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Melbourne mum Michelle Sheppard speaks openly about the highs and lows of her gender transition, what she’s learned, and how her daughters have been invaluable in helping her through the process.

Michelle Sheppard, known affectionately to many as Mama Mish, came out as transgender eight years ago, at the age of 36. At the time she came out she was Daniel, a husband with two young daughters.

Although, Michelle says, her 13-year marriage was disintegrating. Both she and her wife had become complacent, spending less and less time nourishing their relationship.

Date nights and time spent together had dwindled away; they were just ‘there’ together.

As she started to explore her feelings about being transgender, Michelle realised it was not a place she and her wife could go together.

When Michelle eventually disclosed to her wife that she was trans, it wasn’t well received. While there was fear and hurt on both sides, she understood her wife’s reaction.

“It was very hard for her,” Michelle shares. “Her husband of 13 years who is this tall, 6’3” American who’s very masculine says they want to be a woman. It’s like, ‘What the fuck?’, you know.”

“In the early days, I had to allow my ex to express what she needed to, to get it out of her system. It didn’t matter whether it was aggressive, whether it was her expressing her hurt and her pain, I had to allow her to go through that, to feel that. It wasn’t easy, it was very hard to watch.”

Raised in the conservative US city of St. Louis, Michelle was exposed to well-defined gender roles early, which she says underpinned her decision to marry and start a family.

“Coming from the Bible Belt, gender roles were quite strong there. A man’s a man and he does this role, a woman’s a woman and she does this role. There was pressure to fulfil those particular roles.”

Michelle stuck to these rigid gender roles despite knowing from a young age that she had been born into the wrong body.

“I had known since I was about four. I remember in the playground at school saying things like ‘I should’ve been a girl’. But it wasn’t until near the end of my marriage that I decided I had to dig into this and understand further what was going on.”

The decision to transition was a fraught one, something she wanted desperately to avoid for fear of the repercussions it might have on her wife and children.

“I actually fought against it as much as I could. If I had a pill at the time to make it go away, I probably would’ve taken it. I was worried about how it would impact my kids and my ex.”

Ultimately, Michelle felt she had no choice. She had to live her truth.

Michelle’s overriding concern was how best to navigate the process of transitioning with her daughters in a way that did not negatively affect them. Airlie was about to turn seven, Peyton was three or four.

Michelle’s situation is not an unusual one. Despite the increased visibility of members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community, the stigma surrounding gender diversity has meant that trans parents are likely to have had children in heterosexual relationships prior to transitioning.

The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census revealed that just over half (54%) of people who identified as sex and/or gender diverse lived in a family household; of these, 49% were a spouse or partner.

When a parent comes out as trans, it can cause anxiety in the family unit as the person embarks on a quest to resolve that differentiation. Trans parents must navigate multiple, contradictory roles to integrate their parental and gender identities.

As a result, all members of the family, including children, end up transitioning with the trans parent.

Unable to rely on professional supports to assist with her transition, which were unavailable at the time, Michelle instead observed how other trans people approached their transition and how it had affected their familial relationships.

“What I found was that a lot of trans people come out – they’re telling everybody – and they want it to change overnight. For me, I realised that if I go one step too forward, if they’re not able to take those steps with me then I need to take a step back and let them catch up.”

So, Michelle adopted an organic approach, actively including Airlie and Peyton in her transition to make sure they felt safe and comfortable.

“We just let things grow and develop. As my hair was getting longer, I let them play with it and braid it. I’d already, a few years before, done a makeup artistry course and so we would do makeup and paint nails. We were allowing the play to happen, and it became a very normal thing like ‘This is what we do with Daddy’.”

Michelle’s girls continued to call her ‘Dad’, which was their choice. And they did so with an accepting caveat: ‘Well, yeah, you’re Dad but you’re a girl,’ they’d say.

The first time Michelle went out socially dressed as a woman, she put her children in charge of deciding what she should wear.

“I allowed them to be part of that. I said, ‘Let’s pick out some clothes.’ My daughters picked out this leopard print skirt, high boot heels,” she recalls with a laugh. “They did my makeup. This was them playing and being part of it. I slowly just let it happen.”

