Mindful Parenting Manual Session 5

Feedback on practice from Session 4

Give lots of time. Read out email examples/ my examples. Reminder that MLP/Green Boundaries are difficult without on-going practice of Sessions 1-3. Good qus to ask:

  • What gave in under pressure – the heart or the box?
  • What colour was my brain?

This week: our Thoughts, at a deeper level they’re called our core beliefs.

DRAW ROG circles on WB for Thoughts

R = I’m Not OK. O = (ask group) I’m Not OK yet or I will be OK when… G = I’m already OK

Mindfulness Exercise: Breath + Senses + 30 sec Velcro exercise: (Keep eyes shut and think of one aspect of one of your children eg hair, freckles, giggle, for 30 secs – time it).

Explain velcro exercise using Rick Hanson’s Velcro/Teflon theory

Apparently our negative thoughts are like Velcro, they stick, and our positive thoughts are like Teflon, they slide. Sounds perverse, but it’s because we’re designed to live with positive or neutral thoughts so they don’t need to stick around, whereas we need to pay attention to where the tiger in the jungle is. But in today’s society we’re bombarded with negative thoughts that are not really life-threatening, so activities help our brain make healthy thoughts stick are useful. The Velcro/Teflon exercise is just an easy way to do that. Research shows that just 15 secs (we did 30) of focusing on something that brings us joy turns it into a memory, rather than something passing that slides off us. It’s a great one before bed, or sitting at the traffic lights. Our thoughts (this session) and our emotions (session 2) are both key to good mental health. But they’re very different. Emotions are energy motions/chemical messages in our body, so once they’ve happened we have to learn to process them. Whereas thoughts start out as ideas (possible thoughts) and if we spend no time with them they evaporate (eg: if you don’t think about what I’ve said tonight again, it will be gone within about 24-48 hours). When we spend time with an idea, it turns into a thought, which is actual protein in our brain, a piece of brain pathway, so thoughts literally

become things, sometimes known as ‘neural real estate’.

The more we repeat an unhelpful thought the stronger the brain pathway becomes. Remember neuroplasticity from session 1. So unlike tricky emotions which we need to experience, regulate and process all our lives to stay healthy, we can actually change unhelpful thought patterns by creating new healthy pathways.

The CBT model is one of the most important in psychology.

DRAW CBT cascade on WB on LHS (see below)

Describe scenario of being at home doing your own thing, and then hearing children start to argue. Go through scenario step by step on RHS of WB. Mostly the first thought will be red (eg “Here we go again”), so get someone to try and offer a green possibility once you’ve gone down the red cascade.

……………………………………   Children starting to argue …………………………………   “Here we go again…”   Children starting to argue ……………………………………   “I wonder if they’ll need my help?” or “It’s completely normal”

Orange may come up as an alternative, a fix/solve thought. Go with it, as it’s useful to see that it’s likely to drift into Red down the cascade. Also add in that the emotion can be ALL’d to stop the cascade, but it can be hard to stop when the thought gets triggered.

So the event itself isn’t the problem. It’s your thoughts triggered by the event, so how you’re interpreting or perceiving the event, that determine what happens next. It’s often a vicious cycle or self-fulfilling prophecy. Your red-brain response causes disconnect, and your kids are then less likely to be able to play well. Your green-brain response means they may learn to problem-solve or at least they stay connected, which activates their healthy growing brain.

In order to change our automatic stressful thoughts, we need to understand where they come from. Just like our emotions they also make perfect sense.

Sentis Thoughts video. http….(If no video go straight to iceberg drawing)

DRAW: iceberg model of the brain 

Draw dots in top section. We all have stressful thoughts. But they don’t stand on their own. They’re connected to deeper thoughts that are harder to access. Draw bubbles further down with dotted lines connecting to dots. Then right at the bottom Draw bigger circles near the bottom – these are known as our core beliefs. These are beliefs about ourselves and the world that developed during our childhood. We actually see the world through them, they’re like lenses, turn bigger circles into glasses, they’re pretty black and white, and feel absolutely true, more like eyeballs, because we’ve been wearing them for so long.

Examples: (or choose your own)

You think your kids should do xxxxx or aren’t good enough at xxxx (conscious thought – draw dot). Below the surface or maybe near the surface your thought is “I’m not a good enough mum/dad” (bubbles). But you’re seeing through your core belief of “I’m not good enough” (lenses). Of course it’s also self-fulfilling. Your kids will prove your core belief of not being good enough on an almost daily basis, or other people’s ‘amazing’ kids will.

Client example: She went out for the evening and when she came home her hub said the kids were tricky to get to bed and he’d only just sat down. She reacted and said he shouldn’t have told her as it spoilt her evening. Her thought “You’re blaming me” or “It’s my fault” (dot), beneath it “I’m responsible for the family” (bubble) and further down to “I’m responsible for other people’s happiness” (lenses).

Here’s some examples of common core beliefs with possible home scenarios. They are rough guides only.

