more we employ this strategy in our everyday interactions with our kids, the more likely they will imitate our calmer responses in times of stress.

How often do you catch your children repeating back to you the admonishments or reasoning that they hear day in and day out? Kids are our best mirrors for cultivating our own self-awareness. This is good news — because it normalizes how hard it is to be human and be “perfect” all the time. Outside influences, the daily grind and our unattended emotions take their toll on all of us.

These moments are teaching opportunities too. Simple, self-care practices like taking a break, going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music, or a taking a few deep calming breaths — this is what we can be offering to ourselves and our kids. Much more effective than blowing up and losing it.

Newsflash: We will inevitably blow up and lose it. And that is also a teaching opportunity. Dr. Dan Siegel offers this very reassuring truth: Rupture and repair is the gorilla glue of our relationships. We build trust and deepen connections every single time we acknowledge that we messed up and offer a sincere apology, and back it up with making amends. The best way to put a bow on that repair is a great big warm and fuzzy bear hug.

Very few of us have gone through life without experiencing how someone broke our trust and never apologized. It could have been a parent, or other authority figure, but we were left feeling that they lacked accountability and could no longer be trusted. We probably looked for more proof too — and we often find it because that is where we put all our attention. A break in trust can create a relationship that feels like death by a thousand paper cuts. Every future infraction causes pain and distrust. We stockpile those experiences and we fiercely guard against it.

This seems to be a natural segue into the next tool for our life skills toolbox:

Guard Rails and Boundaries:

We hear the word “boundaries” a lot these days. Yet few of us really were taught to use boundaries in the empowering way they are intended. Brene Brown offers his key insight about boundaries: “Compassionate, boundaried people stay in their integrity.”

If we sit with this, and really reflect on it, we can see that boundaries are guardrails for us all throughout life. Our personal boundaries are how we not only protect what is most important to us — they help us communicate clearly to others what our values are; what is acceptable and what is not in our relationships.

When our kids are little we use guardrails all the time to protect them from harm. It starts with the kid gate at the top of the stairs when they become mobile. We use socket protectors on electrical outlets, car seats, protective helmets for scooters and bikes, and filters on our devices.

Unfortunately we get a little too “loosey goosey” with the boundaries they need for a lifetime when we are teaching them what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Oh how quickly our little ones learn to become master negotiators — wearing us down til we honestly can no longer hold that boundary. Sure, eat the box of cookies before dinner; ride your bike without shoes if you think you know best. It is true that their consequences will also be learning experiences….an upset tummy or a bruised toe, but it doesn’t foster that longer term goal of integration and the pre-loading of good decision making skills.

The following excerpts from the book No Drama Discipline by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD help us reframe our concept of boundaries and provide the key motivation to wanting to use them effectively in teaching our kids.

“Deep, empathic connection can and should be combined with clear and firm boundaries that create needed structure in children’s lives” — (excerpted from No Drama Discipline)

Connection isn’t the same thing as permissiveness. Connecting with our kids during discipline doesn’t mean letting them do whatever they want. In fact, just the opposite. Part of truly loving our kids — and giving them what they need — means offering them clear and consistent boundaries, creating predictable structure in their lives, as well as having high expectations for them. Children need to understand the way the world works: what’s permissible and what is not. A well defined understanding of the rules and boundaries helps them achieve success in relationships and other areas of their lives. When they learn about structure in the safety of their home, they will be better able to flourish in outside environments — school, work, relationships — where they’ll face numerous expectations for appropriate behavior. (excerpted from the book, No Drama Discipline).

Our children need repeated experiences that allow them to develop wiring in their brain that helps them delay gratification, contain urges to react aggressively towards others, and flexibly deal with not getting their way. (from No Drama Discipline).

The absence of limits and boundaries is actually quite stressful — and stressed kids are more reactive. So when we say no and set limits for our children, we help them discover predictability and safety in an otherwise chaotic world. And we build brain connections that allow kids to handle difficulties well in the future. (from No Drama Discipline)

Like any new skill that we are trying to improve, setting boundaries will be most successful if we start with things we can actually follow through on. A little advance planning about a realistic and do-able boundary will help prevent the heat of the moment overriding common sense. As an example, instead of loudly announcing “that’s it, I’m throwing all your birthday presents away”, we can say and follow through on the more rational “you will not be able to play with your new toy for an hour.” (feel free to trade an hour out for 15 minutes — both will seem excruciatingly long for both parent and child initially).

The more you practice setting and holding boundaries, the easier and more natural it becomes for you. Ironically, it also becomes the comforting guardrails for kids. Kids thrive in consistency and predictability. Boundaries aren’t punishment — they are simply the guidelines and guardrails.

What becomes very transformational when we teach our kids the importance and value of boundaries is that we give them one of the greatest tools for their lifetime. A child who knows how to set and hold boundaries will not easily be influenced by others who try to talk them into things they don’t like, and they will not accept inappropriate behavior from others. They will inherently know their own worth, be guided by their core values, and trust their gut instincts.

Teaching our children clear and consistent boundaries will reinforce their confidence in having their own back, being honest about their needs and being responsible for their actions.

The benefits of boundaries go both ways — they keep us in our integrity – and they hold others accountable for their actions and behaviors (without unnecessary drama, meltdowns, anxiety and stress).

Many of us adults struggle to set and hold our own boundaries:

we say “yes” to things we want to say “no” to (we are afraid of disappointing someone or rocking the boat);

we don’t speak up when someone is disrespectful to us (we wouldn’t tolerate someone disrespecting our kids, but we cut them slack when it is aimed at us);

we push through when we are exhausted (because we think we will be judged if we ask for help).

Remember that we have many teaching moments throughout our daily lives to actively demonstrate to our children the role that boundaries can play in the quality of our lives. Those little reflecting mirrors known affectionally as our kids will gain a lot of traction in their life skills by osmosis.


How many times have you watched your small child struggle with something that just touches your heart deeply? You can almost feel yourself having a “Benjamin Button” moment and becoming six again. You remember so well how it felt in that moment. That is empathy in action.

We can only get to empathy by being very aware and attuned to our own inner feelings and experiences. This is the critical piece of emotional integration that helps us become skilled in our relationships. We have to be able to access what it actually “feels like in our bodies” when we are hurt, scared, lonely or confused.

When we help our children to become self-aware, to express out loud to us what they are feeling inside (in their hearts, in their muscles, in their clenched fists or gasping- for-air sobs), we are helping them connect to compassion and empathy.

This highly developed inner awareness of how emotions and experiences feel inside of us becomes the key to understanding how others might also feel in similar circumstances. It is the heart to heart connection.

Even a young child can grasp how a sibling might be feeling on the inside as she stares at her favorite toy, broken into pieces on the living room floor. In that present moment, integration is happening for those two children. Each instinctively knows how the other is feeling.

A skillful parent can tap into these “inside emotional feelings” when they are teaching their children about getting along with others. Rather than shaming or embarrassing our kids into an apology or different behavior, we can use empathy to help them become aware of the consequences of their actions. They may not “get it” right away when they are so young, but it sets the stage for meaningful relationship skills when they are older.

Tying It All Together:

Are you beginning to see how all these life skills fit together like puzzle pieces? The integration process of the parts of our brains AND the addition of plugging in to our emotions provides us with the most transformational inner GPS system for life.

When we teach our children the importance of their emotions and give them language to identify them, we expand our capacity to understand them and to give them the tools they need to become their best selves.

Each of our children are so uniquely different. Ask any parent who has more than one child and they will tell you how unbelievable it is that two kids raised the same way can be so remarkably different.

We don’t want to change the innate personalities of our children. We often delight in the remarkable ways they are uniquely different. It’s just that it can be so challenging to figure them out.

This is where Whole Brain Parenting becomes such a remarkable pivot point. All the tools and skills we are teaching to our children help us to realize how we are all wired so differently and have a genuine appreciation for those differences. What is important to one child barely registers for another. Our “other awareness” becomes more attuned.

The more we know ourselves, the better we become at getting to know others. To be able to learn this in our own homes, with our family members, is the best educational environment we could ever have. Not only will our children have a solid life skills toolbox, they will have had nearly two decades of integration and practice when they are ready to launch into adulthood.


Watch this short YouTube Video with Dr. Dan Siegel entitled Why Attachment Parenting Matters.

He explains how to talk to our kids about what they are feeling in their bodies when their emotions are in play.

He also explains what is going on in those little developing minds….

This brief conversation will really jumpstart your Whole Brain Parenting process

Whole Brain Parenting

In my last post entitled “Turning Personal Growth on its Head”, I shared that in just one generation we can have dramatic positive impacts on quality of life, mental health and well being. Imagine “pre-loading” our children with a strong sense of self worth, reliable inner resources like resilience and emotional regulation, self-awareness, and empathy.