Sometimes, however, Michelle had to put her transition on hold for the sake of her children.

“No matter how much I was growing, and how much I was finally being myself, if I had to keep the reins on then that’s what I’d have to do. Because they need to be comfortable, and I need to make sure that they’re safe in this. As a parent, that’s what’s most important.”

“I let them call the shots because as a parent you don’t come first, they come first. You have to put your needs and wants, a lot of the time, behind when it comes to kids.”

While societal issues such as transphobia and discrimination can make life difficult for children of trans parents, Michelle says that neither Airlie nor Peyton have experienced negative reactions as a result of her transition.

When asked by school friends what they did on the weekend, her daughters respond with something like ‘I was at Dad’s house, hanging with her’, Michelle explains. When challenged – ‘you mean he, your dad’s a he’ – they correct their friends without a second thought: ‘No, my dad’s a girl.’

Adults have not been as understanding. Michelle blames the negative comments made by other parents to her daughters – ‘How disgusting, they’re tricking you’ or ‘The poor children will never have a father figure’ – on the media’s portrayal of trans people.

Big-screen characters such as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s (1975) Frank-N-Furter, and Einhorn in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) have helped to normalise transgender misrepresentation.

Trans representation is no better on television where, according to American media-watch organisation, GLAAD, trans characters were cast as victims at least 40% of the time, as killers or villains in at least 21% of storylines, and the most common profession for transgender characters was sex work.

Because many people don’t personally know a transgender person, they look to the media for information and understanding. Unfortunately, the media tends to portray trans people as deviants, criminals, and murderers, creating the misunderstanding that a lot of adults have in relation to trans people.

Stereotypes are a bit like air: they’re invisible but always present.

“It’s adults who respond the worst because adults subscribe to stereotypes and stereotypes are those over-generalised beliefs about a category of people,” Michelle says, her voice tinged with disappointment. “Stereotypes are a bit like air: they’re invisible but always present.”

Thankfully, children are less likely to subscribe to these stereotypes. Research shows that, over time, children develop a range of strategies to cope with parental role ambiguity, redefining and restructuring the child-parent relationship.

Family continuity, communication, and acceptance positively contribute to how children adapt to a parent’s transition. Often, children are aware of gender-atypical behaviours exhibited by a parent that, in retrospect, align with their parent’s gender identity.

That was certainly the case with Airlie and Peyton, given how young they were when Michelle began her transition. “They’ve never known me the old way,” she says, “this is all they’ve ever known.”

Michelle’s daughters have been crucial to her journey.

She recounts a particularly dark period early in her transition, where her daughters provided the impetus for her to continue.

“There was a point within the first year. It got tough. I couldn’t find work. And as a parent you don’t think so much about yourself or when you’re going to eat but you worry about them.”

“I was really at a low place, and I planned my suicide. I’d checked out. I was going to spend one last weekend with my girls. I went and had a quick nap. I woke up and at the end of my bed there’s my youngest and she’s got one of my wigs on and a little flower in there. She’s got my lipstick. She looks at me and goes, ‘Hi Daddy!’

“I walked into the living room and there’s my eldest, wearing another wig and another little flower and she was drawing me, her mum, her animals. She’s like ‘Here, Daddy, here’s you. Here’s a pretty dress for you. We’re all girls, even our pets are girls!’

“And I’m like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I had this click,” Michelle snaps her fingers. “I had too many motherfuckers to prove wrong! That’s what shifted me. It’s the girls that have kept my tether connected.”

Michelle’s relationship with her children has continued to grow throughout her transition. One of the most interesting transformations for her had to do with changing her thinking around the sexualisation of her body.

“This space here,” she says, gesturing to her breasts, “I had to reprogram my brain because as a man there’s this sexual connotation with them.”

It was her daughters nuzzling into her breasts for comfort that led to Michelle’s change in thinking.

“This is their space, a nurturing space; non-sexual, comforting, warm. It was this weird journey that I went on, and my kids took me on that journey. It was really wholesome, and it really brought me into that woman’s space. My children took me there.”

