Stories by tian dayton PhD on Medium

Stories by tian dayton PhD on Medium

Love the conceptual side of this thinking….and

Posted: September 13, 2018, 10:53 pm

Love the conceptual side of this thinking….and the practical tool for playing/experimentation…am buying for my architect daughter and grandkids….

Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood…

Posted: August 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood Experiences and/or Trauma

Got one or more of these? Keep reading……

Everyone knows about stress. We work too hard, play too hard and sleep too little. We’ve got too many balls in the air and ignore self care. No me time, no down time. The result we’re stressed out! And everything suffers, our mood, our health, our work….to say nothing of everyone around us. Small problems feel bigger and our reactions to anything from waiting in a grocery line to how we are with our partners and kids are out of whack.

For this kind of stress there are many solutions out there; shift priorities, get more rest, sleep and downtime, exercise, eat better, drink less and pay some attention to more mindful living.

But what about when the stress is emotional, when the stress is not a result of normal life stressors that get handled in normal life ways, but it stems from growing up with parental addiction, neglect, abuse or neglect? What role do our emotions, past present and future play in our stress cycle then, and what’s the fix for that?

As a psychologist I am aware that we still haven’t adequately wrapped our minds around this subject. There’s a saying in twelve step programs, “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical” meaning that if your reaction to any given stressor is way bigger that the present day circumstance warrants, there is some past, unresolved pain that’s likely driving it.

There was an excellent study done called the ACE study. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have a long term impact on both physical and mental health. Originally researchers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)and Kaiser Permante were simply looking at what factors drove health care costs up; what made people go to the doctor more often and make claims on their insurance? Well it turns out that growing up with emotionally and psychologically painful experiences were one of the strongest predictor of health problems later in life, hence the coining of the term ACE factors. And ACEs tend to cluster; “once a home environment is disordered, the risk of witnessing or experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse actually rises dramatically”, says Rob Anda lead researcher on the study from the CDC.

Painful childhood experiences that don’t get handled at the time or near the time they occur can morph into what Harvard researchers call toxic or chronic emotional pain and can impact all health issues across the board, physical and mental and…… you guessed it….. they increase the number of visits to the doctor and health care costs sky rocket. And here’s a key point, although they are emotional issues they read in the body as physical ailments, anything from chronic back problems, gastrointestinal issues, heart problems etc. In other owrds, what may have started out as “all in your head” has worked it’s way into the muscles and organs of your body. What happens in your feelings not only impacts your moods, it impacts your health.

Amazingly it is only in the last few years that mental illness and addiction became reimbursable thanks to the Affordable Care Act passed by congress in 2008 which included mental health parity. Until then there was little or no insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorders and we were still insisting that the brain/mind and body were totally separate entities; that what went on in your mind had nothing to do with your physical well being. Big mistake, as it turns out that what goes on in your growing up years and throughout your life emotionally and psychologically has everything to do with your state of health and your….yes…doctor visits.

Emotional stress then is the kind of stress that impacts how you feel about yourself, your relationships, your life and your future. It’s pressure from within and the kind we’re talking about here is the kind that is unconscious enough, intense and chronic enough so that it surfaces in your body. Deep emotional stress can be experienced as anxiety, depression, hyper-vigilance, intense emotional reactions, shutdown or withdrawn and of course PTSD, to name a few. It is not grief, rather I’d say it is the absence of grief where grief was needed.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2015). “the toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity — such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship — without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.”

This notion of “adequate adult support” is a big one here. Were there adults in a child’s world who they could turn to for comfort, reassurance and stability in times of stress or were those adults so preoccupied with their own problems that the child was left to try to comfort themselves with little or no help from the grown-ups around them? And to take that point even one step further, were the adults in that child’s world the ones who were actually causing the stress; as is the case when there is parental abuse, neglect, addiction, absence or mental illness? In this case kids are at a double risk. Not only are they being hurt but the people they’d normally turn to find their way out of pain and stress, to normalize it and explain to them what’s going on, but the adults in their lives are the ones creating it. So this kind of stress can become chronic and toxic. And we may not be able, without the help of a caring adult, to process it, learn and grow from experience and develop resilience. Some kids can but when you scratch the surface they usually got some kind of help. Or had an unusual and inborn ability to turn even a TV show into a sense of positive direction and normalcy, “God bless the child who’s got his own!”