This profound pivot starts with parenting.

The old approaches to parenting predisposed us to lack the skills and inner resources we needed to successfully navigate life, relationships and adversities. Instead of teaching children the value of their emotions, good coping skills, self-awareness, empathy and relationship skills, we were “disciplined”. We weren’t being “taught”, we were “punished” — mostly for emotional reactions we were experiencing and over which we had very little control. Prior generations did not know about how a child’s brain develops and the vital role parents play in a lifelong integration process of all parts of our brains.

So instead of honing invaluable life skills from an early age, we came up with patterns of behavior in response to whatever our parents were doling out. We became conflict avoiders, people pleasers, bullies or wimps. Even if we were able to bust out of those constraints as we matured, our inner critic would often chime in to remind us of our insecurities.

Before we dive into this concept of Whole Brain Parenting, think about what we got right about our children’s physical development.

As parents, we instinctively know that our young children are physically incapable of crawling, walking, using a potty, riding a bike or learning to swim until they have achieved certain levels of their body’s natural development. We do not have unrealistic expectations about when our child will be able to stand on her own or feed herself with a spoon. In fact, we encourage, role model and celebrate these milestones.

Yet, we often lack the basic understanding of how our child’s complex brain is in a similar state of “ongoing development.” We may be asking more of them with regard to logic and reasoning than they are capable of accessing. Those executive functions of their young brain will not come online for several years.

To complicate matters, there are the hormones and chemicals that get released from strong emotional triggers into those little bodies such as cortisol, dopamine and adrenalin — and suddenly we are face to face with meltdowns, temper tantrums and a torrent of tears that is a swirl of confusion and chaos for our little ones.

We just can’t “punish” this stuff into submission. We have to teach our children what is happening in their bodies, and be the “assist” they need til their brains are developed enough to process what’s happening. (This might be a good place to stop and ask ourselves — how good are we as adults at dealing with big emotions, inner emotional chaos and confusion when we are angry, tired, annoyed or hurt?)

Parenting is hard. Unfortunately it’s been a lot harder than it truly needed to be…but we didn’t know that. As we are discovering, the real pivot for parenting is in moving from a mindset of having to “discipline” our children to the more skillful mindset of “teaching” our children.

Did you know that the root of the word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means teaching, learning or instruction?

We often think of discipline as punishment and that belief was supported by old familiar parenting quotes: Spare the rod and spoil the child; children are to be seen and not heard; do as I say and not as I do. These old adages kept us trapped in a dysfunctional parenting paradigm that did not support helping our children integrate the full capacity of their brains in the same way we were fostering the integration of new physical milestones as their bodies grew and developed.

We put training wheels on our kids’ bikes to help them learn how to balance their bodies. We put flotation devices on those eager little bodies in the pool to keep them safe while they are having fun splashing. We use repetition and role plays to teach them words and identify familiar objects.

It turns out that we also need to put training wheels and flotation devices on our child’s emotional development until their brains are ready for the full installation of logic and reasoning.

In other words, we need to be their “executive function”– their emotional regulator — when they are young and unable to do this effectively for themselves.

The more we are able to support them with strong emotional scaffolding when they are young, the better they will be at emotional awareness, self-control, empathy and discernment between right and wrong when they are older — when we take off the “training wheels”. This is the “pre-loading” component that is a game-changer.

That old conventional approach to parenting bypassed an integral process to nurture and integrate the full capacities of our children’s developing brains.

The old conventional approaches often led to blocked integration of different parts of our brains. That blocked integration can linger with us far into adulthood, causing us to unconsciously rely on childhood behavioral patterns even when we should have outgrown them. It is also the reason we get emotionally triggered from something that occurred decades ago, have heightened anxieties or fears, and blind spots in our self-awareness.

What We Know Now…..That We Got Wrong Before:

We now have before us the most incredible neuroscience-based resources to seize this missed opportunity and support our children’s brain developments more skillfully than ever before. Our role as parents and caregivers is to “step in” and assist with the integrative process by providing the connection needed until a child’s developing brain is ready to take over on its own.

Two very important things are happening in this approach: (1) we are the scaffolding needed to ensure that a child feels safe, valued and connected and (2) we are preparing him to install that same foundation of his very own when he is older — when his brain has developed fully and he can now readily access the logic and reasoning part of his upper brain. Our children will grow up with reliable inner resources, a strong sense of self-worth, and healthy relationship skills.

As you will learn a little later in this post, the Whole Brain Parenting approach creates a “secure” attachment style which is the most beneficial life foundation we can give to our children.

The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos & Nurture A Child’s Developing Mind:

Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson have been teaching their transformational new approach to parenting for over a decade. In their 2016 book, No Drama Discipline, they share very relatable stories that are commonplace for most parents. What makes this book so different however, is the time and attention they devote to teaching us about the child’s developing brain, what is happening in her nervous system, how her brain gets hijacked by emotional disregulation and her innate lack of capacity to deal with all of it. It is a real eye-opener about the complex inner world of our little ones.

It may be the very first time as parents that we get a clear picture of how we are asking for the impossible when we try reasoning, bribing or punishing to tame a temper tantrum or seemingly unreasonable meltdown.

This deeper understanding of a child’s developing brain should be the key motivation for most parents and caregivers to adopt a whole new approach to “disciplining” their children: The “No Drama Connection Cycle”.

The operative word for this contemporary Whole Brain parenting approach is “connection”. Connection calms the nervous system, which soothes a child’s reactivity in the moment, and moves them toward a place where they can actually hear us, learn and even begin to make their own “whole brain” decisions.

When the emotional gauge gets turned up, connection is the modulator that keeps the feelings from getting too high. Without connection, emotions can continue to spiral out of control. — Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 74

Connection is essential for brain integration. This matters because the brain is complex; it has many parts, all of which have different jobs to do, including memory and pain regions. Did you know that the same areas of the brain get activated when people feel emotional pain as well as physical pain?

Think about that — we are so quick to attend to a scraped knee or swollen lip, but often impatient with an emotional outburst. To a child, the pain feels the same.

The old parenting approach also led us to believe that if we “coddled” a child every time they got physically hurt, they wouldn’t be resilient. Turns out that was wrong also. Acknowledging how they are feeling when they get hurt, calming them and attending to their injury teaches them how to care for themselves, promotes strong coping skills, resiliency and better discernment of the actual level of pain.

Why Connection and Integration Matter:

The responses we heard repeatedly in the old conventional approach to parenting sounded like these: “Get over it”; “Pull yourself together”; “You need to calm down”; “Go to your room until you can be nice”.

Dr. Siegel points out that these responses actually do the opposite of connection — they amplify negative states and increase internal distress, which perpetuates more acting out. Not only did this lead to an ongoing cycle of disconnection and lack of integration of all those complex brain parts, it predisposed us to develop an unhealthy attachment style.

Attachment styles are developed in early childhood based on our relationship with our primary caregivers and how they respond to our needs. Whole Brain Parenting will help parents provide the optimum “secure” attachment style for their children.

If you are thinking that Whole Brain Parenting takes a lot more time and energy than the old school approach, let’s dispel that. While it may take a little more skill on the parent’s part initially, over time with all that consistency of calm and connection, the lessons you want to impart to your child will actually start to stick. Parents won’t be exhausted from repeating themselves over and over, feeling defeated about gaining any traction in their parenting efforts. So many times, our well intentioned lessons are falling on deaf ears because kids are just so disregulated, they cannot possibly take in what we are saying…..especially if our tone of voice conveys our angering frustrations.

Let’s dispel another myth while we are at it — the myth of spoiling our kids. This is a question that Dr. Dan Siegel has answered many times – and it’s one that is based on a misunderstanding of what spoiling really is — and what it is not.

Connection defuses conflict, build’s a child’s brain and strengthens the parent-child relationship. Connecting during discipline is quite different from spoiling a child.