Because I know who I am and I know my truth, as a woman I can teach my daughters the exact same thing.

“I let my daughters help me develop and grow so as I developed and grew inside, more of me changed and developed,” she continues. “Because I know who I am and I know my truth, as a woman I can teach my daughters the exact same thing.”

Given the open, loving relationship she has with her children, Michelle doesn’t regret her decision to transition. But she also recognises and embraces the masculine part of herself.

I see myself as more two-spirited. I’m Daniel and Michelle. I see Michelle as the evolution of Daniel.

“I’m still Daniel in a lot of ways. I’ve found a happy medium. I see myself as more two-spirited. I’m Daniel and Michelle. I see Michelle as the evolution of Daniel. I can live my life as I am. I think it’s important to hold on to parts of yourself and remember where you come from. If I was never Daniel, I’d never have had Airlie and Peyton.”

Michelle has this advice for other transgender parents: “This is not something to be afraid of. Please don’t subscribe to those stereotypes because they’ll give that sense of self-doubt. What you need to do is surround yourself with visible, accessible role models that are important to you.”

Michelle now enjoys an amicable relationship with her ex-wife. They have come to an informal arrangement as to time spent with their children.

Looking back, comfortable in her truth, Michelle wouldn’t change a thing.

“I couldn’t,” she says. “As shitty as it’s been, it’s also been just as brilliant and just as beautiful.”


Don’t worry if you’re the parent or carer of a neuro-diverse child and you are already starting to feel stressed about the festive season. You’re not alone. As Christmas approaches, it’s common for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) parenting forums to fill up with questions. Let’s not forget how incredibly challenging it is for those of us who have spent the better part of this year in lockdown to prepare for Christmas, as we’ve had little opportunity for social interaction.

Christmas can be extra hard for those kids with autism. Often there are changes at home, with decorations appearing and carols playing. Many on the spectrum find comfort and security in routine the familiar, and the changes can be stressful. Read on to learn some tips on how to manage the stresses of Christmas.

Choose your Christmas events carefully

Christmas parades, parties, and concerts often involve vast amounts of sensory input, which can cause significant issues for those on the spectrum or with processing disorders. Consider smaller, local events and communicate what will happen before, during, and after the event, so your child is well informed. Consider creating a social scenario to help them understand the sequence of events and what you expect of them. If they have sensory issues, bring along items to help them feel settled, like a weighted blanket, a fidget toy, or noise-cancelling headphones.

Counting down to Christmas Day

For young children, you may want to start preparing them for Christmas early to avoid triggering anxiety. Consider adding a visual method for counting down to Christmas, either using a sensory version of an advent calendar or simply marking off days on a calendar. Counting down like this can help your child prepare for the event.

Christmas Day – set expectations

Christmas Day can be overwhelming and carry with it a range of expectations for ASD children. Prepare them by going through the following:

  • Discuss the schedule – creating a social story can help with this.
  • Talk about how you receive a gift, setting rules and expectations, like, “we should say thank you for each present we receive – even if we don’t like it.”
  • List everyone they are likely to meet on Christmas Day – this can help them prepare for interacting with lots of people. Speak to your extended family beforehand, so they understand how your child is likely to react. Let your child know it is important to greet each person but that it’s up to them whether they want a hug, eye contact, or just a verbal greeting.

    Food on Christmas Day

    Make sure the food they like is available on Christmas Day. While it’s nice to encourage them to try new things, if their favourite food is pasta, have that on hand.

    We want everyone to have a wonderful day and hope these tips will allow you and your family to enjoy a wonderful festive season.

     

     

 

Kristin Neff PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Texas and global expert on the academic study of Self Compassion, discusses the antidote to harsh self-talk and how a swathe of worldwide study is proving the benefits of befriending yourself.

Do you have a nickname for yourself? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way writes about her inner critic she calls Nigel, “He looks down on the rest of me. Nothing is ever good enough for Nigel.” As a child I heard my mum call herself, Stupid, hyphenated with Idiot. She called me Darling, like I do with my kids.

