Gordon Neufeld: Making Sense of Anxiety in Children and Youth

problem of anxiety seems to be increasing among children and youth or at least the number of diagnosis seems to be increasing recent studies suggests that up to one in five and other studies one in eight children suffer from moderate or severe anxiety there is much confusion in the field more and more professionals are trying to treat a problem address a problem that they don't understand and as a result of this they are resorting to hand-me-down kinds of strategies that are used for adults like medication and confronting irrational perceptions these as I hope we able to see have are more focusing on symptoms than really the root of the problem what I hope to do this evening is in less than an hour try to make sense of anxiety to you that is a daunting task so you'll need to fasten your seat belts I'm most anxious about being able to do that in an hour as those of you that know me know I take a long time to do most anything and so that will be a challenge for me and I admit that it is somewhat arrogant if not awfully arrogant of me to try to make sense in less than an hour of a problem that has challenged the most brilliant minds for generations for a century really but I am very fortunate I believe I am standing at just the right place at the right time to be able to hold on to enough pieces both historically and in terms of what is being offered from neuroscience now in terms of my my familiarity with attachment theory and with the developmental approach to actually have a chance to put those pieces together and so I have been able to piggyback on those brilliant minds to to hopefully make a contribution to this problem I hope you experienced it that way so we'll begin with the making sense now a whole lot of making sense depends upon the questions you ask if you can ask the right question that gives you that window that suddenly it sheds light on something and so I'm going to take you through a process of questions that I asked myself and I asked of the material in putting this together and hopefully that linear progression can help you as well it's it's very difficult and very visual it's always difficult to get something into a linear progression but I'm going to start and I'm going to start at the beginning with six questions and first of all what is anxiety and where does it come from now the word came into the English language from Latin it means uneasy or troubled that's where the word came from but where does anxiety come from but first of all we'll flesh out that word and to give it a more contemporary definition a vague and that's very important here a vague sense of unsafety and unease I don't feel safe I don't feel at ease characterized by apprehension which is both cognitive and emotional and restlessness and so you have a definition that most would use for anxiety but what is it about this this has challenged as I said some of the greatest minds what is it about where does it come from and it's now with neuroscience that we've been able to crack that code in one sense it is very very simple in another sense it is incredibly complex but for the simple part it is simply one subjective experience of an activated alarm system there is a huge alarm system a very complex alarm system that we have in our brains and that is very deep it it involves all kinds of components that serves that serves us it is actually activated by six months of age in gestation and this alarm system and this is the way to think of it because when you think of alarm system you can think of all kinds of things that go along with it false alarm a true alarm do we all the language that that brings with us but this already changes the dance with a child and yourself because now when you feel anxiety you know that it's a subjective tip of the alarm iceberg that is when you see a child who's anxious in whatever form it is it's simply telling you that the child is alarmed doesn't feel safe now we'll flush that out but already the dance changes this is an insight approach in other words the belief is that what you do is most determined by what you see more than anything else and unless we see correctly we're not going to do correctly and so you begin right there seeing the child as alarmed so that brings us of course to the next question what is the alarm system and how does it work well there it's huge neuroscience labs being dedicated to that right now being able to uncover just what it is it is it is a complicated system that involves the limbic system the emotional and it's very appropriate here that this is education of the heart because this is just what it is we focus on the heart the emotional the limbic system it involves attentional mechanisms that involves the endocrine system it involves the sympathetic nervous system and we could go on and on we could take a whole University course in it and barely barely touch the surface but for all intents and purposes what we need to know is is that it's a complex system a very significant system and it is structured the anatomy of alarm if we look at it in terms of consciousness what we're most aware is our perceptions although interesting enough that's not what comes first with alarm as we understand it what comes first is down about the middle it's actually the emotion that comes first and it's our limbic system which actually senses that's just like a startle response and then it fills in the big question is what's wrong what's wrong and so the perceptions are actually filling in trying to glean the information about what it is so in this case the heart comes first the mind comes