“Let’s start with what spoiling is not. Spoiling is not about how much love and time and attention you give your kids. You can’t spoil your children by giving them too much of yourself. In the same way, you can’t spoil a baby by holding her too much or responding to her needs each time she expresses them. Parenting authorities at one time told parents not to pick up their babies too much for fear of spoiling them. We now know better. Responding to and soothing a child does not spoil her — but NOT responding to or soothing her creates a child who is insecurely attached and anxious. Nurturing your relationship with your child and giving her the consistent experiences that form the basis of her accurate belief that she’s entitled to your love and affection is exactly what we SHOULD be doing. In other words, we need to let our kids know that they can count on getting their needs met.” – Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 89 (Chapter entitled from Tantrum to Tranquility)

“Spoiling on the other hand, occurs when parents or caregivers create their child’s world in such a way that the child feels a sense of entitlement about getting her way, about getting what she wants, exactly when she wants it, and that everything should come easily and be done for her. We want our kids to know that their “needs” can be consistently understood and met, but we don’t want our kids to expect that their “desires and whims” will always be met. Connecting when a child is upset or out of control is about meeting the child’s needs, not giving in to what she wants. — Excerpted from No Drama Discipline, page 90 (Chapter entitled From Tantrum to Tranquility)

The Big Impact that Whole Brain Parenting Can Have in the Long Run:

I recently participated in a week long seminar about the newer approaches being implemented in counseling and therapy treatments as a direct result of the breakthroughs in neuroscience about brain integration. The most effective protocols are focused on helping clients integrate all the parts of their brain and nervous system. Because of neuroplasticity, as adults we can actually rewire our brains and reconnect to “whole brain” living.

Even patients with a history of trauma and PTSD do not need to go through the arduous and often painful experiences of sharing their trauma stories. The faster, less painful and more effective approach is to focus on integration and being fully present in the current moment. This is a groundbreaking new approach for anyone who struggles with issues that stem from dysfunctional attachment styles and the lack of integration of the full capacities of our most amazing brains.

There is one old adage that rings truer than ever: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Imagine how empowering it will be for our children to be able to name, process and learn from their emotions; being taught reliable, healthy emotional regulation and coping skills; and gifting them with self confidence, self worth and strong inter-personal relationship skills. This will become a much better foundation for our younger generations to have as they enter adulthood.

In upcoming blog posts, I’ll be sharing more about what we are discovering through psychology and neuroscience that will be game changers for all of us. In the meantime, check out these resources to learn more about Whole Brain Parenting and No Drama Discipline:


These two books by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson are two of the most insightful Parenting Books you can read. They are easy to understand, relatable and refreshingly candid about the parenting issues we all face. Chock full of real life examples & reference guide.

Check out this brief and noteworthy clip from Dr. Andrew Huberman, about the role our childhood attachment styles play in choosing our life partners, and the impacts of our childhood attachment styles on our adult intimate relationships.

There is nothing like listening to Dr. Dan Siegel explain why Whole Brain Parenting can make such a dramatic difference for both you and your child.

Check out this short clip: Why Attachment Parenting Matters

Turning Personal Growth on Its Head..

From Iceberg to Mountain Range

When Brene Brown launched her newest book, Atlas of the Heart, she offered this beautiful, profound insight:

For me, this quote captures exactly what my personal growth and self discovery journey feels like. I had no idea where I was going when I started. Seven years ago, I was leaning pretty hard on the quote “all who wander are not lost” which makes me laugh out loud…because I was indeed “lost”. I used a lot of maps to find my way – and I still do. Some of those maps are weathered and worn, some are pristine and folded neatly into a well scored rectangle, some are digital and some have ink so fresh it washes over the paper like a watercolor.

Initially I wanted the “how to” maps. I scoured the self help sections of libraries, bookstores and the internet. Over time I came to realize the most transformational way to go about self discovery and personal growth is to approach it more like looking for clues on a hidden treasure map and being open to discovery.

If I were to break out a gigantic three-feet long piece of butcher block paper, I could whimsically draw with chunky crayons what that treasure map looked and felt like for me. There would be volcanos, broken bridges, tornados and swampland…and a few fairies, leprechauns, trampolines and bungee cords, rays of warm yellow sunshine and a deep reflecting pool. I’d add in some glittery neon-bright fireworks to spotlight my “aha” moments.

It is only with the clarity of my “hindsight googles” that I can now truly appreciate all the trash and treasures I discovered on my ongoing personal growth adventure. My experiences are much like the one my grandkids have with one of those “shine a light” flashlight books where the hidden pictures are revealed when a focused beam of illumination hits them.

It occurs to me that so often when we talk about personal growth and self-discovery, the emphasis is on how hard it is. The images of peeling off the layers of our emotional onion, dumpster diving into the baggage we’ve accumulated and breaking old habits seem more like punishment than an appealing invitation to become a better version of ourselves.

Rarely do we hear the upside of embarking on the personal growth journey, at least not in tangible, realistic ways. We hear all those fluffy, gauzy accolades about finding our “authentic” self but it all seems as fleeting and surreal as dressing up in a costume and pretending to be Cinderella or Spiderman. Looks good…but what does it really “feel” like?

The greatest gift of personal growth work is how freeing and empowering it feels — once you get to one of the pinnacles in the process. That becomes the motivation to reach the next pinnacle. Each one creates more space for what we really want in our lives. We often are completely unaware of just how much we get in our way, until we start looking at our patterns and blind spots. As we lighten the load, the journey becomes a lot more engaging in a very positive way.

One of the most insightful moments in any self-discovery journey is when we realize just how far we’ve come. This is a big boost to our motivation to keep going — when we look back and recognize that we have actually made a lot of forward progress; that we are showing up in improved ways in old familiar circumstances.

Recently I was re-taking a self-assessment test with a friend of mine and expressed to her that I would have answered the questions much differently a few years ago than I do today. The same was true for my friend and she expressed her gratitude that over the past several years, I have often reminded her of all her forward progress. Both of us were well aware that we now move through our daily lives with greater ease, having discarded old patterns for better skills.

From my personal perspective, personal growth doesn’t have to be the “hard work” of a paleontologist digging through stratifications and fossilizations we’ve amassed for decades. We can turn this concept on its head and treat it as the fascinating adventure it truly is. What if we had a whole new, enlightened approach to how we enter and maintain personal growth and self-discovery?

Picture this: — we often use the image of an iceberg to help us understand all the baggage, beliefs, narratives and personal history we are dragging under the surface.

If we flip this image, we now have an impactful — and inviting — new way to look at personal growth, self-discovery and self-improvement.

This is a powerful transformational image….

We will get stronger physically, mentally and emotionally as we scale and explore; we will need a backpack full of supplies, resources, tools (and maps), it’s a great idea to have a buddy system for a host of awesome reasons (safety, shared experiences, a boost or tether, meaning and memory making). We will get fresh air, fresh perspectives and see the bigger picture.

We can re-write the guidebook for living our best lives. What if personal growth became a “call to adventure”. What if we “preloaded” all the resources and practices we really need to meet life in a skillful way?

The truth is that we are now spending an incredible amount of our time and energy undoing all the damage caused by old paradigms, old parenting models, old stereotypes, outdated methodologies and therapies – not to mention a complete lack of understanding about the value of emotions, empathy, and meaningful connection with others.

We have a growing mental health crisis, too many distractions for our attention, and a deficit of awareness (our own as well as “other” awareness). We keep throwing ideas and challenges at the problems. The big PIVOT is to look at the root causes.

All throughout my exploration of a wide variety of resources and modalities for my own personal growth, there was one common thread.

Regardless of the resource, the compass always pointed back to childhood: childhood narratives about who we are, behavioral patterns and protective armor we developed in childhood, our childhood attachment styles, our beliefs and how we make meaning from our emotions and experiences. There is a lot to unpack from our childhood BEFORE we can even begin a successful and meaningful adult life journey.

Once I discovered this overarching theme, it dawned on me that we can do better. Our children are sponges for learning — and we can equip them for life in transformational ways by “resourcing” them in powerful new, healthier ways.

Neuroscience, psychology, neurobiology and epigenetics are all converging in astonishing ways to shine a light on so much of what we did not understand, or got wrong, and can do better.

In upcoming blog posts, I will be unpacking what we are learning about the old childhood framework that did not provide healthy scaffolding for life. Together we can learn about the importance of secure attachment styles, how a child’s brain develops and how adult brains can be rewired, teaching emotional literacy and healthy coping skills, how we can keep our brains “updated and upgraded” thanks to neuroplasticity, and the importance of integrating our nervous system with our executive functions.

In just one generation, we can break cycles of dysfunction, addiction, insecurity and inauthenticity. At this very moment in time, we have more substantive research, more accurate knowledge, and unbelievable access to meaningful resources than ever before. Significant changes in what were ground-breaking, Nobel prize-winning discoveries 15 or 30 years ago are happening at a very rapid pace. Children are learning faster and differently than they did when we were kids. Even us adults are learning faster and differently in some arenas than we ever have before.

When I began my personal growth journey in my early 60’s, I did not realize that it would lead me to children – and I am ecstatic that it did. So many of us enter parenthood with hopes and dreams of giving our kids a good life, possibly a better one that we had. With all the new research, enriched skill sets and tools we now have, we can equip our children for life as smartly as we equip them for their favorite hobbies and sports; have you noticed that we now put helmets on those little developing brains for good reason?