Dr Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas thinks I should start calling myself Darling instead of Stupid-Idiot; as a breadth of research indicates I could have better physical health, happier relationships, more motivation, less anxiety and depression and a stronger resilience for coping with stress and trauma.

But where would we be without Nigel?!” asks the stiff upper lip of our collective Western psyche. “People have false beliefs about Self Compassion. They think it’s going to make them weak, undermine motivation, make them complacent or self-indulgent but once you have the research it shows, well actually, it’s just the opposite. It helps people say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll give it go,’’’ says Neff, an academic pioneer of the subject who, in 2003, developed a ground-breaking research tool called The Self Compassion Scale.

Designed to evaluate trait levels of Self Compassion within an individual’s thoughts, behaviours and emotions, the scale has since been used in over 2000 studies with the concept continuing to gain mainstream interest.

What is Self Compassion?

“It’s a very simple idea,” says Neff, “It’s a common sense idea, it’s not actually radical. You just ask people to think about how they treat their friends’ struggles or a loved one and the type of things they say to help them in difficult times.”

Our self-dialogue is commonly very severe, full of admonishment and criticism which questions self-worth and often leads to feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression.

Neff has found, being harsh and critical doesn’t motivate but rather undermines motivation. She says, “It just makes sense that you’d want to encourage and support yourself and let the voice inside your head be a friendly and supportive one as opposed to a hostile aggressive one. Once people get that, they make the switch for themselves.”

Neff made the switch during her last year of Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. She was completing her PhD in the examination of children’s moral reasoning when she became interested in Buddhism.

It was a difficult time, as she was suffering the break-down of her first marriage and had begun questioning her prospects and self-worth.

Through Buddhism, she found relief and noticed that Self Compassion, a central construct of Buddhist Psychology, had never been examined empirically and thus began her passionate devotion both personally and professionally to the practice and study of Self Compassion.

Neff explains that you don’t have to be a Buddhist or spend hours meditating to practice Self Compassion to gain the benefits but there are three components that all need to be practised in order for the concept of Self Compassion to be complete.

The Three Components of Self Compassion

MINDFULNESS Firstly, you must be willing to acknowledge that you are going through difficulty.  Often, during hard times, people are caught up in the narrative and don’t identify their own suffering.

“We can get so lost in the struggle, the storyline, that we have no perspective, we’re trying to fix it, trying to problem solve, we’re sometimes trying to shove it under the rug, we don’t even look because it’s too hard. And, it actually doesn’t make sense to be supportive of ourselves if we don’t know we’re struggling,” explains Neff. So, the first step in practising Self Compassion is voicing what is going wrong and how that feels so we notice our own suffering.

SELF KINDNESS means responding to yourself during imperfect times with a kind, internal voice such as, ‘I know you’re feeling scared and overwhelmed right now and this is a difficult time but I’m here for you.’

Placing a hand over the part of your body that is feeling stressed, stroking your arm or giving yourself an endearing name can soothe the emotions experienced, not with the intention of overcoming them immediately, but rather responding with love and support so the problem becomes less overwhelming and easier to bear.

COMMON HUMANITY “Is what distinguishes the practice between Self Compassion and Self Pity.” By acknowledging everyone has flaws and bad experiences, it allows not only an extension of compassion to oneself but also others, leading to less feelings of isolation.

“The problem, overall, is most people know logically we are all imperfect, but emotionally, when a person makes a mistake or something difficult happens, they react as if something has gone wrong. As if this is not supposed to be happening, if it’s not perfect then something is terribly amiss, which isn’t true,” says Neff, who believes that within our inherent connectedness, “That all people struggle, all people make mistakes, everyone is imperfect,” we are able to accept and cope better with our own failings and be less critical of others.

The Best Way to Foster Self Compassion in Children

MODELLING “Is the best way to foster compassion in your children. Model it out loud. A lot of parents are really careful of what they say to their kids but what they’re modelling is, ‘What??!! I’m so stupid, I lost my car keys.’ Children pick up those messages and think, oh that’s the way you’re supposed to be,” says Neff.

