From the stories of King Arthur and his knights comes the one about Sir Gawain. In the tale, Sir Gawain agrees to marry Ragnell, a grotesquely ugly woman, in exchange for information that will spare the life of King Arthur. On their wedding day, a great sense of mourning hung in the air because King Arthur’s handsome and gallant knight was being married to a monstrous hag.
On his wedding night, Sir Gawain waited in bed while is bride prepared herself for their first night together. When Ragnell laid down beside him, she said, “You have kept your promise and much more. You have never shown me pity nor revulsion. All I will ask of you is one kiss.”
Closing his eyes, Gawain leaned over and kissed his bride. When he opened his eyes, he was startled to see a beautiful woman lying next to him. Leaping from the bed, he exclaimed, “Who are you? Where is my wife and is this sorcery?”
Calming, Ragnell said, “I am your wife and I will tell you my story.” She told of how her stepbrother, Sir Gromer, hated her because of her beauty and the fact that she didn’t succumb to his fear tactics and commands. His jealousy and resentment lead him to convince his mother—an evil sorceress—to turn her into one of the ugliest women ever.
Ragnell then told Sir Gawain that there was a second part of the curse. She said,
“Since you have treated me with love and compassion, I am allowed to give you a choice. I can be a beautiful woman by day, so that all may admire me and consider you a lucky man, but I would become the ugly Ragnell by night. Or I can be the ugly Ragnell by day, only to become the beautiful woman you see before you at night. Which would you prefer?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Gawain replied, “This should not be my choice but yours. You must choose for yourself. I will accept either decision as long as it is your will.” And with that response, the curse was lifted and Ragnell was the beautiful woman she was meant to be day and night.
This story captures the essence of true, unconditional love which is meant to be the basis of all relationships. Sir Gawain wasn’t focused only on his own needs but saw beyond them and was concerned about his wife’s happiness and well-being. His desire to empower her is what healed each of them and could bring them both real joy.
As partners and parents, we often lose sight of this way of viewing love and believe that love doesn’t dwell within but is separate/outside of us. In his book “Mindful Loving—10 Practices for Creating Dee per Connections,” Dr. Henry Grayson says, “Thinking of love and God/the Divine as separate from us, we create a never-ceasing need to seek love outside of ourselves…And by shifting the responsibility for change from ourselves to the other person, we unwittingly reinforce an insidious cycle of blame that prevents true healing.”
There are many books and practices on how to heal our relationships with our spouses, children, parents, siblings and more. But the essential point that is often missed is that all change begins with me and my daily choices. The more I delve into relationship work, I am discovering that the central purpose of all relationships is to help us uncover our essential Divine Nature, and to help others do the same.
If you would like support on your own healing journey, please check out what I offer and Contact Me.
Did you know that your child’s emotional health can be largely impacted by the way you guide them in key moments throughout their day? Affective Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp explains that “Positive emotional systems…capture cognitive spaces, leading to their broadening, cultivation and development….As a general principle, the larger the sphere of influence of the positive emotions, the more likely is the child to become a productive and happy member of society.”
So, how do you create a healthy emotional system for your child to develop in?
Here are the 9 Most Important Minutes of Your Child’s Day:
So, instead of pulling the covers off and rushing, could you spend 3 minutes waking up together? Or running downstairs to sit and start breakfast together? Maybe when your child gets home from school, instead of running to the TV or homework, walk to get the mail together. Find a way that works with you to spend these 9 tiny minutes together!
Because all children experience so much throughout the course of a given day, a great way to promote emotional health and processing is to capture your child’s attention and make an emotional investment at these key times.
Optimize the time:
--For your young child who cannot speak yet, spend time looking at books, singing, talking softly, or cuddling.
--Ask open-ended questions and, as your child responds, guide them to use “feeling” words to describe their experiences.
--When you go to check the mail and notice the falling leaves or new buds along the way.
--How about a back-scratch or a shoulder massage for your preteen?
It’s important to remember that a great parent makes the most of the little moments. I challenge you to try this for one month and see what nine minutes a day can do!
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” -Mother Theresa
In her book, “The Conscious Parent—Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children,” Dr. Shefali Tsabary says that to be more effective in relating to our children, we need to be willing to face and resolve issues in ourselves that come from the way we were parented. She states that, “In fact, it’s my experience that the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent’s transformation and only secondarily for the raising of the child.”
Think for a moment about a recent time that you were triggered by something that your child did or said. If you are not familiar with the term, getting triggered is an intense physical or emotional reaction to an event or interaction. Maybe that trigger comes from your two-year-old refusing to get in her car seat after a particularly stressful outing to the grocery store. Perhaps it comes when your preteen screams, “I hate you, you never understand me” or your young adult child returns your car on empty or forgets your birthday.