BEING WELL PODCAST: Listen to this relatable AND mind-expanding conversation with Dr. Rick Hanson and his son, Forrest, on the Keys to a Great Relationship. Rick has a brand new book out as well that offers fresh perspectives on his many decades of counseling and his own personal growth work.

Learn 50 simple practices for solving conflict, building connection and fostering love.. Read Dr. Rick Hanson’s newest book – Making Great Relationships.

People Don’t Change….Right?

We hear this myth all the time — “people don’t change” or “you can’t make someone change” but quite honestly, this could not be further from the truth. None of us are the same person we were last week, last month or last year. All this phenomenal change is happening with very little awareness on our part. Our brain and its remarkable process of neuroplasticity are literally changing us every single day.

Neuro means brain; Plasticity refers to the fact that the brain is always transforming itself. When you meet someone new, or learn a new fact, your brain changes its structure and function. The environment can change our brains even if we are not aware of it. Some events change the way brain cells communicate with one another, by strengthening or weakening this communication. Other events will change how the brain interprets things. All these changes end up modifying our behaviors. — excerpted from Frontiers’ article, “Neuroplasticity: The Brain Changes Over Time” 1/12/2020

Now we can see that in reality we are actually changing at all times. It is hard-wired into us and proof positive that we not only CAN change, we have been doing it all along.

What is most intriguing is that we can become an integral and proactive part of this process. Rather than resisting change, we can embrace and even empower this human superpower.

Let me reframe this in a way that will shift your perspective about “growth mindset”.

What if we thought about our ever-evolving life changes as our CV: Curriculum Vitae (which ironically is Latin for “course of life”).

What would we put on our personal life resume that is directly correlated to the changes we’ve experienced – both unconsciously through neuroplasticity and very consciously through the effort we put in to effect change?

As you are reflecting on this, ponder why we always ask older people “What would you tell your 20 year old self?”

How often do we mutter to ourselves “if I knew then what I know now?” as we reflect back on our life history and realize that we could have made much better decisions and seized opportunities we let slip through our fingers?

Let’s put that on our life resume — the things we learned later in life that often came from repeated trial and error. A little hindsight with a healthy dash of knowledge is how we acquire wisdom.

So many of our life experiences have helped us develop a whole host of skills sets we often take for granted. From parenting to career changes, to marriages and health issues, the loss of loved ones — each and every one probably revealed something we did not previously know about ourselves.

For some time now, I have been thinking that one of the best entry points for self discovery and personal growth is through understanding how our brains operate. If we learned this, we could become proactive in setting ourselves up for better life skills and fewer problems.

It is incredibly hard to “do the work” of meaningful change when we have 40, 50, or 60+ years in which we have fossilized bad habits, dysfunctional behavioral patterns, and unhealed emotional wounds.

We could be doing all the “work” in real time, when it has the biggest impact and the greatest opportunity to transform us in healthy ways. By being proactive in the “change” process, we could actually be preventing getting “stuck” in outgrown or dysfunctional responses to life. We would simply be more prepared and skillful at navigating life. We would be in a continual state of building inner resources to support ourselves in evolving positive ways.

Neuroscience is revealing to us that we can do much better at “resourcing” ourselves with good coping skills, healthy emotional responses and emotional regulation as well as the resilience, resourcefulness and capacity we get from lessons we glean from our learned experiences. Without these inner resources, we can struggle to integrate our thoughts, emotions and body when faced with challenging circumstances or trauma.

Integration is the core foundational block for us to be able to deal with our experiences in healthy ways — and for us to learn from those experiences and build a strong neural network to tap into for future reference. We need to integrate our thoughts, our emotions and our bodies if we want to be better “resourced” for handling life’s difficulties.

If we think of our behavioral patterns as “memorizations”, we can get a clear picture of how we learned as kids to respond to anger, blame, hurt or fear. Often it was not only our own emotions we grappled with, but those of our caregivers. So we “memorized” what would bring us safety, relief, a return to connection. Our little developing brains did not yet have all the executive function to reason. In fact, our brains and bodies were flooded with cortisol and adrenaline — urging us to take quick action and seeking safety ASAP. We “memorized” what the fastest track would be to return us and our caregivers back to baseline.

We really don’t learn much from memorization. It’s just a steady “rinse, repeat” pattern of responding to similar situations. A better pathway to healthy co-regulation and growing core inner resources is to really engage with our own emotions, be informed about what they are telling us, calming ourselves so we can reconnect with our executive functions and then make rational, healthy choices about how to respond. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, it can be — but not without an understanding of what is happening simultaneously in our bodies, with our thoughts and emotions. When we are young, it would be the equivalent of trying to recite the alphabet backwards while the grade school band was all warming up! Too much distraction, too much noise — just too much.

If we have a clearer understanding of how a child’s brain develops, then we can reset our expectations about what they are actually able to process when emotions and experiences get big and bumpy. We can “meet them where they are” and save us all a lot of angst. We shouldn’t want our kids to “memorize” how to navigate life; we want to teach them how to be captains of their ship, with a breadth of knowledge, skills and resources so they can face opportunities and obstacles in healthy, dynamic ways.

As neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry all intersected to address our growing mental health crises, many phenomenal discoveries have been made. Dr. Dan Siegel recently remarked that he would have never thought 15 years ago that we would have such concrete evidence of how our brains and bodies are functioning (or not functioning). It is revelational and game-changing for every one of us.

Breakththroughs lead us right back to the root problem — and that is where real change occurs. We can proactively and meaningfully begin to implement bold new ways to teach ourselves – and especially our children – how to process emotions as they are occurring; how to get back to baseline when our emotions hijack our ability to reason and think clearly; how we co-regulate each other (the hot tip here is that we can de-escalate a situation as fast as we can escalate an already emotionally charged situation); and how to learn from our experiences in ways that “resource” us for the future.

Imagine if we re-framed our attitudes about personal growth and the need to change in a whole new way. If we truly understood how our brains, bodies, thoughts and emotions all were working to support us in such astounding positive ways, we would be approaching how we parent, how we engage in life and how we support each other in transformational and empowering new ways.

Food for thought: Can you imagine learning to drive a car without understanding how all those moving parts actually synch up and work together? Did you learn how to take care of a car when you learned to drive (about oil and gas and windshield washer fluid, about engine warning lights?). Can you imagine teaching your child to drive if you didn’t know how to drive or maintain a car? Could it be that we actually understand more about the complexities of how our cars operate and even more about awareness and skills needed to navigate traffic than we do how our very own brains, bodies, thoughts and emotions are all working to support us?

I recently listened to a thought-provoking podcast with Adam Grant and Carla Harris about becoming great mentors and sponsors. During the conversation, Carla pointed out that so many folks returned to the workplace after coming through the challenges of a global pandemic with many new skills, strengths and inner resources. She was so insightful when she noted that we should always be on the lookout for ways that we are growing through our challenging experiences. She also noted that we all have changed as a direct result of that collective experience. There are opportunities we never saw before that are now being revealed to us.

Change is a good thing….and it is the only thing that is constant. We actually can change!


Dr. Dan Siegel is one of all-time favorite resources for learning how a child’s brain develops, how our parent/child attachment styles impact our adult relationships and how we can transform all the chaos is our bodies and brains to an integrated, more healthy approach to life’s challenges. Any YouTube video featuring Dr. Siegel is sure to enlighten and inform.

Dr. Andrew Huberman is my “go to” resource for all things neuroscience. He offers deep dives into so many diverse topics in this ever evolving field of research on his Huberman Lab podcasts. For smaller doses of his worthy insights, check him out on YouTube where he offers bite-sized segments from his in-depth podcasts.

This episode is definitely worthwhile for parents especially — but as always, we have to put our oxygen mask on first…so learning this information for ourselves and then applying it to our parenting skills is invaluable.

Check it out: The Science of Emotions and Relationships:

When I suggest a groundbreaking parenting book, I love the added benefit that comes with it — the opportunity for us adults to revisit our childhoods through the lens of more knowledge that comes from both the book and our own lived experiences. This is hindsight infused with real life experiences and new, improved skills and learnings. My deep dive into personal growth brought me to parenting time and again.

Living BIG

I recall standing in the kitchen listening to my partner once again ask me to give him the benefit of the doubt. At the time I was impossibly confused by this. It seemed to me that we’d been having the same issue repeating itself over and over but never breaking out of the pattern. As I reflect back on these moments, I’ve come to realize that all along he was really wishing to “show up” a little differently than he actually did. He was asking me to believe that. The problem was that wishful thinking alone was not going to get the job done.

Neither of us possessed the tools we needed to move past this relationship obstacle and into something healthier and more productive. We were in a relationship stalemate. I grew tired and resentful of the same old behavior showing up over and over. My capacity to “believe” that he was trying his best was fading fast. I’m guessing that he interpreted my inability to “believe” as a lack of trust in him.