But the cardinal finding in virtually all research on resilience is that resilient kids have at least one adult who cares about them, who they can turn to on a consistent basis for support and a sense of safety, someone who values them and wants the best for them. Someone who can help them learn how to mobilize the supports in their world so that they can summon the inner strength and self-valuing to soldier ahead.

Wong and Wong in their research on resilience identify at least three prototypical patterns that resilient people appear to display, which may occur in different contexts for different individuals. These are developed as individuals meet life challenges; they are dynamic, constantly evolving qualities rather than qualities residing only within the individual. They are the ability to:

  1. Recover: To bounce back and return to normal functioning.
  2. Remain Invulnerable: remaining relatively unscathed by the adversity or trauma.
  3. Experience Post-Traumatic Growth: they bounce back and become stronger as a result of overcoming life challenges.

When a child is left to understand what has happened to them that has hurt or even terrified them all by themselves, they come up with the meaning that they are capable of making at the time that they were hurt. Some are more able to bounce back than others, but generally those that thrive have the ability to use the world around them as a resource rather than withdraw from it. Most according to research have help in some form. But if the stress is chronic and emerging in adulthood then it becomes the adult’s responsibility to use the resources that they can find and take responsibility for their own healing.

So What Can YouDo About It?

Here’s where you start:

  • Educate Yourself: Find books and google articles on the subjects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addiction (ACoAs) and trauma. I have two books, Emotional Sobriety (also has a workbook) and The ACoA Trauma Syndrome that will cover the waterfront.
  • Twelve Step Programs: Twelve step programs are free, they offer the kind of support and information that is needed to take further steps, they normalize deep stress because that’s what most people are there to deal with and they are easily accessible. There’s a twelve step program that you can probably fit into if you look and ask around.
  • Consider Therapy; both one-to-one and group, consider psychodrama. Here I’d take advice from those who might also be on this journey, you’ll meet them in twelve step rooms. Go with your gut, it’s important that you have a good connection with your therapist and that you’re comfortable (enough) opening up around them.
  • Exercise: Walking with friends 4x/week is a research based rx for depression. According to studies it is as effective as medication as it gets serotonin going in the blood stream and relationship connection is way up there too as a factor that contributes to health and well being.
  • Nutrition: If you eat food that is throwing your body chemistry into chaos, it will impact you emotionally. So get familiar if you aren’t already with healthy carbs low sugar, veggies, fruit, legumes and healthy meat if you eat it. Enjoy yourself but in a healthy, mindful way.
  • Lean Into Your Spiritual Life: Whether it’s meditation, church, temple, Mosque or twelve step programs, a spiritual life gives you that center and sense of community that’s so important to us humans and there is a lot of meaning and value added as well.
  • Create Down Time: Sleep “knits the raveled sleeve of care” and has for a long time apparently as it’s Shakespeare who said it. Adequate sleep along with rest and downtime mean that you carry so much less stress around throughout your day that it spawned a movement. The mindfulness movement is sweeping the country as people figure out how crucial mindfulness is to happy and productive living.

So it’s progress not perfection, take it a day at a time and remember to enjoy the journey because this is a journey that gets better all the time. No harm in sticking your toe in the water and seeing what’s out there for you that can enhance your life and the lives of those you love.


Anda, R. F., V. J. Felitti, J. Walker, C. L. Whit!eld, J. D. Bremner, B. D. Perry, S. R. Dube, and W. H. Giles. 2006. “The Enduring Effects of Abuse and Related Adverse Experiences in Childhood: A Convergence of Evidence from Neurobiology and Epidemiology.”