MIRROR NEURONS The Mirror Neuron System is somewhat debated in the field of Neuroscience. Mirror Neurons, special brain cells, which are activated both through action and observance are said by some neuroscientists to represent, among other things, the capacity for human empathy. Others have challenged the strength of this claim. However, Neff says, “We’re designed to feel each other’s messages. A huge proportion of the brain’s real estate is evolved for feeling others’ emotions.”

Neff believes humans do this at a primeval level and thinks what happens internally is just as critical as outward behaviour, in terms of what children are capable of picking up on. “We aren’t silos,” she says, “What we cultivate inside impacts others outside.”

“Children pick up those messages and think, oh that’s the way you’re supposed to be,” says Neff.

SELFISH COMPASSION, Neff believes, is of benefit to our children She explains, a lot of parents think, “‘Oh it’s selfish, I shouldn’t be focussing on myself,’ But what I tell them is, ‘Who do you want your children to interact with, someone who’s full of compassion, kindness and calm, so they get that through their mirror neurons? Or do you want them to interact with someone who’s frustrated and angry?

“My son’s autistic and I talk a lot about him and what a huge difference we’ve made. If he was in a space where he was really anxious and I felt really frustrated and anxious myself, I wouldn’t even say anything but he would ramp up, he would feel my tension. If then, I could just say (and I don’t say it out loud in this case, just to myself), ‘You know, this is really hard for me, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and I just don’t know what to do.’

“I then try to be kind supportive and say (to myself), ‘It’s Okay. I’m here for you.’ As soon as I’d changed my internal mind-state he would almost always calm down. So, those messages were received. That’s why I think Self Compassion is one of the biggest gifts we can give children. But we have to be willing to say that it’s hard to be a parent, it is hard, not always, it’s also joyous, but sometimes it’s really hard.”

“So, it’s at those worst of times,” says Neff, “That if we can acknowledge the pain and just give ourselves kindness and support, then the pain won’t overwhelm us. It’ll be more temperate, it won’t last as long, and then we actually learn to cultivate calm, kindness and connectedness in the midst of the worst of times and it helps everyone, yourself and your kids. ”

“Self Compassion is common sense, you know, but for some reason our culture doesn’t encourage it.”

Self Compassion vs Self Esteem

Western Culture has become reliant on Self Esteem gauging self-worth. Boosting a child’s Self Esteem requires the child be special or above average, placing others below them. The hierarchal demands of high Self Esteem create a risky, cut-throat validation system which fluctuates at the mercy of achievement. Self Compassion, on the other hand, shows up amid failure and encompasses compassion for others, who also fail, which provides a more constant guard of self-worth, leading to better outcomes for overall wellbeing.

High Self Esteem can also lead to an overestimation of one’s abilities and reduce the motivation to improve. A 2012 study conducted at University of California, Berkeley, involved students sitting a difficult test they were designed to fail. Two groups were formed, the first being told not to feel alone as others had also found the test hard and they’d do better next time. The second group was told not to worry because they’d got into Berkeley and so, must be really smart. Students were then provided notes with unlimited time to study before taking a second test. Students from the first group, who were encouraged to be Self Compassionate, spent more time studying than the group who had been boosted and were more realistic about what was required to improve.

“You don’t want to hate yourself, you want good Self Esteem, but we can’t always get it right, we can’t always be the better than others. Be a compassionate mess instead,” says Neff. 

RESOURCES Kristin Neff shares many free resources on her website selfcompassion.org and has developed an 8-week program to teach Self Compassion skills with colleague Chris Germer. She has also published a book, Self-Compassion.

Even low-grade parental blame and resentment perpetuate a cycle of emotional pain and suffering that can negatively affect your adult relationships, finances, and overall wellbeing; ultimately preventing the love, abundance and happiness you desire and deserve.