The definition of “benefit of the doubt” is “the state of accepting something or someone as honest or deserving of trust even though there are doubts.”

It’s pretty obvious now why this became such a conundrum. Relationships are built on trust. Trust gets forged through trial and error. Dr. Dan Siegel teaches us that “rupture and repair” is the gorilla glue for our most trusting relationships. We can only get to repair, when we accept accountability for our behaviors and make amends. That important step was missing. Instead, I’d get a sheepish grin and a plea to give him the benefit of the doubt. What I wish I knew then that I know now is that what we both needed were better relationship and life skills. We needed tools not wishful thinking and false hope.

It is not surprising that so many of us go through life with more obstacles than necessary. If we weren’t taught healthy relationship skills and given tools to help us navigate difficulties, then all we really have are armor, behavior patterns and conditioning. Is it any wonder that we can see our three year old selves reflected in some of the ways we show up when we are 30, 40 or even older?

In a recent two part Unlocking Us podcast, Brene Brown and her sister, Ashley, took a deep dive into what it means to live BIG. That conversation became an impactful pivot point for understanding the importance of giving people tools rather than the benefit of the doubt. When we are able to live BIG, we are able to be generous in our beliefs that others are really doing the best they can. The transformational distinction is that we hold boundaries and stay within our integrity.

Let that sink in.

From personal experience, I can assure you without boundaries we can fall way out of our integrity in a heartbeat. When that happens, it is almost like an out of body experience, and suddenly we are behaving in ways that are not at all who we wish to be and who we really are. Without self awareness and quality life tools, we will find ourselves on a familiar but uncomfortable emotional roller coaster. We can be awash in shame and guilt, feel threatened, defensive and embarrassed. We simply cannot make our best decisions — or amends — while we are riding this out.

Yet this is exactly how many of us are unconsciously operating in our most treasured relationships. We get upset with each other and we each go into different roles than we are hoping each other will actually show up with — an emotional vortex that only complicates a solvable issue.

Brene Brown offers living BIG as a tool we can use to help us stay true to ourselves and operate from a genuine belief that others are doing the best they can. BIG stands for Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity. Her extensive research has shown that the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried people.

If that seems a little counterintuitive, consider this. Boundaries are very clear directional signs for ourselves and our relationships. When we really know ourselves well, recognize our innate self-worth and practice self compassion, we are very clear about what is good for us and what is not. Boundaries set us up for success. We can use boundaries instead of armor. Both protect us — but boundaries are empowering and proactive. Armor is defensive and does not foster learning and growth.

Few of us learned about healthy boundaries when we were younger. Setting and holding boundaries are invaluable assets for our life skills toolkit.

Compassionate, boundaried people stay grounded in their integrity, their most authentic self. They have a natural insulation from reacting unconsciously and out of character. Boundaries act as the guardrails to keep them in alignment with their core values. It becomes so much easier to navigate hard conversations and big emotions from this more balanced and stable foundation.

In turn, this enables compassionate, boundaried people to be much more generous with their belief that others truly are doing the best they can. Boundaried people who are in alignment with their personal integrity have a greater capacity to stay out of judgment, to see others through the lens of common humanity and to tap into their reservoir of genuine empathy.

It is hard work to unlearn the patterns and behaviors that no longer serve us well, but the reward is hindsight that becomes infused with new information and provides us with wisdom we would otherwise miss.

Compassionate people have often come through some of life’s hardest adversities with an enriched regard for resilience, hope and empathy.

Those who can be generous in believing that people are doing the best they have the capacity to see both positive intent and poor skill sets: “I want to assume the most generous things I can about your thoughts, your actions and your behaviors.”

This is where generosity really shifts us in a new and more constructive way in our relationships with others. Brene offers that the prerequisite for this positive intent is boundaries.

Without boundaries, we are always waiting for something different to happen. We get tired of waiting, get resentful, angry and feel taken for granted. ”

Those people who can set boundaries for themselves are very clear about what behaviors are acceptable and what is not acceptable. Boundaries keep us out of judgment, resentment, disappointment and exhaustion. It transforms our lives, not someone else’s. This is the transformational pivot.

So often, the reality is that others are in fact doing the best they can. We rarely know another person’s story and life experiences. They may have inherited a lot of bad coping skills or dysfunctional behavioral patters. Perhaps their toolkit for life is completely empty or full of painkillers and bandaids rather than healing aids.

For the record, even those with good intentions can have poor life skills and faulty relationship tools. People pleasers, rescuers and enablers may be certain of a better pathway for others and want to rush in with blueprints and implementation strategies, but this only keeps dysfunctional patterns in play. Neither the rescuer or the rescued will truly benefit from this approach.

The reality is that we are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. All the more reason for us to be invested in developing better relationship skills and a wide array of tools for our life kit.

I often reflect on this quote about teaching a man to fish when I think about all that we are learning about personal growth, emotional literacy, neuroscience, parenting and relationship skills. Too often, we spend a boatload of time fixing problems that keep popping up over and over again, creating misunderstandings, confusion and unnecessary obstacles. We are discovering so many new and improved portals for our personal growth, mental health, personal empowerment and meaningful relationships. Each and every one of us who is working on self improvement is making an impactful difference.


Check out both Parts 1 and 2 of the Living BIG episodes on Unlocking Us Podcast:

Part 2 –

If you are a parent and want to discover how “discipline” is really a “teaching opportunity”, check out this incredible book by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson: No Drama Discipline.

Spoiler alert: boundaries are a big part of the teaching/learning. Teach them young about the value of boundaries!

A Deeper Dive into Empathy

I grew up with the old adage of “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” as my long standing definition of empathy. I was less than 10 years old, when my dad first shared that insight with me. He crafted a story of a beleaguered old man in well worn shoes shuffling down a long dirt road to make his point both meaningful and memorable to me. I remember gazing down at my own shiny black patent leather Mary Jane shoes, feeling both fortunate and humbled.

In my early teens, I began to understand that there was a big distinction between sympathy and empathy. Because of my father’s story, I could literally feel the difference between the two. Sympathy was listening to that story of the beleaguered old man and pitying him for his plight. Empathy was hearing that story and recalling how it felt to me when I was wearing hand me down shoes on a long walk to my first day in a brand new school.

Once I could really feel that distinction in my bones, it became the compass I would use when listening to someone sharing their stories with me. One thing I knew for sure from my own life experiences, was how it felt to be pitied vs. how it felt to be understood. Pity felt awful; it only made my situation feel even worse. Being understood felt comforting and reassured me that I was not alone. Big Big distinction.

Even though I knew how the distinction between empathy and sympathy felt, I had not yet cultivated enough awareness and knowledge to fully comprehend how my “empathetic” responses to others still had a long way to go. I was operating on these simple definitions of the two:

empathy the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

sympathyfeeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune

Furthermore, I was limited in my ability to be genuinely empathic with other people because of my lack of awareness. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

The above image and quote was posted by Brene Brown on her Facebook page on October 31st, 2017. It symbolizes the lesson my dad instilled in me about empathy: Tap into our own experiences, recall the emotions and use both the somatic and intellectual memories to “plug in” to someone else’s current situation. Walk a mile in their shoes. Recollect how it felt when you were in a similar emotional state.

The compassion component almost always triggered me to want to offer exactly what I had hoped to get in that past painful experience. I’ve come to understand that offering what I wanted back then was NOT at all helpful to another. This is where we can fall into the pitfall of “fixing, rescuing and disempowering” others. We have to ask what support looks and feels like for another person.

So here’s the plot twist – too often when we “tap in” to our own experiences, we unconsciously get hijacked by our brain, which pulls our attention back onto ourselves and can even recreate bodily sensations from that old memory that feel very real in the present moment. Our own brains and bodies could automatically go on high alert. Understandably, it is really hard to turn our full attention to another person when we are doing our best not to get sidetracked by our own false alarms.

Last year when Brene Brown released her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, she confided that she’d gained new insights that caused her to update some of her prior findings, especially around empathy and being good stewards of others’ stories. This is exactly what ongoing research is supposed to do for us. It is also why it is of critical importance for us personally to be updating our former base of knowledge and beliefs.

It is now December 2022 and Brene Brown has unearthed more discoveries about empathy that breaks wide open our understanding of its profound potential –AND what gets in the way of cultivating it. This deeper dive into empathy reveals that it is not a singular skill; it is a collection of skill sets:

Let’s start with the first skill set of “perspective taking”.

As Brene details so clearly in Atlas of the Heart, many emotions show up in very similar fashion. This may lead us to”misdiagnose” what another person might be feeling. What we might take as anger could really be fear. What looks like confusion or flustered could be overwhelm. If we assume that a person is having the same emotion we would have in those circumstances, and what we witness seems to confirm our assumption, we are off to the races — and on the wrong track!