second that's very important to understand because that's part of what messes us up so much part of what gets so confused because the heart comes first and it is almost it's instant that happens below consciousness and with emotion there's impulses there may or may not be feelings feelings are the conscious part of it of emotion all mammals all mammals have this alarm system and as far as we know only humans are conscious of their emotion in other words have feelings and so what we're talking about is something that is that we have in common with all mammals all mammals have a limbic system and so underneath emotion we have physiology there's a chemistry a physiology to this that again involves the endocrine system it involves the autonomic nervous system we have a chemistry neural transmitters a neural chemistry that's involved with it with the anatomy of alarm the the we have epinephrine adrenaline and so on and all of these things that are there so this is I'll come back to this later on to flesh this out about what can go wrong with the alarm system because things can go wrong with it it's a fragile system it is a very narrow window of functioning things can easily go wrong with it and this is where the to try and make sense of this is to find our way through but first of all I want to put a brief puzzle or a puzzle together for you putting the pieces together that's actually my life's work I love to pull put pieces together until they make sense until you can see the picture that emerges and in in years Lin said it was 30 years I think it's 40 years now that I since I started private practice of working with anxious adults and anxious children and in studying again putting the pieces together in terms of neuroscience I'm going to give a brief picture of how it Lert works and there are a number of possible outcomes to being alarmed and in fact it seems like there are three possible outcomes to being alarmed and so it would be appropriate here to use the analogy then of a traffic circle we have alarm coming into the system and the first thing what hat when we're alarmed the very very first thing that were the alarm stirs us up but the first thing that we're moved to do is like any alarm would move us to the whole purpose of the alarm is to move us to caution that's why we instinctively raise our voice when a child is heading for trouble Shawn we use that raised voice and what it's supposed to do we're supposed to see in their eyes that little tremor of alarm we've activated the amygdala and now everything is there and the first thing they say is what what's wrong which is exactly what's supposed to happen and then we say watch out you're heading for trouble you're going to be sorry that's not what to do and we fill it in except for so many children that doesn't work something's wrong that's how it's meant to work and you can see why a child with an alarm system on the blink creates a Yeller out of a parent that's right exactly because instinctively you're trying to make up for it because you want to see that tremor in them and that's that's it that's exactly the point and so it this goes to the very core of parenting and it's a very fact that our children are not being moved to caution so much anymore that we find ourselves looking for all kinds of tricks to compensate for that no nature had already taken care of this this is in our design the problem lies deeper something is amiss something is amiss the alarm system often is not working right now there's many many things that a child cannot avoid many things in a child's life a child's life is full of alarming futilities grandma dying parents splitting brother not liking me daddy going on a trip keeping mummy home rejection of a friend being liked by everyone and it goes on and on and on not mattering as you as much as you would like the loss or death of someone that you're attached to not being wanted chosen or preferred and we could go on the inevitability of death the passing of time we hit a wall of utility now the brain is already equipped to handle this if the futility sinks in and again this is a matter of the heart because it's a feeling we actually have feelings of futility when the feelings of utilities sink in Oh an incredible thing happens if they sink in the amygdala sends signals to the lacrimal glands and the eyes water and so for thousands of years we have associated tears with inner transformation when we're up against the things that we cannot change we become transformed by those things by the process of adaptation and there are many things that we cannot avoid in life many alarming things that we cannot avoid and when we can't avoid them it's very clear from this that we need to have our tears about them we need to have those tears of utility no that tears the onions don't count nor the to tears to simply upset theirs many kinds of tears the tears of futility are a very special kind of tear it requires a very soft heart to be able to experience it and a safe place for the child to have his tears one of the most significant things that I learned in terms of working with children with very very high alarm whether it was in the prison system or in private practice was the ones that were in chronic alarm were dry-eyed they had lost these tears of utility many for many years in fact when young children could experience these tears often the even very severe symptoms of obsessiveness and compulsiveness would would would melt away at least for an hour or two in the wake of it but then you knew the way through we have lost as a society we have lost the wisdom of being able to have our tears about the things