 

If you have no comparison, you might not notice the amount of energy it takes to hold onto an emotional wound or even a small grudge, but holding onto anger, resentment or any form of hostility requires a tremendous amount of life force energy and this energy is non-refundable. Decades of anger and resentment can cut years off your life, and you wouldn’t even know it. Think of it like throwing hundred dollar bills into the toilet each day, except life force energy is infinitely more valuable than all the money in the world.

The Cycle of Suffering

Without healing our childhood wounds and subsequently forgiving our parents, we stay emotionally stuck at the age of our earliest wounds, and because this causes us to repeat the cycle of suffering, we keep experiencing an adult version of our childhood wounds. For instance, let’s say you haven’t forgiven your mom for missing your tenth birthday or healed the resulting feelings of abandonment; whenever this issue is triggered by a current day experience (ex: someone forgets to call you), the original emotional wound is activated and you drop into an unconscious reaction. For all intents and purposes, you become your wounded ten-year-old self, and because you feel the same pain you felt then, you react by lashing out or shutting down.

Because an emotional reaction is an automatic response to an unhealed wound, there is little or no control over emotions or behavior, and this dynamic can result in a series of current day relationship issues. Year after year, the cumulative effect of emotional reactions can destroy the quality of our most important relationships.

Law of Attraction

According to the Law of Attraction, we unconsciously attract people who trigger our emotional wounds, and this is why a person with abandonment issues attracts potential partners who have commitment fears; not as punishment or karma but rather because our higher selves want us to heal and will use every opportunity to bring our wounds to the forefront. Unfortunately, this means that unhealed emotional wounds can prevent you from meeting your ideal partner or soul mate, and even if you do find each other, the turbulent nature of emotional wounds is known to sabotage even the most ideal partnership.

Blame Perpetuates Pain

Blaming your parents not only keeps the wound alive, it also tells your subconscious mind that your parents currently have power over you or your life, and, therefore, blame programs you for disempowerment. Like a virus, this dynamic can spread to every facet of your life. Additionally, whenever we blame another, we become entangled with their energy and stay entangled until we let go, and, consequently, we cannot grow beyond the parent we blame.

Of course, it’s no big surprise that forgivingness is the key to emotional freedom, but, in most cases, forgiveness is easier said than done. But why?

“Year after year, the cumulative effect of emotional reactions can destroy the quality of our most important relationships.”

Why is forgiveness so difficult?

First, you must realize that blame, anger, and various related emotions are defensive guards that protect you from future harm. Since true forgiveness requires you to release this defense, the very act of forgiveness creates emotional risk. Therefore, to forgive your parents, you must trust they won’t hurt you again, but, the hard truth is, you can never be certain – there is no way to control or predict another person’s behavior, and sometimes loving people do hurtful things.

If you are still vulnerable to being hurt, forgiveness could destroy the only defense you have, and, if this is the case, your protective ego will not allow you to forgive. Therefore, before you can forgive, you must eliminate the risk of emotional harm, and this inevitably means self-responsibility.

Responsibility before Forgiveness

There’s no way around it, as long as you blame or shift responsibility in any regard, you give others the power to hurt you, and as long as you give others the power to hurt you, you’re going to be hurt. Therefore, the only way to prevent emotional harm is by releasing blame and taking full responsibility for every emotion you experience, but there is no point assuming responsibility if you don’t also uncover the dynamics behind your childhood issues. Therefore, to make yourself immune to emotional harm, you must pinpoint the hidden cause of your childhood wounds, and once you do, I will show you how to heal it now.

“…before you can forgive, you must eliminate the risk of emotional harm…”

Understanding the True Nature of Emotional Wounds

We often confuse an emotional wound with the event or experience that caused the wound, but the actual wound is not the situation or circumstance. An emotional wound is the disempowering belief we adopted in response to the experience. Without needing to analyze the details, the core emotional wound is virtually always unworthiness, and, in fact, unworthiness (or conditional worthiness) is the core wound of every other emotional wound.

All children have emotional needs that must be met to feel worthy of love and life; these needs include approval, acceptance, appreciation, understanding, validation, respect, etcetera. Although children require all emotional needs to be fulfilled, one emotional need almost always stands out from the rest, and because this is usually the need least met, it is the emotional need most associated with worth, and, as a result, it becomes the child’s Primary Emotional Need (PEN).