Dayton, Tian (2007) Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Dayton, Tian (2016) The ACoA Trauma Syndrome, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Werner, Emmy — Protective Factors and Individual Resilience: Handbook of early intervention, 2000

Wong, P. T. P. & Wong, L. C. J. (2012). A meaning-centered approach to building youth resilience. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 585–617). New York, NY: Routledge.

Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood… was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Golden Moment Map

Posted: July 3, 2018, 4:48 pm

It’s Almost the 4th of July. In honor of our country’s independence and our emphasis on individual freedom, here is an exercise to do that explores a very happy and/or empowering moment in your life.

Here Goes……

Think of a moment in time when you felt just great about yourself and what was going on around you, where life felt easy and filled with pleasure and possibility.Make a little stick figure diagram or map of yourself and then your close relationships at that moment. Include pets and even organizations. If you don’t feel like an artist, use circles to represent women, triangles for men and squares for organizations. If people feel large and distant, reflect that or small and close, overlapped…whatever. Just for you to reflect on.

Sharing About A Golden Moment Map

Share about your golden moment in one of two ways, either reverse roles with yourself at the age you were at the time this golden moment occurred and share from that age, e.g. I am Soledad, I have just gotten a part in the play, my best friend is in it too, and at rehearsal today I remembered all my lines and everyone thought I did a great job!

OR share from the point of view of yourself today, e.g. I am Soledad and it makes me want to tear up to see myself as a kid so happy and whole because I know how things changed for me. But I admire myself as well because…..etc.

Golden Moment Journaling Questions

How does it feel to look at this map today? Share a little about that.

What do you see in yourself in this moment that you feel you might have lost or that you want back?

What resentment towards others are you aware of as you look at this moment?

What gratitude do you feel towards yourself or anyone else on this atom as you look at it trough your eyes of today?

What do you want to say to yourself on this atom knowing what you know today?

Write a Letter From Yourself, to Yourself

Reverse roles with yourself at the time of this atom and write a letter, from that age, as that child or younger self to yourself today.

Write a Letter From Your Adult Self to Your Child Self

From the mature person you are today, write a letter to the happy child within you who feels great about life.

The Trauma Timeline: A Journaling Exercise for Understanding the Impact of Relational Trauma in…

Posted: June 27, 2018, 1:16 pm

The Trauma Timeline: A Journaling Exercise for Understanding the Impact of Relational Trauma in Your Life

“The essence of psychological trauma is the loss of faith that there is order and continuity in life. Trauma occurs when one looses the sense of having a safe place to retreat within or outside of oneself to deal with frightening emotions or experiences.”

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD

Relational trauma can be a confusing issue to deal with, partly because it is cumulative, it is not one incident but many small attitudes, incidents and dynamics that span time. It’s easy to lose track of when something happened, how often it happened or what exactly it was that was painful, particular if the trauma was some form of neglect, emotional abuse or disinterest.Filling in a time line helps to make these issues and dynamics visable. It can also reveal which were significant incidents, which were ongoing dynamics and what periods felt relatively safe and happy.

Next to or within each five-year span write a few words that refer to some thing, some relationship dynamic, or some ongoing situation that you experienced as traumatic. Note: neglect can be traumatic as well as abuse, divorce in the family, addiction, siblings or parents leaving, accidents, hospitalizations, family illness, etc. . . . the idea here is to understand how you experienced it, not whether or not it fits some criteria as to what is formally called trauma.Write in whatever comes to mind in this catagory we’re discussing in the appropriate lines.

0 yrs _________________________________________________________________

5 yrs

___________________________________________________________________10 yrs ___________________________________________________________________15 yrs ___________________________________________________________________20 yrs ___________________________________________________________________25 yrs ___________________________________________________________________30 yrs ___________________________________________________________________35 yrs ___________________________________________________________________40 yrs ___________________________________________________________________45 yrs ___________________________________________________________________50 yrs ___________________________________________________________________55 yrs ___________________________________________________________________60 yrs ___________________________________________________________________65 yrs ___________________________________________________________________70 yrs ___________________________________________________________________75 yrs ___________________________________________________________________80 yrs ___________________________________________________________________85 yrs ___________________________________________________________________90 yrs ___________________________________________________________________95 yrs ___________________________________________________________________100 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

Answer the Following Questions:

What jumps out at you as significant when you look at your timeline?