that we cannot change especially the alarming futilities in life I believe this is one of the reasons why our anxiety is is rising so much this is a matter of the heart you can't think yourself out of this one in fact the more you think the more anxious you get there is no other way out of this one except to feel that's how we are meant to become resilient this is how we were meant to find rest and relief in our children to fight rest and relief that's why they need their tears when up against the things they cannot change that's how the system recalibrates so they discover that they can handle a certain amount of alarm in their life and alarming things it leads to resilience the brain discovers that they survived things not working and it leads to resourcefulness again these are all attributes no child is born with these these come as a result of adaptation and human adaptation is a pathway of Tears and so the answer to anxiety surprisingly has to do with these tears of futility now there's yet another route another pathway especially when one lacks the tiers of utility there's still another door that's open here that door is very important and of course that door is what the existentialists always used to talk about and that's a door of courage enroll Oh May if you are familiar with them a spoke of this of how important it is to take up a relationship with alarm and not let alarm get in the way I he spoke often that life was full of desire yes but on the treasure that we yearned for sat dragons dragons those things that we were alarmed for and so they often went hand in hand the dragon said on a Sat on the treasure and most treasures were guarded by Dragons and so how are we to deal with this well courage as he expressed and I remember being riveted in a lecture of his courage is not the absence of fear courage is when we don't let fear get in the way of life it doesn't require courage when you have no fear but how do we get to this place how can it happen it requires mixed feelings you have to be able to see both the dragon and the treasure simultaneously and now we know that the prefrontal cortex that front part of the limbic system doesn't even start developing to five to seven years of age and for very sensitive children it takes much longer to be able to get the mixed feelings that are there and so the ultimate resolution to alarm doesn't even start developing until later later in childhood and we know now that it's still under construction even in adolescence it takes time it takes time to develop this answer it requires mixed feelings very simply it requires a functioning and a developed prefrontal cortex now the point here is if a child is not capable of mixed feelings they will not experience these simultaneously either they will be full of alarm and moved to caution I don't want to go mommy it scares me it scares me or they or they're all full of desire we'll be okay I want to go and many of you have that experience for all kinds of things I want to be involved in the school play but then all of a sudden the child realizes that they may be laughed at and and but they don't experience them at the same time and again that takes a whole lot of development before nature's ultimate resolution of alarm is realized until then they need lots of tears about the things that they cannot change about the alarming futilities that there's nothing left to do but cry and if they if they don't again the alarm continues higher and higher there's so many of these examples I would like to ask a question but I might appear stupid I would like to stand up for a friend but maybe others won't like me to wear what I'd prefer but then I'll be seen as different I'd like to share my story but it may not be interesting I'd like to express my opinion but others may not approve and on and on and on and we have the we have the problem of the dragon and and the treasure but again this can't be solved until the child is actually capable of saying on one hand and on the other hand part of me feels this way and part of me feels that way in many children don't say this none of the kids that I worked with in the prison system could say that and all of them had lost their tears and all of them were suffering from incredible alarm problems in fact as I'll talk about later when we took pictures of their brains the alarm system was dysfunctional completely dysfunctional it was completely on the on the blink so what do we learn from this feeling alarm should move us to caution if that is possible to cry or to caution yes sorry if that is possible to cry if that is futile and to take courage if what alarms is in our way the three possible outcomes and we as parents and therapists actually stand as traffic directors deciding which ways we should encourage the outcome of alarm which of these natural comes would be appropriate in this situation to encourage a child to help them find their tears or to be able to help them move to caution these would be the three outcomes to have to to to look at now we'll go on what is it that alarms us so why do we have this alarm system why is it it's one of the most phenomenal systems in most integrated systems in in in the human structure why now the answer to this is an answer that most neuroscientists have not figured out the reason for that is is many of them know nothing of attachment theory but when you understand attachment theory this is a part that is so obvious it's so obvious attachment phasing the lack or loss of proximity with what or whom we are attached to facing separation is what alarms us so how do we make sense of that well it ends up that attachment is our