The biggest challenge of perspective taking is being aware of the lens we are using:

“The first step in real empathy is understanding that the lens I use, the lens through which I see the world, is soldered to my head. I can’t take it off and pick up your lens, ” Brene Brown, in her Dare to Lead Podcast (Building Brave Spaces — November 17, 2022)

For the record, this understanding about the lens we each possess (soldered to our heads and hearts) should make it very apparent that there is no way we could really “walk a mile in another’s shoes” and have a similar experience. All of our history, prior experiences, emotions and consequences are baked into our personal lens. We cannot transfer all that supporting data through a simple viewfinder.

As an example, my brother and I are only 4 years apart, yet our experiences and memories of our childhood are dramatically different. We’ve often laughed about our vastly different perspectives wondering aloud if we actually lived in the same family. If we zoomed out and began to look at our other family members, we become acutely aware of just how differently everyone was experiencing the world — even though from the outside looking in, we all seemed to be living the same kind of life.

The second skill set in the empathy collection is: “staying out of judgment”

This one builds on perspective taking. Having an awareness that someone else’s lens is different than our own should act as a signal to move from judgment to curiosity.

We judge based on our own experiences, circumstances, emotions and expectations. It is unfair and unhelpful to judge others through the lens of our life, our options, our support systems, our challenges. Unfortunately we unconsciously judge from the get go — and that gets in the way of us being able to listen with the intention of understanding someone else’s perspective and experience.

Brene offers that when we are staying out of judgment, we have to be able to hear someone’s story and believe them — even when their story does not reflect our experiences of the world, or our lived experiences. AND….We have to believe them even when believing them is painful and holds us accountable in some way for hurt.

That “painful and accountable” piece triggers our innate human nature to want to avoid hearing that we’ve hurt someone — and our struggle to deal with pain without causing more pain and hurt. Too often, we show up with a lot of emotional reactivity unaware that we are self-protecting, distancing or dismissing other’s emotional pain. It becomes a dizzying merry-go-round of hurting each other.

Some of the biggest chasms in relationships stem from the fact that judgment destroys trust and our ability to feel safe. If there is a long standing personal history of not being believed when we share our stories, we will not feel safe and valued. We stop sharing; the pain and the stories get buried alive. Nothing gets resolved. This is a major cause of estrangements in families and it is a prevailing factor in multi-generational patterns of dysfunctional behavior.

Just imagine the seismic shift that could occur if we could master the skill of staying out of judgment. Rather than eroding trust and safety, we would shift to opening up to learning; learning to understand and to believe another’s true story.

Staying out of judgment avoids the chasm; it builds a bridge.

Skill set number 3 in the empathy collection is: Emotional Granularity

The definition of emotional granularity is the ability to put feelings into words with a high degree of specificity and precision. This boils down to being able to accurately express a core emotion and add more context to it by describing other accompanying emotions. Instead of simply stating we are mad, we can add more context by acknowledging that we are also disappointed, frustrated and tired.

Emotional Granularity really drives home the point that “the difference is in the details.” Having all this extra information is so helpful when we are trying to really understand how someone else is feeling in the moment. Better yet, it more clearly illuminates the real problem. Mad is an umbrella emotion…. We need the context to get at what is causing anger. Anger is a warning signal, a cue to pay attention to something important to us.

A key discovery that Brene and her team made when doing research for Atlas of the Heart was that the majority of us identify just three main emotions: happy, sad or angry. Imagine how hard it is for us to cultivate emotional granularity if we have such a limited emotional vocabulary and are not even aware that we are experiencing several emotions at once.

The problem gets compounded when we learn that so many emotions present in the same way, but are quite different from each other. There is yet another caveat that can cause a lot of stumbling blocks — the messaging we received in childhood about emotions. Were we told to get over them, that some emotions were acceptable to show and others were not, or that some emotions would make us appear weak, or maybe too aggressive? Few of us were taught healthy and productive emotional skills in childhood. There are gender stereotypes baked into our perception of emotions, resulting in labels that shut down the opportunity to process and learn from our emotions. Let’s face it, most of us have a lot of emotional baggage that needs to be purged.

Is it any wonder that we get gridlocked when we are trying to understand our own emotional landscape let alone anyone else’s.

Here is why emotional granularity is so relevant:

Language is the portal to meaning-making, connection, healing, learning and self-awareness. If we lack the language to share what we are experiencing, our ability to make sense of what’s happening and share it with others becomes severely limited. Without accurate language, we struggle to get the help we need, we don’t always regulate or manage our emotions and experiences that allows us to move them them productively, and our self awareness is diminished. Language shows us that naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it give us the power of understanding and meaning. –Atlas of the Heart, Introduction

In Atlas of the Heart, Brene offers us an incredible reference book that identifies and details 87 emotions and experiences. It is a phenomenal resource for cultivating emotional granularity.

I have read Atlas of the Heart twice. The first time I read it, I could barely put it down. I scribbled in the margins, had brightly color coded post it notes on nearly every page and lengthy conversations with my book club about each chapter. The second time, I journaled my way through it. It was cathartic to be able to go back and revisit past experiences with an expanded emotional vocabulary — and yes, emotional granularity. I gained a lot of clarity and revelations about situations that I’d struggled to fully process previously. It became crystal clear to me that accurate emotional language is healing; it helps us get to know ourselves better than ever; and in turn, we become better attuned to other’s complex, nuanced emotions.

It is teasing apart all the accompanying emotions that help us get “granular. The details are chock full of valuable information about needs, values, vulnerabilities. It helps us make discoveries we would have never unearthed without the nuance. We can articulate more clearly what we need – and we can listen more attentively to others’ needs.

Cultivating emotional granularity for our own experiences becomes the gateway to a deeper understanding of what other’s might be feeling – even if they themselves do not yet possess this skill. We can help each other by role modeling this skill set — adding context to our own emotions when we are sharing with our feelings.

Skill set number 4 – Emotional Literacy

Emotional literacy is the ability to recognize our own feelings, understand how they are informing us, and to be able to manage our responses to them.

This skill is cultivated through self-awareness; paying attention to how our emotions feel in our body, what our normal reactions are to those emotions and how we then respond.

So often we go through this process quickly, unconsciously and very reactively when big emotions hit us.

Becoming more self-aware helps us recognize our unconscious patterns of behavior. Armed with this information, we can develop more skillful responses to our own emotions. We can also become more attuned to and supportive of others’ emotional reactions.

Meditation is a great tool for developing more self-awareness and to recognize how easily we get attached to thoughts and emotions in predictable ways.

The better we know ourselves and the more expanded our emotional vocabulary is, the greater success we will have in untangling ourselves from emotional triggers and old reactive patterns of behavior. This in turn will lead us naturally to be able to handle our emotions more maturely, with less drama and cloud cover.

As we get more skillful at responding in clear and healthy ways, we also gain the ability to not get so attached to strong emotions that others emit. This is a game-changer because we co-regulate each other. And emotions are very contagious and sticky. Just recall how your body reacts when you hear an angry conversation. Even if you aren’t actively engaged in that conversation, chemicals are released in your brain and can set off a chain reaction in both body and brain. This is how we get “hooked”, “triggered” and “on board”. We can go from calm to frenzied in a split second.

I like the term that Brene uses here; emotional literacy invites us to be graceful and self compassionate as we hone this skill of recognizing, understanding and responding to our own emotions. It is not some innate “intelligence” that gets us to this place of being able to process our emotions in a meaningful way and respond more skillfully, it is a practice.

The springboard for this practice is self-awareness. The more self aware we are, the better we are able to discover the unconscious ways we operate on auto-pilot. Imagine a self driving car with an operating system that was programmed by a child. Now you have a good image of what all our unconscious patterning is doing for us as adults.

Begin a committed practice to emotional literacy. I can personally attest that it will dramatically improve your life and your relationships.

Skill set number 5 – Mindfulness

Mindfulness magazine launched its first issue in the spring of 2013. Here we are ten years later and now mindfulness has become “mainstream”. We see it everywhere — on magazines at the grocery store, popular books, podcast, social media, mental health resources and counseling. What was once perceived as sitting on a cushion with legs crossed and “zenning out” without a thought in our heads has been completely dispelled.

Mindfulness is being aware that we have both internal and external distractions bombarding us at all times. The skill we develop through mindfulness is proactively choosing where to focus our attention.

Sounds simple, right? We all know it is not.

The reality is that our attention has become a marketable commodity. Click bait. Every time you realize that you have been mindlessly scrolling through social media for 20 minutes, that is a moment of awareness. A chance to practice being mindful.