___________________________________________________________________ What was a particularily difficult period in your life?


___________________________________________________________________What were the silver linings, what were the gifts of trauma?


___________________________________________________________________Were there periods that were relatively easy and good?


___________________________________________________________________What painful relational dynamics from the past are you still living out today?



Inner Child Work: Having an Inner Dialogue

Instructions: “Mentally reverse roles” with yourself anywhere along the Trauma Time Line continuum and write a journal entry speaking “as” that part of self, e.g., “I am Shahara, I am eight years old and I am” or “I am Hank, I am around thirteen and I just . . .” After you have completed your journal entry “answer back” from your “adult role” of today. In other words, begin a journaling dialogue between the two parts, your childhood self and your adult self and allow your adult to help your child or adolescent self learn to talk about your experience rather than hide it from your adult self and allow your adult self to listen to, support, and guide your child self.

CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .


ADULT ROLE: (Answering back to your child self from your adult self)

___________________________________________________________________CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________ADULT ROLE:

___________________________________________________________________CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________ADULT ROLE:


End this exercise by writing a few sentences to yourself as a child from where you are today, what you know now that you didn’t know then.







Process an Emotion On Line: Try a Creative Arts Therapy Approach

Posted: June 9, 2018, 8:57 pm


Emotion Explorer is an interactive site for processing emotions. I designed it to give people a place to go to process an emotion the minute they are feeling it. Emotion Explorer is a creative, interactive site that uses a series of exercises to identify, explore and process feelings. I’m keeping this simple for today, we’re using basically four steps. So sit back and relax, take a few deep breaths and have fun looing more deeply into a feeling!

Step #1

Click on this link and look over the feelings in the circle, take your time and choose a feeling that draws you at this moment.


Now you’re going to refine your search…..

look at the list of sub-feelings that popped up in your circle….do any of these feelings come closer to the feeling you’re experiencing right now? once you have found your feeling……just click on it…….


Next is the mood meter. The mood meter helps you to understand how much or ……
how little you are feeling something so that you can begin to regulate your feeling…..

would you say you’re

experiencing just a little, say 10% of a feeling…? is the feeling in balance for you at say 50%

or are you heading towards an extreme say 85% or 90% and on your way to getting overwhelmed?………grab the meter stick and slide it up or down……


Now ….we’re going to map your feeling…feelings often have memories, sensations, smells, sounds, scenes and situations associated with them….

Write a few words or phrases that refer to or describe your associations…e.g. “a blue patch of sky”, “my grandmother’s house”, “anxious about a test in english”. “sad that I missed so and so”, “a family dinner table”, “shopping with these friends on a sat. afternoon” and so forth…..


You are at a choice point, you can continue through as many exercises as you wish or you can stop now and continue to journal about what you have become aware of so far. If you journal simply begin by saying “I am aware of……” and let the words flow. Do not edit the words in your mind simply let them come out in any way that they come out. This is for your eyes only, no one is going to look at what you write unless you share it, the idea is to allow words to fall onto the paper without controlling them so that your thoughts and feelings pour out freely.


Take a few deep breaths. Take a break if you wish and read what you wrote later or read it now. Is there anything you notice that is a new awareness? Simply be aware of what you have learned, take a few more deep breaths.

Collage Your Mood

Posted: June 7, 2018, 1:12 pm

Feeling creative or like playing around with your mood? Collage it online with this moodcollage tool. Once you have the collage you like, take a screen shot of it and journal about these questions:

  1. Has my mood changed at all through collaging it and if so, in what ways?
  2. Does collaging my mood make it lighter or more conscious and if so what would you say about that?
  3. What parts of my collage pop out to me and why?
  4. What parts do I want to carry forward into my day?
  5. What parts do I want to change?
  6. What is the most positive light in which I can see my collage?