preeminent need the less developed we are the more important that need is attachment is all about the pursuit of proximity of contact and closest in one way or another now there's this pursuit of proximity first of all is the census to be with mom and dad with those that were attached to to keep proximity whether it is a transitional object the teddy bear the sibling and so on and when there's a separation it triggers alarm understandably because we need proximity we need connection for our survival so it makes perfect sense if this is the preeminent need this is exactly what is meant to trigger alarm and so anytime that child that infant faces separation it is triggering alarm at any time we face separation it is triggering alarm but we have to flesh out what that separation means we don't really understand that until we can understand how we are seeking proximity and in actual fact the first six years of life ideally are about the development of relationship year after year yet another way of seeking proximity develops but this also means that there is a different way of experiencing separation now I'm using a plant analogy on top of the soil we see the growth a maturation part but it's underneath the soil that counts that's where the attachment roots are and the first one as I mentioned is is this is usually how we think of attachment is attachment through the senses to be in sight to be in smell to be in hearing to be in touch this is huge it drives Facebook you can also see why our children are getting more anxious it is huge it it is all about contact in closeness yet it is meant to be the most primitive of these in the primitive only by the second year of life it is all about becoming like we feel close to those that were like we want to be the same s but now that opens up a whole nother way of separation to be different then and now this becomes a source of anxiety but I'm not like you but I'm different then by the third year of life that comes a whole nother experience of closeness or proximity the child wants to belong he wants to be on the same side as he wants and here we have the instincts of loyalty to stand up for to to protect to serve to obey all of these instincts are about closeness when the child doesn't experience that sense of belonging with those that they're attached to the the alarm goes off all goes well and this moves deeper but by the fourth year of life it becomes incredibly important for that child to matter he feels close to those two that he is dear to and so he wants to be dear and when he doesn't experience a sense of mattering when he doesn't experience a sense of being important when he doesn't experience a sense of significance again he's facing separation by the fifth year of life the heart gets incredibly involved if everything goes well this is when the limbic system pulls out all the stops and the child gives his heart to him ever he's attached this is when the first I love yous come out that are so heartfelt before he set it out of imitation and now it said from the deepest place in the heart but when you give your heart away you risk it being broken and now you have a whole nother way of experiencing separation because now when you don't see don't feel the warmth you don't experience the delight and the eye of somebody else that you're around you're facing separation the alarm goes off and now we have another source of anxiety and if that wasn't enough by the sixth year of life if everything goes well it will occur to a child who's was fully developing the capacity for a late relationship that to be close means to be known to be seen and heard from the inside out to have no secrets that would come between and now when that child has a secret it alarms them do you know how many kids and how many clients I've had through the years in which that source of alarm that was going on was a secret especially when they could not afford to tell mummy because when that is there it generated an alarm that was huge and so this is another yet another way to review here the attachment alarm you need to understand how we seek closeness to understand how we face separation as human beings when you understand what a child is seeking closeness to and how you begin to understand where they are facing separation very common experiences of separation for children very alarming experiences birth bedtime that time is the big one because what happens at bedtime is the child faces separation and you can see the problem with today's strategies because it pushes a child even into more separation we've taken wrong turns and it's one of the reasons I think our children are experiencing so much anxiety of course the arrival of a sibling means more separation from mom and dad and moving and all of those things parents working going to school daycare camp shuffling between parents boarding school not being chosen wanted light recognized not being significant or valued favored by those attached to course by the time you end up to be 3 years of age if you're precocious 3 and a half if you're precocious it dawns on you that something bad could happen to mommy or daddy this goes through the roof and now you've had a child who hasn't experienced any anxiety whatsoever has been able to sleep through the night and all of these things and you've got an obsessive-compulsive child in your hands who's got anxiety all over the place where did it come from they figured it out they figured it out it is the most alarming experience of all it's simply developmental if that wasn't bad enough as ro LeMay suggested even the very act of becoming your own person means that now you feel