Just use the term “click bait” to label all the times you become “aware” that your mind is racing, or you’ve driven your child to school and don’t remember stopping for traffic lights, or you’ve burnt the bacon, had to rewind the podcast because you missed something, were staring at your phone while out to lunch with friends. Catch yourself when you are listening to a friend, but have time-traveled to a similar experience you had and are watching that replay in your mind instead of hearing her story.

Brene Brown has included mindfulness in the empathy collection for valid reason. Mindfulness is paying attention to where we are paying attention. In every single one of the prior 4 skill sets you will need “mindfulness” as the underpinning.

Being mindful that perspective taking requires us to not view another’s situation through our own lens that is soldered to our heads.

Being mindful, and fully present, in order to stay in non-judgment. Be open to accepting another’s truth, even when it is so different from our own.

Being mindful and in touch with emotional granularity. Recognizing that there will be more than one umbrella emotion in play when we are listening to understand.

Being mindful and keenly self aware of our own emotional landscape so that we stay grounded and respond from our values.

Mindfulness requires training and practice. While it seems too hard and we prefer to dismiss it as unnecessary, it really is irrefutable. Do you want a distracted surgeon performing your life-saving operation? Do you want a distracted bus driver at the wheel of your children’s school bus? Do you see distracted parents at the playground who miss their child’s joy or scary fall? Do you witness people on the street staring at their phones and nearly getting hit by a car? We have a growing epidemic of attention deficit. Mindfulness is the anecdote.

Simply put, mindfulness is paying attention to where we are paying attention. It is a simple concept that requires a disciplined practice. It is more than worth the effort. And here’s a word of encouragement: the more we hone this skill through committed daily practice, the more it easily shows up in our day to day life.

Wrap Up:

For several years, empathy has been top of mind for me. I was deeply moved by both the impact and the consequences of empathy after reading Born for Love by Dr. Bruce Perry, published in 2010. At the time, Dr. Perry was sounding the alarm about our collective empathy poverty. His research and his advocacy is deeply rooted in what happens in our bodies and brains in infancy and early childhood. He was witnessing firsthand in his patients and research how a lack of empathy was the root cause of dysfunctional emotional development issues in the early stages of life, and how lack of empathy was predisposing us to only compound emotional and mental health issues. It became very evident to me that we needed a comprehensive overhaul of the way we meet our children’s emotional needs with compassionate consistency — and that we need to learn and teach healthy emotional skill sets. Our collective mental health is at stake.

Brene Brown recently described empathy as being in the zeitgeist right now — in the moment, year end 2022. Twelve years after Dr. Bruce Perry sounded the alarm and we all hit the snooze button. Everything he predicted in his book has become our reality on steroids.

What is a zeitgeist? The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Brene says that the need for empathy is showing up everywhere in our collective landscape from family to community to workplace and politics. I too have witnessed the subject of empathy showing up in all of the resources that I steep myself in — from personal growth to mental health, neuroscience and education, coaching and counseling, internal family systems, activism, self compassion and meditation. All modalities for improving our overall quality of life have been incorporating empathy into their teachings.

Empathy is now in the zeitgeist of this moment in our collective history. How exciting is that? Empathy can become the pivot point for a fresh start in the right direction and will have a dramatic positive impact for future generations.

It is my fervent hope that the insights I’m sharing in these blog posts will be helpful for those who want to participate in meaningful change for themselves, their families and for the greater good.


Who had a set of encyclopedias in their home as a kid? Who remembers getting the annual update each year and excitedly paged through it looking for all the new things we’d learn that made an old section obsolete?

Welcome to a reference book for emotions and experiences — 87 of them! Atlas of the Heart is a beautiful coffee table style book that will be used for conversations with spouses, with kids, with friends and family.

And I am confident, Brene will continue to update us as her research evolves.

Check out this recent episode on Dare to Lead: Building Brave Spaces

Sometimes it is just easier to relate to the power of a skill set like empathy when you hear the stories….

This book will introduce you to the incredible value of paying attention….in a relatable way that will captivate you. Dr Jha offers a 12 minute daily meditation practice at the end of the book to jumpstart your new habit.

Psychology Today Magazine:

Master Your Feelings with New Tools Inspired by Neuroscience (article published online 2019)

Check out this timely episode of the Being Well Podcast with Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson –Responding to Criticism & Accepting the Way Things Are

This episode of the Being Well Podcast has very relatable stories that are prime examples of real life situations where we can learn to be more empathetic — with ourselves and others. Such a great conversation.

Deconstructing Patience

Years ago, I was told by a family counselor that I was “too patient”. Admittedly, that really threw me for a loop. “Too patient” — was that even a thing?

You see, my generation grew up being told that patience was a virtue and the definition of a virtue is: behavior showing high moral standards. Back in the day, being patient as a child mean being quiet and well behaved. I can chuckle now in hindsight with greater awareness that our youthful “patience” was really a test of will power — and a fear of the consequences if we failed. It had very little to do with high moral standards.

That counselor’s insight led me to reflect on my relationship with patience. I’d always been proud of being such a patient person, but I began to unpack all the ways that having too much patience might be causing some problems.

The tap root of my relationship with patience was silence. I’d developed a very common strategy of hiding and stuffing my emotions as a child. Better to be quiet than to give voice to what I was feeling. There were severe consequences for emotional outbursts and there were words of praise for keeping it together. So this strategy was reinforced time and again as the working model for success. I constructed a framework for my understanding of patience with a foundation of silence.

This is how the stratification of our childhood patterns begins. My motivation was to avoid negative consequences and keep the peace. This is not how to teach children about values and high moral standards. But my parents’ generation did not know better and was simply perpetuating the old Freudian practices of child-rearing.

As the oldest sister with two feisty younger brothers, I often felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect them. I wanted to protect them from not having patience and I wanted to ensure overall family harmony. A nearly impossible challenge for an 8 year old old. Not only that, my brothers were developing strategies of their own quite different from mine. In fact, I’m pretty confident that my youngest brother employed the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” strategy which he fueled with unchecked, tsunami sized emotions and outlandish behaviors. Attempting to achieve any sustainable peace was like herding cats.

It’s only been with a lot of reflection that I can see now how yet another strategy became part of my framework for patience. I began to put other’s needs ahead of my own. The sacrifice seemed noble when I was young. But it created a big disconnect for me over the years as I lost touch with what was most important for me. As a steadfast harmonizer, my motivation turned to keeping the peace and avoiding conflict. I barely spent any time giving consideration to what I truly needed to foster my talents, to feel safe and to explore my potential.

There was yet another discovery as I deconstructed what patience actually looked and felt like to me — I became a control freak.

Yikes…I did not like facing this truth.

While it was wrapped up in good intentions, my need to “control” the situation was masked as helpful, supportive and even kind. I’d swoop in without being asked to fix, resolve and correct anything for anybody. The sooner a crisis was resolved, the safer I felt. I rarely took the time to consider that what I was doing was overriding what someone else really needed or wanted.

When I was younger, this part of me felt like I was some sort of incredible fairy, possessing a magic wand and skipping merrily into chaos and shifting dark energy to glittery light and sugary joy. As an adult, I altered the image to be more realistic — a competent problem solver or organizer. True confession, I still held tight to the image of a magic wand. I just didn’t show it to anyone.

What I have learned about the unhealthy part of being an avid helper is that inadvertently we are robbing others of their agency, their growth spurts and their consequences. We aren’t helping at all – just overstepping our bounds – and dismissing the needs and desires of others.

Let’s take a step back and look at what I have unpacked about my concept of patience which I developed in childhood and carried into my adult life, mostly unconsciously. These were my blind spots:

I learned to be silent. I did not express my emotions externally and I did not process my emotions internally. I hoarded them. This lead to a many layers of unprocessed emotions and a lot of confusion in my heart and mind.

I became a harmonizing people pleaser and disconnected from an important aspect of myself — my own true needs. Brene Brown writes about how we hustle for validation of our worthiness. I was trying to find that sense of love and belonging by “doing” rather than “being”. I’d wear myself out to the point of exhaustion helping others and forget to take care of myself. The biggest discovery was that this became the root cause of my tug of war with resentment. So much internal conflict between wanting to help others and feeling resentful for not being appreciated or reciprocated.

My gift of being a helper got clouded and I became a controller. I rarely asked for help I truly needed. Pride got the best of me — I had to prove I could handle anything on my own but deep inside I was crushed that no one was reciprocating all the help I’d given. I hid my own vulnerabilities. Brene Brown has emphasized that vulnerability is the birthplace of connection, trust, love and belonging. By hiding my vulnerability, I disconnected myself from my own self-worth and from the stronger, lasting connections that were possible with others when we let our guard down and lead with empathy. We are not here to fix or rescue. We are here to support, encourage and witness each other’s journey.