Hope you had fun…..pass it along….

Moodcollage online tool:

Collage Your Mood was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Frozen Tears: Processing Hidden Losses

Posted: May 30, 2018, 11:51 am

Grief is normal, it is a direct result of attachment and love. There is really no one-size-fits-all approach to grief but normal grief tends to follow a pattern whereas complicated or what psychologists refer to as disenfranchised losses, can go underground and truthfully never get processes at all. This is when grief becomes what is referred to as complicated and can block our enjoyment of life and even undermine our ability to be intimate.

Grief over losses that are disenfranchised or out of the normal stream can make us feel out of synch with the world around us, and can undermine a sense of normalcy and dignity. This tends to push pain and resentment downward rather than allowing it to come up and out.

Normal grief has a dignity that allows the griever the freedom to experience her emotions and feel accepted and understood by her surrounding communities.But hidden losses are a different story. Unlike with a loss to death, there is no funeral to acknowledge and honor the loss, no grave to visit, no covered dishes dropped at the door nor sitting in the company of fellow mourners and supporting each other through the tears. These hidden losses live in unmarked graves within people and family systems who often avoid discussing them. The pain becomes covert rather than overt. Processing these losses can allow us to make them real and visit them in the here and now. It provides an alternative form of ritual for the kinds of losses that all too often go unrecognized and unacknowledged.

When the loss begins to evidence symptoms of complication, that is, when a current loss triggers emotional states from previous losses and these triggered emotions leak out in ways that make us feel vulnerable or emerge as inappropriate anger, pain, depression or resentment, we may need to take a deeper look at what might be going on.

A surprisingly large number of life events go un-grieved and thus they become disenfranchised. Some examples of these losses are:

  • The effects of divorce, on spouses, children and the family unit.
  • Dysfunction in the home, loss of comfortable and predictable family life.
  • Addiction, loss of periods of one’s life to using and abusing.
  • Addiction in the home, the loss of a happy home life and the pain of watching a loved on slowly destroy themselves.
  • Loss of the addictive substance or behavior for an addict.
  • Loss of job, health, youth, children in the home, retirement, life transitions (if they trigger other losses or are overwhelming due to difficult circumstances).

If we cannot mourn these types of losses, we may:

  • Stay stuck in anger, pain and resentment.
  • Lose access to important parts of our inner, feeling world.
  • Have trouble engaging in new relationships because we are still actively linked with a person or situation no longer present.
  • Project unfelt, unresolved grief onto any situation, placing those feelings where they do not belong.
  • Lose personal history along with the unmourned person or situation; a part of us dies, too.
  • Carry deep fears of subsequent abandonment.

Grief Self Test

Think of a loss that you wish to explore. Rate your answers to the following questions from one-ten. (the following two exercises are excerpted from Emotional Sobriety Workbook )

1.To what degree do you experience unresolved emotions surrounding this loss?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. How disruptive was this loss to your daily routines?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. How much depression do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. How much yearning do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. How much emotional constriction do you experience?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. How much sadness do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. How much anger do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. How much ghosting (continued psychic presence) of the lost person, situation, or part of self do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9. How much fear of the future do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10. How much trouble are you having organizing yourself?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11. How uninterested in your life do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

12. How much old, unresolved grief is being activated and remembered as a result of this current issue?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

13. How tired do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

14. How much hope do you feel about your life and the future?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

15. How much regret do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

16. How much self-recrimination do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

17. How much shame or embarrassment do you feel?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Stages of the Grief Process

On a separate paper or tablet, write a few phrases or sentences that describe your feelings around each stage as they relate to the grief issue(s) that you are exploring.

  • Numbness and Shut Down (nature’s way of preserving us so that we can function) Describe the feelings that went on hold.
  • Yearning and Searching: Describe the feelings of longing for what was lost.
  • Disorganization and Despair: Describe ways in which your life may feel disorganized by your loss and any feelings of sadness or despair that you may be feeling because of that.
  • Reorganization and Integration: Describe ways in which you feel you are integrating your loss and moving on in your life.
  • Reinvestment: Describe ways in which you are reinvesting the freed up energy in your current life that you have as a result of having grieved.