separate and so you get anxiety you get alarmed just from growing up and then when you're 12 and 13 and you don't feel so close to your parents anymore I am another whole dose of alarm and you walk through a high school grade 7 or grade 8 and it's buzzing with alarm it's part of the territory is exactly what is happening you go to the roots and you see that no what is happening here children are facing separation when they face separation to become alarm this is the way the brain was meant to work there's no pathology in this this was exactly the way it is meant we live in a universe in which every little thing we're concerned about disorder from a developmental point of view we don't start that way we ask what is the order in this what is the meaning in this that nature have something in mind it turns out it it had something very important to it had in mind we've been pathologizing what nature was trying to do is to move us to caution to move us to tears and to move us to courage and we're so concerned that there's something wrong no there's proper ways of all of this when you experience your inevitable insecurities there is nothing left to do but cry even the word anxiety what was that word about anyway why haven't we always talked about the alarm system why doesn't our language talk about the alarm system instead of such vague ways well it turns out the answer to that is it is very difficult to see the separation we are facing it blinds us very much like the Sun is all around us but you can't look at it directly it will blind you it's exactly the same with separation it is a most significant experience yet it is a vulnerability too much to bear for many of us and that is the issue of human vulnerability one of the most important issues of the heart is the fact that it's that in our emotion we feel our woundedness we get hurt and sometimes the injuries sometimes the hurt the vulnerability can be too much to bear you can't see it you can't see it this is often the case there are defenses that are erected and the defenses that we now know there are defenses in the in the limbic system and we simply some of the feelings are numbed out I'll just touch on those briefly a bit later and another way that the brain does it a very important way is that it Tunes out the perceptions that would lead to vulnerable feelings and so we actually can't see that which would which would make us feel too bad we actually can't see that which alarms us and now the story of anxiety starts unfolding for us if I can diagram it this way we have in the center the hardest to look at the most difficult in terms of vulnerability the blinding experiences on the side the peripheral not selected or chosen perhaps that's facing separation can't find teddy bear sometimes that's really big grandma might die depends on how important grandma is whether that can be seen or not slighted by peers not liked by teacher a different than others not invited to the birthday party mainly these will be on the peripheral children will be able to see these and primarily name them most of them will but let's get to some of the big ones I don't feel like mommy likes me never feel like I don't feel invited to exist in her presence none of the kids in the prison could ever name that one it's estimated that 75% or more maternal rejection was at the core mom decided she would rather live with somebody else and the child was the odd person out and yet I never met one of these kids in prison that could name it when it gets that close we can't see it and yet they were showing all the signs of high alarm not invited into the presence of a primary attachment separation from the life we are attached to Becker's denial of death the biggest the biggest of all our mortality we have such trouble looking at in the eye it blinds us and so when we're blinded to these things it not only accentuates all of the ones around it those become big deals all of a sudden those become the hooks but something else that happens when we become blinded by the experiences that affect us the most it orphans the feelings of alarm divorcing them from their cause the brain can't stand that it's a meaning-making organism it's got to know what's wrong and if it's not fed with the information about what's wrong it simply starts inventing reasons and that's what it does so it displaces first of all alarm to what can be seen and so now the dark was a problem but now the dark is a real big problem oh it's so and it displaces it and it gives rise to alarming up sessions that is irrational reasons for alarm I call this cognitive backfill it's when the brain simply invents it has certain themes that it uses something is out of order that's one of my favorite and when I'm alarmed I reorganize my office and my files and I can't find anything after that but boy that's the most orderly conduct I ever have is when I'm alarmed something's out to get me there's monsters under the bed or we have paranoia or the circumstance or situation is associated with alarm and we develop all our phobias or there's unfinished business there's locks that I haven't locked or cupboard doors that I haven't done or the iron might be on and or I need to keep my purse to bed or and on and on and on and on or I might get sick or and all of these kinds of things and our brain events explanations after explanations I'll never fit in I'm going to get lost you'll forget me someplace it's not safe to fly something's wrong with me I might lose control I might get sick and so on and so on and so on but what's underneath it is simply blinded by the separation we're experiencing and so we could call it alarm