I want to remind parents to take care of yourselves, don’t let this trauma captivate you.
Our lives are journeys of discovery, don’t allow this current dark focus on loss to captivate your reaching and your journey of discovery.
Your support coaches have many ways of framing it, my analogy is; when your child is in quicksand it doesn’t help for you to jump in the quicksand too, trying to rescue the child… then you’re both stuck. You have to stand solidly on the ground and hold out your hand to rescue the child.
Will the child take your hand? No, not yet. Just keep it there, available.
And yes, actually the child will take your hand… depending. But we’ll talk about that later. Grasping is not the path, relaxing is the path. Dorcy refers to it as changing how you “show up,” but changing how you show up so that the child sees and takes your hand is hard, because there are fears blocking the way, but it’s actually easy because it’s simply finding your authentic center, which is always there.
Fears can be relaxed, and bonds restored.
Trauma adds “extreme” descriptors, and recovery involves deescalating from false “extremes” into normal-range reality.
I’m a clinical psychologist from trauma world, so I’m well practiced in bringing down the escalation. Parents aren’t. You’re just normal people, so when the trauma pathogen manifests in anger, chaos, crisis, and “extreme” – normal people don’t know how to respond – because trauma pathology alters normal.
First thing to know, trauma escalation is contagious, it spreads to the care providers, to teachers, to everyone… the intensity and “crisis” and “extreme” qualities of situations. It is a false layer added to reality, but everyone gets all caught up in the emotional intensity – the contagion is well known to us in trauma clinical psychology.
So what we do as clinical psychologists in trauma world, is we bring calm and confident center to counter-act the instability felt by the others who are spinning (destablized; dysregulated). The trauma-informed clinical psychologist remains stabilized in reality, not the hyper-escalation of nonsense.
Dorcy has wonderful terms for some of the major skills in this process – two of the best skills are no-response-necessary (NRN) and allowing the child to “empty their container of garbage” into your trash container… and then you take out the trash.
If you track and understand what Dorcy’s communicating with these concepts, it will help you significantly in understanding the core of a trauma-informed approach, and can help you to remain grounded when trauma flips the world upside-down.
The child is dysregulated (that’s my psychology word for Dorcy’s “garbage”) and needs the parent to remain grounded (that’s your trash bucket; you being grounded in your center, that’s your “container”). Avoid the emotional contagion of “extreme” and remain centered (NRN) and allow the child to reorient and become grounded to your stability and your grounding.
It doesn’t help when the child starts to spin (Dorcy’s wonderful word for it) – if you start to spin too. Then we just have everybody bouncing around in unmanaged chaos. We need someone to stop spinning. You’re the parent, it’s you.
The trauma pathogen is in the attachment networks of the allied parent (a constellated group of damaged information structures in the attachment system). This trauma pathogen creates “crazy-making” behavior from the parent that creates “crazy-behavior” in the child (substitute dysregulated for crazy to get the professional description).
This process of crazy-making behavior from a parent (dysregulating making behavior from the parent) that creates crazy-behavior (dysregulated behavior) in the child is called pathogenic… creating pathology. Pathogenic parenting is creating pathology in the child. That’s what’s happening. The distorted parenting of the allied parent is creating severe “dysregulation” (“spinning”; “emotional garbage”) in the child.
We want to help the child re-stabilze, but we’ve got all this de-stabilizing “emotional garbage” in the child from the other parent’s distorted parenting. What do we do?
Well, first, don’t escalate with the child. We need someone calmly and confidently in reality. That’s you. Sucks for you, but your the parent, and we need someone to remain confidently anchored in reality.
When the child starts spinning (dysregulation), hold out your container for them to deposit their nonsense that they’ve had downloaded from the other parent, close your container, take it outside and empty it. You don’t hold the nonsense, and the child doesn’t hold the nonsense. But we’ve gotta get the nonsense out somehow.
That’s where mindful parenting comes in. It’s a way for us to remain grounded in reality when stuff around starts to spin (usually from some unprocessed trauma somewhere).
Since spinning (dysregulation) happens from unprocessed trauma, that explains the child’s spinning because of the allied parent’s unprocessed trauma. The unprocessed trauma (emotional garbage) of the allied parent is being transferred to the child through distorted parenting practices. When the child downloads the parent’s emotional garbage (trauma pathogen), the child starts to spin (dysregulate).
The child brings you the pathogen (the emotional garbage) and you start spinning too (you become dysregulated) because… the emotional garbage (the trauma pathogen) creates dysregulation and chaos – that’s what it does, it is a psychological-emotional process born in trauma and abuse – it is chaotic and disorganized and adds “extreme” to everything.
You’re the chosen parent. Sorry, sucks for you. We can’t rely on the other parent, the child is a spinning child, they can’t get out of it on their own. Please don’t start spinning too (becoming dysregulated).
Why do chosen parents start to spin? That… is a very productive question. That’s what Higher Purpose Parenting is about. Mindful parenting helps significantly in keeping us grounded and avoiding the “contagion” of co-trauma-spinning, where everybody in the room is bouncing off the walls in chaos, emotionality, and “extremes.”
But, for solution… don’t worry about solution. Oooo, so zen. Mindfulness.
Focus on self-stabilization, self-grounding, self-growth into your center of authenticity. That’s why we need you to take care of yourself. We need you to be grounded in a mindful and centered place so when your child brings you the trauma-pathogen from the allied parent, the pathogen doesn’t destabilize you as well and then everybody start to spin (becomes dysregulated).
Parenting is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. There are limited solutions by changing what we do to the child, there are powerful solutions by changing who we are with the child… how we “show up.”
There’s the key to that locked doorway.
From the pathology, it appears the solution is on the outside, to be found in altering the distorting influence and bad parenting of the allied narcissistic-borderline parent, and that’s true, but that’s not actually entirely true. We can get there from outside solutions, and we’re definitely going to be doing that. It is up to professional psychology to make this stop, and we will be doing that.
There’s also an inside path to solution. That’s the path I’m talking about now, through the chosen healthier parent finding your authentic core, your center of trust and love in yourself, to stabilize you, the healthier parent, in the upside-down world of trauma. When you hold out your hand to the child, be… mindful… of your hand you offer. Mindful parenting from a place of healthy you.
There are… inside… ways to stabilize the distortions and dysregulation (the spinning) in the child. Start by not co-spinning. Find ground; mindful parenting. NRN – allow the dump of emotional garbage into your trash container, take the trash outside and dispose of it.
If you get triggered and start to spin (Dorcy), look to yourself (there’s skills to do that) and identify the triggers, recover your center and help stabilize the child from your grounded center.
The inside way starts with you stabilizing yourself. Which means allowing yourself to escape the captivation of the trauma pathogen being brought into your family by the other parent. Find your path of self-discovery, your journey, magical and wonderful.
Emotional contagion is a feature of trauma. Take a deep breath. Mindful parenting. Centered and relaxed. Confident in the ground of our center.
Craig Chidress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857