Regardless of the cause, the reality is that the things that trigger us almost always connect back to wounds and unmet needs of our inner child. Instead of blaming our children for our emotional reactions, we can use this opportunity to recognize that we are uncovering or awakening something in ourselves that needs our attention as I wrote about in my blog a few weeks ago. www.coachmyrna.org/coachmyrna-blog/triggers-and-awakenings
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of helping my son and daughter-in-law while they became first-time parents. It was amazing to be able to support them as they discovered all the joys and challenges of caring for a newborn. However, at one point, I found myself becoming angry and at first, I couldn’t figure out why. As I examined my emotions, I realized that it had to do with not feeling valued or appreciated. Could it be that I was jealous of all the attention that this beautiful child was getting? If so, where is that coming from?
As I explored more deeply, I realized that this was an opportunity to revisit a book that I had been reading, “Recovering Your Inner Child.” Author Dr. Lucia Capacchione says, “Without awareness, we automatically repeat the kind of parenting we received as children…However, if we do not like the way we were parented, we do have a choice. We can change. We can re-parent ourselves…Recovery of your Inner Child is the way to begin anew and heal your life.”
If you are intrigue to explore this topic more, I encourage you to:
“Healing happens when we open the door and invite the Inner Child to come out and be a part of our lives.” Dr. Capacchione
Is there anyone in your life who seems to fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult? Do you know anyone who throws verbal barbs and biting accusations your way any time you try to engage in conversation? If you have vital signs, the odds are very high that you do.
Success with occasionally angry people… as well as the chronically ticked-off variety… involves remembering these three essential truths:
The first truth reminds us that we maintain our personal power only when we choose to separate ourselves from the other’s anger. Empathy provides a powerful tool for accomplishing this. That's right! When we perceive the other person as hurting… rather than as obnoxious… we are far less likely to find ourselves being triggered by their ire.
The second truth reminds us that ears are mightier than the mouth. Some people remain angry and confrontational regardless of how well we understand their point of view. Most, however, calm significantly when they see that we care enough to listen.
The third truth reminds us that thoughtful, sincere questions cause others to think. Examples include:
In our audio, Putting Parents at Ease, we describe how teachers can apply these skills with difficult parents. One educator relayed his surprise at how well the skills worked with his adult son:
I was ready to use the skills I learned with the parents of my students. I wasn't prepared for how well they worked when my 25-year-old son blasted me for saying "no" to a loan. Instead of us fighting over the phone, we ended the conversation with some mutual dignity.
On our recent visit to Rome, my husband and I were greatly assisted by the Google Translate App. It was so helpful when we were ordering tickets to the Vatican Museum, knowing which direction to the ride the Metro and figuring out the difference between cream or milk in the small market near our Airbnb.
I was thinking that we sometimes need such an app to help us in our communication with those we love. Of course, an app cannot convey emotion or communicate from the heart. But often, our words to our children and other family members don’t relay the true intention of our heart even when spoken in our native tongue.
When was the last time that you said to your child, “Where were you? Do you know what time it is?” The intensity of your voice probably didn’t communicate that you were so worried and didn’t know what you would do if something happened to your child.
Or how about when you exclaimed with a furrowed brow several pitches higher than your normal voice, “What are you watching on your phone/tablet/ TV? Did you finish your homework yet?” The translation of this might be “You have so much potential. I want you to have a great future with unlimited possibilities and being responsible in school helps make a foundation for that.”
Have you ever said, “Don’t be so lazy; you have to work hard to amount to anything” when what you really meant was “I want you to be better than me, to have more opportunities than your father and I did. We want you to have an amazing life.”
Although there is not yet an app that can translate our true heart, there are some steps that we can take to help us as parents. My friend and author, marriage/ relationship educator, Bento Leal III says in his new book “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication” that we need to start with empathy as the essential relationship ingredient in communicating with others.
Mr. Leal says, “Empathy is a powerful state of mind, but it’s not something we try to pound into ourselves, it’s something we want to cultivate and let out—it’s our capacity to have compassion and concern for ourselves and others.” His book gives practical tools on how to work on developing empathy and includes steps for a 12-Day Communication Challenge. Check out Mr. Leal’s book here: tinyurl.com/y3g58aqy
Other things I suggest are:
• Write a gratitude list for all things that you appreciate about your child/ren
• Write a note or a letter to express some of these appreciation to your child/ren
• Make time to sit down and talk with your child. Make a date to spend time with him or her one-on-one. Do more listening than talking.
• Say “I am sorry.” If you blow it, explain that you were too intense, what you really meant to say was….
• Practice modeling what you want your children to inherit by saying, “I am really upset right now. Let’s talk about this later when we are both calmer.”
“If you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you actually have to practice that skill in context. Study by itself is never enough.” Josh Kaufman
In his book “Tribes” Seth Godin tells the story of the Balloon Factory and the Unicorn. The people who work in the balloon factory are timid and afraid of pins, needles, porcupines and other sharp objects. They don’t like sudden changes in temperature either.