We grieve because we love or because we’re attached and all of this is simply part of being human.Exploring your feelings around grief, whether it’s normal or disenfranchised grief can come as a great relief. If it makes you feel vulnerable, like taking a nap or doing something that feels soothing, it is working, simply relax and let go, these are just feelings and this too, shall pass.

If you wish to listen to a guided imagery in order to process pain and feel soothed around it, log onto and go to guided imageries. And then do something relaxing, soothing and kind to yourself!

Mothering and Codependency: How to Let Your Child’s Life Be a Catalyst for Your Own Personal Growth

Posted: May 15, 2018, 6:58 pm

Mothering and Codependency: How to Let Your Child’s Life Be a Catalyst for Your Own Personal Growth

If I had diagrammed my family when my children were young, well most any age really, had I been really honest I’d have made myself smaller than anyone else. What I learned through my own ACA/codependency recovery, was that if I kept doing that, I was not in fact serving my children nor myself nor my husband.

Trauma has the effect of shrinking us, we get hurt and we withdraw, we get scared and we shut down, we become emotionally constricted, we’re less present and less spontaneous.

Recovery wakes us up.

Waking up is not a totally smooth process because we’re waking up feelings and thinking that we shut down, maybe as kids or teenagers, because it was too much for us to feel at that time. But waking up eventually allows us to come to life and to recognize that we’re as important as our children and that when we shrink ourselves, we teach them, we model for them, particularily for our daughters, just how to do that when they become adults.

We love our children, so how do we learn to love them in a way that will show them how to love themselves and others; how to take their proper size in the relationships that they will develop in their own future?

Bringing anxiety, pain and fear into motherhood is a subtle thing. One of the ways that old pain rolls out through the next generation is through a phenomenon called projection, i.e. we project our unhealed, unconscious pain from OUR childhood onto our children’s childhood.

Here’s a process that I have developed over the past twenty years or so that’s simple and effective. It not only frees up the child from the grip of their parent’s old pain, it gives the parent, in this canse the mom, a second chance. As we say in recovery, “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood!” So be good to the child you have and the child that lives inside of you and try this exercise:

1. Identify an age in your children’s lives that is difficult for you, that tugs on something inside of you…. this often manifests as excessive worry for your child at that age, concern that something is amiss or will go wrong for them.

2. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself at that same age. What was going on around you? What was occurring in YOUR life at that age?

3. Feel the feelings that you felt then, think the thoughts that you thought then.

4. Now ask yourself, “is there something from this time in MY life that is making me extra anxious about this time in MY CHILD’S life? Am I projecting or even creating pain that is more about me than my child?

5. If the answer is “yes” then see if you can allow more memory to come up, more feelings, more thoughts; let a fuller picture emerge.

6. Now let yourself just sit with this awareness, you might feel some pain because if you shut something down it was likely because it hurt. You might feel some guilt because you realize that you’ve been putting your own pain on your kid. You might feel some confusion because stuff is coming up and dis-equilibrating you. You might feel some relief because it feels so good to connect the dots.

7. Now be good to yourself, don’t rush to your child to explain yourself, just sit with this new awareness and breathe through it, visualize comforting yourself at this age. Then take your own hand and let the adult in you, take the child in you, out of harm’s way.

8. OK now relax, rest if you can or just continue through your day and let this go, the awarenesses will continue to come, just let them and remember to be good to yourself and to breathe through the feelings.

Moms have a tough job and a beautiful one. One way that the journey of motherhood can become an awakening of self, is to pay attention to where you get triggered most frequently. Realize that what triggers you most intensely may be sending up a red flag marking the territory of your own childhood pain. Then do this little process. You might find that your children’s lives become the greatest catalyst for your own healing. Our love for our children makes us want to protect them from harm and even to protect them from our own darker sides. Let motherhood be the light that illuminates the child in you as you love and adore the child you have.