  • I’m not good enough” – high achieving home
  • I have to get it right/I can’t make mistakes” or” I never get it right/ I’m a failure” – high achieving or home with lots of rules
  • I’m not important”- busy home (mine?)
  • I need to be in control” – controlling home or chaotic home
  • I’m responsible” – home where you had to grow up too fast
  • I’m not free”- controlling home
  • They should….they shouldn’t” –  judgmental/critical home

Lots of stressful thoughts feel really understandable like “I’ don’t have enough time”, “there’s too much to do”, “we don’t have enough money”, “the house is a tip”, “my children should listen to me” “he/she doesn’t care”. But if they’re repetitive they’re sitting on deeper untrue core beliefs.

My Example: How the kids not listening used to set me off and not Simon – my core belief “I’m not important” and not his, related to our childhoods

So before we can change our thoughts we need to explore what they are. The deeper we can go the more effective. If we change these ones (point to glasses), these ones (top dots) change automatically. However we may need to work up here initially.

I’m going to ask you some questions to help you:

Insight Questions 1. Write down your 3 most recurrent stressful thoughts regarding yourself or someone else. Could be dots, bubbles or circles. Keep them raw (Not “I feel a bit…..”) 2. Finish these sentences with the very first thing that comes to your mind. I am …Others are …The world is …I have to be … or else … 3. As a child what was your role in the family? Take a moment to look at your answers to the above questions. Can you spot any emerging patterns or links? (write out Thought Inquiry questions on the WB while group is doing questions).  

Discuss with neighbour and feedback (If feedback from Session 4 was extended, skip this)

SKILL 6. Thought Inquiry

I’m going to teach you a technique we use at RYM that is a very effective way of changing our thoughts. It’s called Thought Inquiry.

Ask for a volunteer. Start with a solid/raw core belief or stressful thought.  

1. Is it true? (Yes or No only)

2. Can you be 100% sure that it’s true? (Yes or No only)

3. How do you feel when you think that thought? Where do you feel it firstly in your body? What emotions do you have?

3b. What do you do or not do when you think that thought?

4. I want you to imagine you woke up tomorrow morning without the thought, it’s disappeared in a puff of smoke, not accessible anywhere. How do you feel in your body? And your emotions?

4b. What do you do or not do without the thought?

5. Now we’ve imagined life without the thought. So let’s turn it around. This step is a thought experiment. (I generally use To the opposite, but can go to the Selforto the Other.

5b. Find 3 pieces of Evidence why this is true. List them. Get the group to help if necessary or Suggest your own if it’s a struggle but make sure it resonates with the  volunteer.

This isn’t a magic wand as you can see, it’s the beginning of unhooking from deeply held beliefs that limit our lives, as there’s probably a motorway in your brain from the amount of times you’ve thought it. The work then becomes repetition. That’s the hard bit, but the new thought will become your default over time. Give examples of ways clients are using repetition: post-its, screen-savers, traffic lights etc..

Thank volunteer for honesty and courage.

Mindfulness exercise in notebooks -Take one of your three 3 recurring stressful thoughts and write out the steps of the thought enquiry in your notebook. If you get stuck raise your hand and I’ll come and help you. (Because Session 5 starts with space to ask qus from Session 4 I often run out of time for the group to do their own T.I. Give it as homework and offer email support).

My story: (Use your own story here if helpful)

3 thoughts: “I can’t do this, they’d be better off with a different mum, I can’t do this.” I am: Small and insignificant. Others are: Bigger and more important than me. The world is: A place to explore if I have the courage. I need to be: impressive … or else: I won’t be noticed.

I chose as my Core Belief: “I am Small/insignificant” as it felt deeper than the 3 stressful thoughts. Turnaround: “I’m just the right size”. Describe how my life has changed.

Thought Inquiry can offer real insight into the Link part of ALL. EG: “Hi feeling of stress when the kids fight, it makes perfect sense as I grew up feeling I had to keep the peace.” Me: “Hi feeling if inadequacy, it makes perfect sense seeing as I grew up feeling small and insignificant.” We still have plenty of everyday tricky emotions so it’s transformative to lose those related to deeper core beliefs. So Thought Inquiry and Achknlwedge-Link-Let Go are incredible tools in your tool box. And if we change our negative core beliefs we won’t pass them to our children in some form. As I keep saying…“We parent out of overflow”.


Do the same exercise with 1-3 of your stressful thoughts – I’ll send out the steps as part of the session email.

Tips for Kids

Use the shortcut version with your children when you hear a core belief statement like “I can’t do this”, “I don’t have any friends”. What do we usually say? (Yes you can/you do!)

EG: I can’t do it mum! Is that true sweetheart? Yes. What does that become when you turn it around? I can do it? Great and why is that true?

EG: I don’t have any friends. Is that true? Yes. And what’s the opposite? I do have friends Can you think of any reasons why that’s true?” xxx likes me but xxx was really mean…… (The core belief is unhooked and the reality of a tricky day is now described. Then we can work with MLP.)

Show Byron Katie kids book if you have it.

Enjoy your practice and see you next week for our final session.

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