It wasn’t a bad place to work except when the unicorns show up. Usually, the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and are able to shoo him away. But sometimes, the unicorn wanders into the factory anyway. That’s when everyone runs for cover as explosions occur right and left.
Godin uses this story to talk about change—the balloon factory is the status quo and the unicorn represents the impetus for change. However, I think that this story can be applied to how we deal with our emotions. Most of the time, we go through life trying to be nice and helpful, keeping our anger, frustration, fear and sadness under wraps. But sometimes, someone says something, and we pop just like a balloon.
In the world of therapy and healing, this is referred to as getting triggered. Triggers are anything that reminds a person of a previous trauma or painful situation. In more extreme cases, it is referred to as PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder and usually involves experiences from wars, disasters, and horrific crimes.
However, Greg Baer, author of “Real Love and Post-Childhood Stress Disorder” says that most of us suffer from a form of PTSD because we experienced numerous traumatic events through our childhood and beyond. From early childhood, our brains are literally molded by love and when we are misunderstood and not loved unconditionally, Dr. Baer says we gather many minor hidden wounds. Most of the time, we are initially blind to the injuries they cause within but overtime, they can become troublesome and even unbearable.
Recently I became aware that I have a trigger around not being acknowledged. Somehow, as a child, I did not feel recognized for my own unique gifts and talents. My parents were loving parents who were overwhelmed with trying to balance work, church, community and family and as the oldest, I felt that I had to play the role of the responsible daughter who downplayed her own feelings, ideas and wishes. How many times have I reacted badly--allowing my balloon to pop--with my husband, my children, my friends when I didn’t feel appreciated or acknowledged without recognizing that I was connecting back to childhood pain?
I am realizing that being triggered isn’t something to be ashamed of or to keep hidden. Rather, it is an opportunity to become aware of my need to healing. I would like to conclude this post with an excerpt from an article by Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farm www.beccastevens.org/
“I would like to test the word ‘uncover’. Something happens that ‘uncovers’ something in me. That something awakens something I already knew deep down, and this something has allowed me to see what was lurking in the shadow part of me. This uncovering gives me the opportunity to see it. It has been uncovered for me. I can now choose to put it aside for a bit, I can choose to let it overtake me and ruin my next patch of life, or I can choose to look at it straight on and see it with all its fear, untruths, and destabilizing qualities that I carry like precious pearls. I then asked, “What other words are out there waiting for us to use them to aid in trauma healing?” Some of the great words that were offered were: disruption, stirring, alert, and awakening…It reminds me that as we do the work, we can reframe, rename, and redefine how we experience healing.”
If you would like support on your own journey of healing, connect with me here: Contact Me
Last week, I found myself in a multi-leveled parking garage at the MARTA station in Atlanta, walking around clicking my remote to locate my car. That morning, in my haste to arrive at my destination on time, I had failed to make note of which level and section I parked in. After 20 minutes, I heard the faint beep several levels below. I finally located my car!
Once in my car and on my way home, I began to think about how this incident applied to my own life. I am a doer! I thrive on organizing, making lists, accomplishing tasks, getting things done. On my healing journey, I have begun to realize that it is my way of making order out of chaos. It is my “safe place” where I don’t deal with feelings and emotions.
However, I am also learning this stops me from being present. Being a doer keeps me from connecting to myself, my family and my loved ones on a deeper level. How often in life am I not present to my impact on my husband because I am caught up in getting a project completed? When was the last time that I missed the cues in my son’s voice as he wanted to tell me more about the challenges of balancing work, life, family and the addition of a new baby? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I complained about the tension in my shoulders without realizing that I am not making enough time for self-care?
So, how does one undo years of “doing” and grow to be more present? First, it must start with being more connected to myself. For me, the awareness began a long time ago, but I fought it tooth and nail, always falling back into what I knew—the familiarity of doing. But just over four years ago, my husband and I moved to Georgia for his work and I found myself without all the “doer hats” that I had been wearing.
I struggled to find what I was supposed to “do.” I read “Who Moved the Cheese?”, “What Color is My Parachute?” and I did a bunch of crying, praying and meditating. Finding a nearby yoga studio gave me the opportunity to become more self-aware and taught me incredible lessons about being more flexible and letting things to flow. Joining a community band allowed me to reconnect with the love and joy of creating music with others while playing my flute.
Over the past few years, I have discovered my passion for working with others as they begin to heal their relationships and their families. Over and over, I am reminded that healing is a process of being intentional, takes being present and involves peeling back layer after layer to discover our true self. It takes a willingness to do the work.
“Recovery of Your Inner Child” is a book that is helping me to heal. The author Lucia Capacchione says, “For us to be fully human, the Child Within must be embraced and expressed…Inside every adult, there is a child crying, ‘Let me out.’” Look for more on this in future blogs.