Children naturally adopt beliefs that explain why one or both parents fail to provide this emotional need, so when a child doesn’t receive approval, for example, the child naturally believes she is unworthy of approval, or more likely, she believes she must meet certain conditions to prove she is worthy. Hypersensitive to this need being met, she automatically interprets approval as proof of worthiness and judgment as proof of unworthiness, and this is why judgment can cause intense emotional pain even in adulthood.

Here’s the thing, like every human being, you were born unconditionally worthy, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to prove, improve, or disprove worth. Therefore the emotional pain associated with believing you are unworthy is due to the fact it is completely untrue! Emotional pain is a warning system that alerts you to false beliefs.

Why do we need to be warned of false beliefs?

All disempowering beliefs, such as unworthiness, powerlessness, and victimhood, put us into survival mode, and over time can cause chronic and acute issues with serious repercussions, and, therefore, we need a warning system that alerts us to debilitating beliefs. This warning system is emotion, and, in fact, the purpose of emotional pain is to alert you to the fact you believe a falsehood. Just like physical pain alerts you the second you prick your finger with a knife, so you won’t cut your whole finger off, emotional pain alerts you to harmful beliefs so you can release them.

Without knowing that emotional pain is a sign of a false belief, most of us wrongly interpret this pain; so whenever we feel the emotional pain associated with unworthiness, the pain makes us believe the belief is true, thereby strengthening the belief and deepening the wound, and this perpetuates a cycle of emotional pain.

Furthermore, this internal warning system will stop at nothing to make you aware of a false belief, and, in fact, with increasing amplification, you will attract continuous opportunities that trigger emotional pain until you finally pay attention and release the false belief that is responsible for the pain. All emotional healing is releasing disempowering beliefs.
““““

Entangled in the conscious or unconscious belief that worth depends on getting our parents to meet our emotional needs, we grow into adults, still expecting one or both parents to give us what we need to feel worthy. But, this just sets us up for more pain because it never works.

“….this is why judgment can cause intense emotional pain even in adulthood…”

Why don’t parents meet their children’s emotional needs?

First of all, even the most well-intentioned parents often fail to meet their children’s emotional needs, and, in most cases, emotional wounds have nothing to do with parental love. Oftentimes, childhood emotional wounds are by-products of parenting style or our parent’s unhealed wounds or family issues, such as financial challenges, divorce, or a family member’s addiction, disease, mental illness or chronic depression.

Although parental judgment, criticism, and comparison to siblings or other children are the most common causes of the worthiness wound, almost any dynamic can set the stage, for instance, when a parent is over-protective or over-controlling, a child may feel disrespected and develop the belief he is unworthy of respect, and he may conclude he is untrustworthy, or when a child is told to be seen but not heard, she may develop the belief she is not worthy to speak, or she may believe she is not important.

In most cases, a child’s emotional wounds deepen over time, and as the child matures into adulthood, the wound matures accordingly; manifesting as problematic relationships, financial concerns, career challenges, and health issues, while also making it difficult to pursue one’s dreams and desires.

Many adult children protect themselves from parental judgment and manipulation by closing their hearts and putting up energetic barriers, but despite the defensive quality of anger and blame, it doesn’t protect us from emotional pain because the shield actually keeps the pain inside while it also prevents healing. Regardless of age, every time your parents fail to meet your Primary Emotional Need, feelings of disappointment feed unworthiness and often lead to powerlessness.

The Unworthiness Wound Causes Powerlessness

Do you still need parental approval, acceptance, validation or permission to feel worthy? If so, do you conceal behaviors that don’t meet your parent’s expectations?

This dynamic is quite common in most adults but there is a huge cost involved because whenever you suppress authentic expression in exchange for approval or acceptance, for example, you inadvertently give away your power. In fact, it is impossible to expect your parents to meet your emotional needs and make you feel worthy without giving them your power.

