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Some of the most helpful resources we’ve seen for helping traumatized children learn to self-regulate comes from the work being done by Heather Forbes and B. Bryan Post. Together they wrote the book, Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors. Many traumatized parents have been helped to learn self-regulatory skills through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) groups that were created by Marsha Linehan

 

Regulatory capacities are our ability to successfully navigate emotional states such as anger, sadness, fear, or hurt. These emotions define our ability to establish and maintain relationships. We learn these skills through our early environment and our interactions with our primary caregivers. When something interferes with the consistent and effective care we need to develop healthy regulatory capacities, most often because our own parents missed out themselves, we learn negative social and emotional responses (fear) that stem from the past and interfere with our ability to make positive choices (love) in the present. This is illustrated in the stress model.

 

Behaviors that arise from fear can be a reaction to something scary in the present or the past. These behaviors all involve some form of fighting, fleeing, or freezing, which is our body’s instinctual response to a serious threat. Because these behaviors occur before our thinking or rational brain is engaged, consequences, punishment, and control aren’t very effective at helping us change these behaviors. We need to learn or develop our own positive regulatory capacities. 

 

Some of our favorite quotes from the Beyond Consequence book include:

  • “Stress leads us to live out of the past, avoid the present, and obsess about the future.” 
  • “Stress causes confused and distorted thinking.” 
  • “Revenge is a confession of pain.” 
  • “People who misbehave are seeking external regulation.” 
  • “Positive repetitious experiences will eventually overcome negative conditioning.”
  • “Fear sees problems and love sees solutions."

 

Safety networks, lifetime networks, and support networks provide opportunities to learn positive regulatory capacities through our relationships with the people with whom we belong. Although the very idea of developing these networks can bring up intense fear at first for those of us who haven’t had enough positive experiences in our relationships, seeking out relationships with the people who befriend us and tend to us is our only alternative to living a life of fear. Our transformation comes from finding the people with whom we can speak without having the words catch in our throats, from discovering that a circle of hands will open to receive us, from learning that eyes will light up when we enter, and from seeing that voices will celebrate with us as we come into our own power. The strength of everyone in the network joins with our own strength to do the work that needs to be done. We finally have arms to hold us when we falter. We replace fear with love. We heal. We help our children heal. 

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