without eyes Oh does defense of blindness disable the alarm system well when you put the pieces together you can see and I'm going to give an example here we've got this huge issue of human vulnerability we know now that we can be defended against the vulnerability too much to bear there's no problem when it's situational the problem is when our defenses get stuck and so our perceptions could be knocked out we're not seeing so well we're blinded to this we don't see the lack of invitation in somebody's eyes that should alarm us and so we're much more gregarious than we should be and you know people like this they just don't read the fact that your invitation to exist in my presence is over now and it should be a little bit alarming and move them to caution but they don't get it they don't get it and there's all kinds of things that can happen with this oh and so this gives rise of course is anxiety which is full of agitation and apprehension this is the vagueness part of it right but there's a deeper thing that can happen at deeper the brain can actually knock out the feelings and even some of the impulses that the child doesn't move so much to caution anymore and so the child becomes restless and reckless first of all we have agitation but there's no apprehension the child is not saying I feel unsafe the child uses no language on safety at all in fact if you ask him he says I'm not scared oh my goodness we're all scared do you know how many children are running around now who have no feelings of not being safe many parents are proud of these children it's saying they know my boy doesn't feel any fear this is of huge concern because that same boy will be reckless careless will not be moved to caution his alarm system is not working we'll get into trouble but we have this huge agitation but lacking apprehension but we even have a deeper one and that is the brain can go right to the physiology the arousal system and it can calm the child right down so instead of agitation the child now presents as cool as a cucumber you would never know they were alarmed and so now we have another one in which they now seek the address– that's associated with the alarm and we have a rising phenomena of these children as adolescents who actually do alarming things like cutting themselves just for the adrenaline rush of it in fact our adolescent wards are being filled with female cutters throughout North America and in northern Europe something is going wrong not only our children are highly alarmed but they're becoming highly defended against the law giving rise to a generation or increasing number of adrenaline seekers and so we actually have when we look at it we have three problems we have anxiety based problems we have agitation based problems we have end rental and based problems three alarm systems now if you look at these the anxiety based signs include not feeling safe anxiety reducing behaviors phobias nightmares obsessions impulsions panic attacks the agitation based the child doesn't actually feel unsafe right doesn't feel scared or nervous there's hyperness tension the restlessness recklessness can't stay out of harm's way doesn't see trouble coming impulsive and scattered attention the adrenaline based problems devoid of feelings of alarm attracted to what alarms lacks attachment conscious conscience and engages an alarming behavior now I hope you feel those of you that are anxious like this is actually better than the alternatives we're not bad off are we it could be a whole lot worse it could be and the diagnosis of children that that that that are characterized by agitation based alarm problems an adrenalin based brought LARM problems are actually increasing and I'm convinced that it's many of these doctors that are thinking that there's something wrong with the rest of us anxious neurotic people when in fact we're better off we're much better off we have an alarm system it's much better to feel it than not even if we can't quite figure it out even if it leads to some obsessive compulsiveness we're much better to feel it then then without this is not the worst problem at all it simply doesn't present very well because we feel miserable the others don't feel their pain we do and that's one of the problems so how does it work the dysfunction of defendant is here going back to anxiety we're blind to the true source of alarp gives rise to anxiety unfortunately when we're blind to the true source of the alarm we can't really confront it we can't take up a relationship with it and so courage does not become possible although we can be courageous with our anxiety we don't actually get Creators with the source of our anxiety which is really what is needed for us to make headway and we can't really cry about the thing that doesn't work because we don't know what's not working we can't name it we don't feel the futility around it and so it tends to be also we don't tend to have the sadness that we need around us and so all the energy goes into caution and of course those of us that are anxious tend to be over conciencia over cautious over conscientious and over concerned and not only that our caution is skewed because it is not directed to that which alarms and that's where we get the irrational obsessions and compulsive behaviors for every obsession there's a whole assorted compulsive behaviors that go with it which creates this anxiety loop that we have that is so that is so troubling in the anxiety when we have anxiety it just loops and loops there's no way out the anxiety doesn't decrease it continually gets more we're not able to deal with the source or find any other outlet and of