Consequently, the relationship is based on dysfunctional dynamics where you remain a powerless child who is vulnerable to being hurt. Not only does this make you susceptible to parental judgment and criticism, it also makes you vulnerable to manipulation through guilt and obligation.

Although blame is a natural response to powerlessness, it actually tells your subconscious mind that the parent you are blaming has power over you, and, therefore, blame perpetuates more powerlessness. Indeed, you won’t be able to heal your emotional wounds or forgive your parents as long as you blame them for making you feel powerless and unworthy. This is why self-responsibility is the cure, and, in fact, self-responsibility is the only thing that can solve your issues.

Self-responsibility means that you must own your unconditional worth and you must take back your power by releasing the expectation that your parents meet any of your emotional needs, and this also includes releasing the need for apology, acknowledge, or retribution.

“This is why self-responsibility is the cure, and, in fact, self-responsibility is the only thing that can solve your issues.”

Give to yourself what you need from your parents!

As you take responsibility for your life and your choices, you must stop seeking parental permission and emotional support, and, in fact, you don’t even need your parents to believe in you or your dreams. The same reasons your parents didn’t meet your needs in childhood are the same reasons they still don’t.  So you can let them off the hook and release all expectations!

Finally, when you know your unconditional worth, and you own your intrinsic power, your parents can’t hurt you emotionally, and, consequently, forgiveness becomes possible.

As dysfunctional dynamics dissolve, it gives way to a new paradigm of relationship based on unconditional worth and self-empowerment. The foundation of this deeper connection is clear boundaries, and, in fact, boundaries can take you from a powerless child to an empowered adult in a heartbeat. Indeed, your personal power is only as strong as your boundaries.

Boundaries are Key!

As an adult-child, it is up to you to set boundaries with your parents. Initially, it might feel uncomfortable, but, over time, strong boundaries will strengthen the relationship and allow for a deeper connection. So, to create a positive adult relationship with your parents, what boundaries do you need as an empowered adult?

Keep in mind, a boundary of respect, for example, is vague and you probably need to define the parameters of respect, so clearly and specifically spell it out in terms of communication and interaction. In all likelihood, you will need to teach your parents how to treat you, speak to you, and behave in ways that reflect respect. It’s also a good idea to invite your mom and dad to establish their boundaries and do your very best to honor them, as well.

Boundaries are set through intention but established with attention!

Effective boundaries require integrity, and this means that you must back-up every boundary with proper and consistent attention. Therefore, don’t expect your parents to automatically know when they are encroaching on a boundary. When people are used to behaving in habitual ways, it takes time to recognize new boundaries and reorganize new behavior accordingly. This means that it’s your responsibility to protect your boundaries, and, therefore, confidentially give clear feedback; tell your mom or dad when they are crossing (or about to cross) a boundary.

However, if either parent doesn’t respect your boundaries, don’t be afraid to limit interactions accordingly, but let them know why, so they have the necessary information to change their behavior. Believe it or not, most parents will eventually learn to respect boundaries, but only if you consistently enforce them first.

Reaping the Rewards

No matter how it seems, childhood wounds always leverage hidden gifts, such as independence, wisdom, or compassion, and without emotional challenges, our best attributes might never be revealed. If you haven’t yet recognized the positive qualities that sprung from your childhood wounds, now would be a wonderful time to do so because the recognition itself can be extremely healing. Indeed, the point is to heal the wounds but keep the benefits!

Finally, always remember that forgiveness is never for the person being forgiven. Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.

You are love, you are light, and all is well!

Graciously,
Nanice

P.S. You can watch the video version of this artlce here.

Nanice Bio:
As a Conscious Creation Coach since 1997, Nanice teaches mastery level manifestation. Using quantum principals, human dynamics, consciousness techniques, and real life experiences, her powerful coaching style is often referred to as the “Nanice Effect.”  Nanice is the author of several inspirational books including, “Is There a White Elephant in Your Way? – a comprehensive guidebook to awakening and self-empowerment.” Sign up for Nanice’s Free 7 Part Awakening Series at www.Nanice.com/Awaken. To find out more, please visit www.Nanice.com