If you would like support on your own healing journey, please go to my website and connect with me. www.coachmyrna.org
When I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, I had a marble jar, often called the “Good Choices Jar.” The idea behind the jar was simply that I put marbles in when the students were helping each other, making good choices and cooperating together. When students were hurtful or mean, marbles had to be taken out of the jar. A filled jar of marbles meant a “Good Choices Party” that the students helped to plan.
In Brené Brown’s novel “Daring Greatly,” she shares a story of her young daughter, Ellen, coming home from third grade sobbing. Brené was finally able to figure out that Ellen had told some friends something in confidence but by the end of recess, the whole class knew. They were laughing and making fun of her. When her daughter announced, “I will never trust anyone again,” Brené was struggling to find a way to help her.
It turns out, her daughter’s teacher used a marble jar in her classroom, so she used the concept to explain how trust is built. She told her, “Trust is like a marble jar. You share those hard stories and hard things that are happening to you with friends who over time you’ve filled up their marble jar.” They talked about what marble jar friends look like:
Wouldn’t this be a great conversation to have with your child, youth or even young adult? We can guide our children in making friend choices and understanding the role that trust plays in those relationships. To see the whole Brené Brown TED talk on this, brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/
Trust is built one marble at a time.
Recently on a bucket-list trip to the Mediterranean, my husband Michael and I had the opportunity to experience the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) in Barcelona, Spain. An icon of the city, the Sagrada Familia boast bold, wildly creative, organic architecture and décor inside and out and is still a work in progress. In fact, the term gaudy comes from the name of the initial architect—Antoni Gaudi.
Begun in 1883 under the guidance and direction of Antoni Gaudi, it is an unusual masterpiece that is set to be finished in 2026. Despite his boldly modern architectural vision, Gaudi was a traditional and deeply religious man who designed the Sagrada Familia to be a place of solid Christine values amid what was a humble workers’ colony in a fast-changing city.
When he died, only one section of the church—the Nativity Façade—had been completed. The rest of the work has been inspired by his vision, but he knew that he wouldn’t live to complete it—thus allowing space for others to bring their own inspiration and faith to the project.
I am reminded how we need this long view in our families. Investing in our children isn’t only for today. It is for who they will become, the families they will have, and the grandchildren that will be born and grow up.
We must challenge ourselves to allow the process to unfold, not micromanaging every detail and over stressing about the future. Rather, like Gaudi, let’s provide support, guidance, vision, inspiration and trust for our children, youth and young adults as we imagine the way they will impact the future.
In her book “Letter to My Daughter,” Maya Angelou writes about her mother’s long view. When Ms. Angelou was twenty-two with a young son, two jobs, rented rooms and very little money, she was also fiercely independent and didn’t want to accept support from her mother, Ms. Vivian Baxter. Her mother, a successful businesswoman, was supportive and encouraged Maya’s self-reliance. Once a month, they did have a standing appointment to have lunch at her mother’s lavish home.
On one such occasion, Ms. Baxter spoke the words to Maya Angelou that reached into the future and guided her towards it, “Baby, I’ve been thinking and now I am sure. You are the greatest woman I’ve ever met. You are kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother—yes, you belong in that category. Here, give me a kiss.”
I touch the future, I parent!
By Dr. Charles Fay, loveandlogic.com
Many parents ask, “Is it really possible to raise well-adjusted kids while at the same time trying to manage an incredibly hectic and stressful work and family life?” One mom described their situation:
We try to live a simple, frugal lifestyle. Even with keeping our spending as low as possible, both of us still have to work full schedules just to provide for the basics. With three young children things get crazy. The house almost always feels like a mess, and we have very little time and energy left over to spend with the kids. Both of us feel horribly guilty about this much of the time.
Some parents spend almost no time with their kids because they are addicted to work, addicted to buying extra stuff, addicted to selfish activities or all three. Many others, however, find themselves having to work their fingers to the bone because they simply don’t have a choice. Here are some words of encouragement… and some tips… for this second type:
• Many well-adjusted adults grew up with exceptionally busy parents.
The key seems to be this: As children, they were not shielded from their family’s economic struggles. Their parents were honest about the challenges and consistently modeled hopeful, positive attitudes. As such, they internalized the truth that they were deeply loved even though their parents weren’t able to spend as much time with them as they wanted.
• Remember that guilt often interferes with good parenting.
When we allow guilt to interfere with our ability to set and enforce loving limits and expectations, our kids suffer.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help with supervision.
Kids of all ages need good supervision. Without it, even very good kids often get involved in drugs, alcohol, early sex, and other high-risk behaviors.
• You are doing a good and noble thing by taking care of the needs of your family.
This is wonderful modeling, and it sends a powerful message of love to your kids.