course we all know the typical signs of elevated anxiety unrelenting sense that something is wrong or that something bad is going to happen for assistent feelings of nervousness or tension lack of safety dreams reflect the emotional theme of alarm as nightmares and the motor energy of alarm can find release through nervous tics and muscle spasms and periodic waves of unexplained panic we all know those of us that have experienced anxiety about these signs and symptoms and of course it leads to yet another issue here in which anxiety reduction becomes part of the picture and this anxiety is incredibly uncomfortable and so we naturally gravitate towards sucking and chewing and nail biting and eating why because it evokes the parasympathetic nervous system which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system just watch those hockey coaches baseball coaches okay and so and just watch them at this highly that these are the activities that are there it can be a rhythmic activity stimulation rocking pacing music with a beat swinging flickering fire watching waves worry beads stroking twirling hair seeking comfort through contact with transitional objects you'll all be familiar with this as parents physical exertion why because it moves the sympathetic nervous system to its very peak and then goes into parasympathetic nervous response and so you've got about an hour free of anxiety doesn't get rid of the problem but it is huge in terms of reducing the anxiety symptoms it's huge and of course the alcohol works directly on alarm marijuana works on the arousal system there are so many different accesses to this they're inventing something almost every month that has a new access to the alarm system but all it does is manage the symptoms it never deals with the problem and that's the important thing to realize why is anxiety increasing in our children why is it well we could talk about this for for a while but time does not allow one I think children are experiencing more separation than they've ever have part of it is because of what I talked about in my book they become peer oriented they're orbiting around their peers but that means if they do they suffer they face separation continually because now they are much more vulnerable the more appear matters to them the more they face the possibility of not being liked not being wanted look at them on Facebook all you have to do is tart how much the anxiety on your own child went up when they got into the social media and you'll get the picture you'll get the picture today's kids are wired they are facing separation all over the place children are failing to develop deep attachments the more primitive their attachments and look at them those that have deep attachments aren't even wanting to they're not the ones that are texting all the time because this is just being in touch there's no meaningful heartfelt connection there it's not attached at the heart those with the deeper attachments even though they can experience the sting of coldness they still have so many more ways of holding on when physically apart and they're much better off they're not nearly as vulnerable to to anxiety as I said children are becoming more peer oriented and the peer oriented is a recipe for alarm one of the things that we can do and that we must do is when our children back children are becoming more alpha this is a huge topic and one that I address in other places but this is this is huge an attachment it turns out that the whole purpose of attachment is to take care of each other and it has two sets of instincts we don't attach like this we attach like this because it the brain has to facilitate one to take care of the other and so it moves to a whole set of dependent instincts to look up to to defer to to take direction from and a whole set of alpha instincts to take over to take charge to assume responsibility to give direction and so on now the problem is is that a child must be depending upon us for them to feel safe when children become alpha you can't make them feel safe and so our children are becoming the alpha children is becoming an epidemic in our society children who are bossy prescriptive who have to have the last word they appear as strong but when you look at them they're highly alarmed it is a ticket to anxiety the larb only comes down when they can feel taken care of by another strong alpha presence but our problem in today's societies we're putting children in the lead well honey is that okay would you like to do this and so on and the more we do this to them the more we put them in charge the more alarm they get now we make them responsible for their own anxiety saying that if they think right they won't feel that way they're kids we are responsible for them it is our job to make them feel safe this is an issue for us as parents and teachers not to push into children that is your fault you feel anxious because you must not be thinking right now it doesn't make sense it doesn't make sense parents are resorting to alarming their children of course we up the ante on a law when the alarm system goes down with kids and that's understandable and natural and so but the cycle just goes on and I believe we separation based discipline is becoming the norm the research shows that seventy to eighty percent of today's young parents are either using timeouts which pushes the faith child's face into what separation or Consequences now when you use a consequence you look around for what a child is attached to cares about so you can use that against them so we're pushing children's face into separation that's why our grandparents who may not have