Happy Mother’s Day!

For further reading on codependency click here:

Mothering and Codependency: How to Let Your Child’s Life Be a Catalyst for Your Own Personal Growth was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

I could not agree with you more Brandy….I

Posted: May 11, 2018, 5:49 pm

I could not agree with you more Brandy….I hope lots of people read your comment….having had two children myself, I am shocked at the offer of opiates in this case…..….thank you for sharing your story!

The Trauma a Child Experiences When a Parent Passes Out

Posted: May 11, 2018, 5:32 pm

A tot's anguish: Video captures mom's apparent overdose at Family Dollar store

This is a video of an increasingly occurring, very heartbreaking scene.

A little girl is tugging on her mother who has passed out in the aisle of a dollar store. The “appropriate authorities” have been called and although those who called are looking on with care and concern, the little toddler is left comfortless, no one is acting on their human response to ease the pain of a child who is clearly in deep distress? So there are many questions here…..

· How could a mother who is responsible for a small child do drugs that have the potential to incapacitate her?

· And why have we mortgaged out our human response to help, to the proper authorities, to the exclusion of reaching out and comforting a child who is in such distress?

· What are we scared of? The answer is, PLENTY.

We are scared of being sued if we touch another human being, which is a legitimate fear in our litigious society.

We are scared of the raw truth of addiction and what it does to people.

Whether or not you believe addiction is a disease or an inability of a person to stop doing what is clearly doing harm, there is little doubt that once addicted, most addicts need help to clean up their lives. They simply cannot reach out from this devastated state and do something to help themselves. And yet, they eventually have to do just that, to take responsibility for the disease that is killing them and traumatizing everyone around them. And make no mistake about it, the shame that is heaped upon the mother (no attempt was made to blur her face) is carried also be the daughter.

Children live in the three feet surrounding their parent; what happens to the parent, happens to the child.

Many have criticized the store employees for filming the incident rather than caring for the child, others have asked if it is right for the police to share this video. But no matter how you slice it, this video, filmed by shocked employees and shared by worn out and desperate law enforcers is horrifying to look at. But we have to look at it in order to see the horror, accept it and do something about it.

The field I work in, the addictions field has spent over a decade sounding an alarm to doctors prescribing pain killers because so many who started out on pain meds wound up as addicts. Until you see what addiction really looks like and the utter heartbreak of watching a desperate, hurting child try to wake up a passed out parent, it is all to easy to turn your head.

But this little child is not uncommon. Those of us who grew up with addicted parents have all done this at one point or another, tried to rouse our passed out parents, cried plaintively and without comfort at a scene that shook us to our core.

This is what addiction looks like whether it’s the cocaine addicted hedge fund guy, the returning soldier self medicating PTSD with drugs, alcohol or pain meds, the mother who has left dinner burning in the oven while she is on pills, alcohol or both, the sibling who has gotten their other sibling to lie for them because he is high on street drugs….this is what addiction looks like in the best of homes and the worst, at fancy stores or local delis. This is what addiction looks like, whether it’s to alcohol, pain meds or street drugs.

So when you are tempted to turn your head, to blame the mother, to grab the child or to wonder why police would put this out, just look at it instead. Because this is what addiction looks like, and the reason everyone wants to criticize someone is because we feel so powerless in the face of it. And we all know at some level, that to blame the mother and call her bad, could make the child suffer even more. But to tell her everything will be fine is equally damaging, because everything certainly isn’t. And telling people not to film it or share it is joining the massive denial around what feels ugly and hopeless and terrifying about this scourge that is getting worse. Because this is what addiction looks like; and to be anywhere near it is to be saddened and just generally freaked out, and to feel that nothing you can do will be the right thing, is part of what anyone struggles with when faced with scenes like this. And this is not just in the toy aisle of the dollar store, it is in all of the homes where addicts are parents. Because this is what addiction looks like.

And the only way out is to see it for what it is and try, in any small way, to understand.