February 17, 2020

How your state of calm affects your child

This week I interviewed hypnotherapist Orla Kirby. The main focus of the conversation was how your state of well being affects your child. There is a growing awareness of the importance of self care and I believe that this can go deeper than bathing by candlelight.

Noticing subtle cues

Orla explains how we are in a sense all mind readers, as soon as a person enters a room we are picking up on how calm that person is, what kind of mood they are in, whether or not we might get along with them. We read a lot very immediately. This is part of how we evolved to look out for danger. If someone is in a heightened state of anxiety this would have been a cause for concern in more primitive times. If one person is worried, potentially we all should be worried. This would then trigger our own stress response.

In contemporary society we tend to over react to certain stimuli, going into a stress response when it is not necessary. This is because our brains have evolved to fit an environment we don’t live in any more. In the UK for example we live relatively safe lives. Any kind of change can trigger a flight or fight response even when it is not dangerous.

Change as a stress trigger

Having a baby is a huge change and can potentially trigger a lot of fight or flight, lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor. This is problematic because babies are born helpless and are constantly looking to us for reassurance that they are safe. If we are experiencing higher than usual levels of stress this will be passed on to the infant.

Processing the transition that having a child brings before the birth can help us to be more emotionally ready and therefore calmer when the baby arrives. The book “Transitions” by William Bridges can help with this.

The flip side of babies picking up on our stressed out state is that they also pick up on our calmness meaning that we have an innate ability to soothe them. Deep slow breathing can help with this, hypnotherapy can help us to access these states more easily. The more you practice putting yourself in a calm state before having a baby the easier it will be when the baby comes along.

Returning to balance

Learning how to regulate our emotions means that we are able to role model this for our child and support them to do this for themselves. Often this is a key reason that people come to therapy.

Hypnobirthing can be a great way of practising accessing deep relaxation which you can then draw on in difficult moments, for example when your baby is crying. It also addresses any fears or negative stories which you might have about becoming a parent, helping to install positive thought patterns.

A helpful breathing technique for lowering stress levels is to breathe in for four counts and out for eight. The longer outbreath allows us to more fully activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of us associate with calm and healing. This helps us to feel safe and relaxed. In breathing is associated with the sympathetic nervous system is activated by in breathing and more closely associated with our stress response.

Our amazing ability to heal

In the book “Free to Learn” Peter Grey talks about the role of play in processing difficult emotions and events. Hypnotherapy has a lot of faith in our brain’s ability to process grief and trauma. The lives of primitive people would have included a lot of death and suffering which they would need ways of dealing with. R.E.M. Sleep is one of the ways in which we are able to do this. Unfortunately if we spend a lot of time during the day going into fight or flight this impedes our ability to access R.E.M. sleep.

Hypnotherapy works by putting us into a state of deep relaxation and changing our thought patterns. By doing these two things together we are ore readily able to access the R.E.M state at night when we sleep which is when the actual processing will occur.

I reference John Vervaeke’s YouTube lecture series “awakening from the meaning crisis” which offers insight into what has shaped the contemporary frame works through which we view the world.

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