done other things very well at least knew that this was not a starter you didn't use these kinds of things because bottom line is you never push the child's face into separation we don't handle that as humans that's a vulnerability too much to bear and we're doing this all over the place even our solution for sleep problems is to close the door and say to a child no more contact nope no more pee no more water nothing now you're isolated until you come down but I calm down eventually because of defended nough simply a vulnerability too much to bear but we don't do separation and our children are experiencing much too much separation let me bring this part to a close feeling alarmed therefore by review here we get alarmed when facing separation that's pretty self evident when you see it and when feeling alarmed we should be move to caution if that is possible pardon the typo here move to cry if that is futile and moved to take courage if what alarms is in our way when the problem is is that we become blinded to what our brain events reasons for what is wrong and we have the story of anxiety the story of anxiety is all around obsessions about what is wrong and compulsions that flow from it when the anxiety builds up but we start to engage in anxiety reducing behavior what is the answer very simply is a proper working alarm system where we can see what is alarming us and were appropriately moved now when I was reading the tributes to Mora Sendak Sendak I think that's the way you see it the author of where the wild things are just recently deceased and I am I was struck by something he said of course I was struck by where the wild things are and you can see all kinds of applications here all kinds of applications but I was struck by something he said in an interview a year before his death he certainly lived what he preached so to speak to children it's a very simple quote a very simple quote and the quote is this I'm not unhappy I cry a lot now I'm not unhappy I'm just sad think of it think of it he says I'm not unhappy I cry a lot so the two things are different you see I am moved to sadness I cry a lot why because I miss people he's touching the futility he's facing separation they die and I can't stop them now isn't that a statement of utility they leave me and I love them more most of us would be tempted to detach and he embraces what he loves there are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die talk about facing mortality an ultimate separation but I'm ready I'm ready I'm ready facing the separation with the people and things he is attached to finding his tears concerning the futility of holding on courageously embracing his loves even though it sets him up for feeling more pain I would aspire to be so sad and to be so brave when facing a separation that cannot be avoided I can't think of a better solution to the problem bank anxiety in the end that comes up to be something incredibly intuitive incredibly simple something all of you probably knew already but forgotten that you knew maybe didn't have the language that you knew the issue of anxiety is an issue of alarm the issue of alarm is facing separation facing separation is an issue of vulnerability sometimes it's too much to bear there's many alarming futilities in life and when there is there's nothing left to do but cry and hopefully a child can find his tears in a safe place to have his tears and then ultimately ultimately the Dragons are sitting on our treasures and the challenge is to not let fear get in our way hopefully that theory makes sense to you


  1. When courage and adaptation are no longer accessible, resulting only in anxiety. This changes the way our brains process fear. Does this mean that healthy brain function is compromised, leading to genetic malfunctioning that could be a source emotional disorders?

  2. I started to have severe anxiety at 15 when I strayed drinking coffee β˜• regularly for exams. Caffeine causes a lot of anxiety. Remember you are what you eat.

  3. The mere existence of "childhood anxiety"…is sufficient evidence that either there is no god, or if there is…he is a vile s.o.b.

  4. πŸ™‚
    Boy do I ever see myself in Gordon's words. I've heard many of his videos, but this one helps me to see myself. Thanks Gordon, and the Center πŸ™‚

  5. I love Gordon's lectures (: . I've often heard that things like anxiety, panic attacks & OCD can be symptoms of certain diseases, parasite infections or gut flora problems etc. I thought both this theory and Gordon's could be correct but now I'm not sure.

  6. What this man is saying isn't new, but maybe the way he's saying it is. All parents to be should have access to this information, then there's just no excuses left!

  7. Amazing, just amazing! It just makes sense!I have been trying to work on the idea "fear is the source of all suffering" – to help me understand anxiety, then after a while got stuck. But now I have the source of the fear: separation! Now I get it! It is going to help me so much to deal with my own anxiety and will guide me also as a mom. Thank you!!!!

  8. Thank you for uploading this extremely informative video. I now, for the first time in my 43yrs, understand WHY I think the way I do, I.E. "Others don't like me". It has crippled many areas of my life – relationships with family, friends, boyfriends, work colleauges – it's affected my career. All because something significant happened when i was 3.5yro and I was totally blinded by it.

    Thank you again and again. I'm off to do further research with the speakers name.. I appreciate the insight

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