Deconstructing patience was a meaningful exercise for me and it totally transformed my framework for this quality that I still find worthwhile. In fact, I value my patience today more than ever because the framework and the components of it have shifted. This pivot came from close examination of “motivation”.

I found the enneagram to be an incredibly useful tool for this work. Beatrice Chestnut, author of the Complete Enneagram, describes it as a personal owner’s manual for how we make sense of life. So many of our concepts, beliefs and narratives about who we are were formed in childhood. Our “motivations” in childhood are to make sense of the families and the world we live in. We develop coping strategies and use stories to get our needs met. Our core motivations in childhood pre-dispose us to construct frameworks we carry with us into our adult lives. But the big caveat is that our motivations change as we mature, as does our environment, our autonomy and agency. We often enter adulthood eager to change a lot of things but we use the old framework to build the new…..and we end up re-creating the past.

If I was operating on an old framework of patience that included being silent, not processing emotions as they occurred, not honoring my own needs, over-helping and controlling others, then I could be assured that my being “too patient” was the root cause of so much of my own internal unhappiness.

The starting point was redefining my motivation for cultivating patience.

I wanted to feel calm and grounded regardless of what was going on around me. As an adult, I knew that I cannot control how others react or respond in any given moment. What I can control is me and my responses.

I wanted to feel a strong unwavering self-worth. How I feel about me, my gifts, my contribution to others has to come from within. This required unabashed acceptance, self-compassion and a recommitment to my own self-confidence in my core values and a big nod to the fact that I too have needs.

I wanted to be a compassionate, empathic teacher/inspirer/role model for others. No more fixing or rescuing. Much more listening, holding space and asking questions only others could answer for themselves.

Revisiting my core motivations and upgrading them to be in alignment with the vision of the adult I’d always hoped to be was just the catalyst I need to tear down the old framework and rebuild with my new and improved definition of patience.

The “too patient” framework was unhealthy, full of insecurities and flawed coping strategies. The healthy and empowering framework for my patience has a strong foundation of grounded confidence. The scaffolding of my patience framework is a steady work in progress, flexible and resilient, and always evolving. I am no longer silent; I have found my voice and more discernment about when and how to use it. I know myself better and honor my own emotions, set boundaries and am clear about my needs and my values. I heed resentment if I start to feel it — it’s my warning light that I might be overstepping my boundaries in the helping department. I have replaced “let me do that for you” with “what does support or help look like for you?”

I’d like to think that deconstruction of the old “too patient” framework has been a Goldilocks process for me — and that I have moved to the “just right” place to be with my core value of healthy patience.

The biggest and most rewarding benefit to this entire process of deconstructing our old frameworks of motivation and values has been to witness how parenting is evolving. Children are being taught patience in a whole new way. Mindful parents are proactively teaching their children emotional agility and self control in empowering, healthy new ways. No more dismissing or stuffing a child’s emotions. It takes only a few minutes to help a child name and honor what they are feeling. Parents are helping children make better choices once they are somewhat disengaged from big, strong emotional tugs. Children are learning that they are not defined by their big emotions or their ever-changing behavioral patterns, they are actually learning from them.

The big pivot in changing how we parent and grandparent with emotional agility, healthy patience and greater self-awareness is that our children will get a consistent, supportive framework for who they are, what their natural talents and gifts are, and toolkit of healthy tools for navigating friendships, family and life.


This conversation with Andrew Chapman, psychotherapist and meditation teacher is so worthwhile if you want to learn how the enneagram can support your self awareness and self observation skills.

CHECK OUT THIS 11/17/2022 EPISODE: Unlocked: Mindfulness and the Enneagram

Here are two of my favorite books for reading more about each of the nine types of the enneagram. Such insightful guides for understanding what our core motivations are in life:

Greater Good Magazine: Four Reasons to Cultivate Patience

The Power of Visual Images

Some of the most effective tools for developing better ways to navigate life are visual images. If we can link a strong mental image to the pause we take before we respond to a situation, it can become a meaningful springboard to our desired new habit. Using visual image cues can foster the improved life skills we want to incorporate into our relationships and daily lives.

When I find myself in the midst of a hard conversation, a tough decision, or simply a lot of stimulation overwhelm, I recall an image given by a beloved yoga instructor twenty years ago. “Plant your feet firmly on the ground and imagine roots growing right into the ground, anchoring you,” she offered.

There is something very powerful about this visual image, of being firmly planted on solid ground, with small roots stretching out, stabilizing us and our emotions, just long enough to slow our heart rate and feel anchored to our core values.

As we pause to feel our feet on the ground and focus briefly on the feeling of little roots anchoring us, we are giving ourselves a needed break, a boost of self confidence and a mini-reset to respond to a situation with more skill, clarity and kindness.

Brene Brown teaches us that “Clear is Kind”. This often means stating clearly what we wish to convey without a lot of strong emotion taking center stage. Too often it is our strong emotions that speak the loudest. This feet firmly planted image can serve as our cue card to strive to be calm and collected in the midst of hard things.

“If even one person on the boat stayed calm, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone.” This quote from Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn provides a powerful visual image for how we co-regulate each other — and the tremendous positive impact it can have when we are in the midst of a shared experience that might be scary, full of uncertainty, and chock full of a wide range of big emotions.

In emotionally turbulent times, if we pause and link this visual image of being the calm one in a boat full of people in rough seas, it supports our ability to switch from our default sympathetic nervous system to our mammalian care system. Rather than adding to the distress of the situation by automatically — and all too quickly – tapping into that part of our nervous system that houses our “threat-defense response”, we can override that option. It does take some will power, but if we care about the people in the same boat with us, we are more easily able to lean into the “tend and befriend” mammalian mode. The shortest path to calming down a tense situation, is to lead with caring calmness. Rather than “rocking the boat”, we can pivot to “being the ballast.”

Watch a parent soothe a child who has been frightened, and you will get a master class in how to switch from auto pilot to captain calm. Remember the key here is that we human beings co-regulate each other. Remaining calm in high stress situations is a super power.

Eckhart Tolle, renowned self discovery author, teaches us that what we fight, we strengthen and what we resist, persists.

When we find ourselves in resistance mode, the visual image of a gentle open hand, palm up and holding something lightly, can serve as a powerful reminder to do a check in.

What are we resisting and can we relax into it? Can we hold our strong opinions or perspectives lightly? Being willing to accept new ideas, change our minds, and let go of our need to control the outcome is all part of a healthy growth mindset.

The mental visual image of holding something lightly in the palm of our hands tends to relax us and opens us up to a fresh perspective. We pivot from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We “open up” to the truth that we can be learning rather than resisting.

The iceberg visual is a powerful awareness cultivator; especially if we are working on developing a greater “other” awareness.

When we are interacting with another person, our natural tendency is to put their emotions and reactions through the same filter we have. We can find ourselves judging, criticizing and comparing. Yet the reality is that we have no idea what is really going on under the surface for anyone. Yes, even for our own partners, children, and friends.

Brene Brown has spent decades teaching us about how our 87+ emotions and experiences get threaded into all of our personal history. Each and every one of us will process and react to a similar experience using our filters that are as unique as our fingerprints. The result may vary.

If we find ourselves thinking someone is too sensitive, too difficult, too much — it is wise to imagine the iceberg and take a moment to be curious about what lies under the surface. Learning how to be more self-compassionate as Kristin Neff teaches enhances our “other” awareness in meaningful ways.

Linking the image of the iceberg can shift us from judgment to curiosity. Perhaps if we met that person with more compassion, a smile or a random act of kindness, we might discover our first assumption was all wrong. Trade judgment for curiosity — it helps all of us navigate more easily with our submerged parts.

In summary:

The old adage – “a picture is worth a thousand words” is really true for personal growth work. Strong visual images are remarkable tools for shifting us from unconsciously reacting to life the same old way everyday. We disrupt old habitual patterns embedded in our brains when we disrupt our normal routines. Imagine the transformational impacts that just 3 – 5 visual image moments can make over the course of a week in our daily lives.


Check out this recent episode of Sharon McMahon’s dynamic podcast series: Persuaders are Meaning Makers with author Anand Giridharadas. Rest assured, you will be enlightened in a whole new way by the end of it.

Listen to this 20 minute YouTube episode with the remarkable Malcolm Gladwell. If you have read his book, Talking to Strangers, then you already are aware of how often we let the stuff in our submerged iceberg override updated information we have actually gained.

Krisin Neff’s body of work in the area of Self Compassion has become a cornerstone of psychology, neuroscience, mental health and personal growth modalities. This book will become an invaluable resource for improving your quality of life, your parenting skills, and your relationship skills. It’s the sort of book you will refer to time and again over the course of a lifetime.