Book Review – Toxic Mom Toolkit: It’s not you. It’s her.

Toxic Mom Toolkit

Families are complicated at the best of times; not one family is the same as another. It is particularly difficult when, as a child, your relationship with your mother is not the same as those around you.

Seeing mothers and their children going out and having fun together, cuddling and joking around. A natural response for a child in this situation would be to assume “it must be me” – leaving them with no option but to bend and contort in different ways to hit the “Mum Code” – the exact code that causes Mum to love you in the way you need. Though none of them work because the problem isn’t you.

Rayne Wolfe grew up as one of those children and through her life has continued to actively seek to understand the confusing relationships she has had with her two toxic mothers. Throughout her book, you will find yourself walking a path that weaves and winds throughout a carefully crafted garden. A garden where, to start with, is full of weeds and pretty thistles, though gradually we see the garden being tended to, weeds are replaced with new shoots of life as we see the journey that Rayne and many others have been on start to bear fruit.

The book begins with showing us a picture of where Rayne was, holding the secret about the relationships with her toxic mothers as she listened to her friends talk about their own relationships in such a foreign way. Rayne shows us the ups and downs of her journey, concluding with a fierce, yet peaceful, resolution that while the past can’t be changed, there is hope for the future – that toxic mothers cannot control those who are not in their grasp.

Rayne Wolfe
Author – Rayne Wolfe

The contents are quite heavy, though Rayne has shown great care for her readers by consistently including snippets of self-care tools throughout the chapters, this was really important to ensure her readers are not traumatized by some of the stories included. These stories are real and need to be told, though care is crucial in the details which Rayne has attended to beautifully. I was able to read the whole book from front to back within a 24-hour period – including many an unwanted distraction, which during this time of the year, time is scarce. Giving proof that while the contents were confronting, it was engaging, safe, real and genuine.

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I was consistently pleasantly surprised that throughout the whole book, respect was given to the toxic mums discussed. This is another crucial point, because as children, we have this desire to love our parents and we want to respect them – though this is difficult to do when there is toxicity involved. In order to promote healthy healing and self-differentiation, respect is needed for the child to stand on their own feet and truly believe it when they say “that is their problem, not mine”.

If you are looking for an advice book on what to do about your toxic mother, then this isn’t the book for you. Though in all honesty, I don’t think you will find such a book. There are too many individual factors involved when dealing with a toxic mother, giving advice can do more harm than good.

On the other hand if you are looking for fresh ideas that may help you, if you need reassurance that true life can be experienced after a toxic childhood, then this is the book for you. Best of all, you will be welcomed into an amazing online community that can stand with you and support you along the way. After all, your toxic mother will give you advice and directions indicating that you can’t possibly have your own resources to survive, what we all need is the reinforcement that we have what we need to thrive.

Click here if you would like to walk this journey of healing and start living

If you don’t have a toxic parent, I do encourage you to read this book as a way of having an insight into the life of others who have had toxic parenting. So many times from the different perspectives of others in this book, it was mentioned that so many people just did not get what it meant to not have a good relationship with their parents. This is isolating and only adds strength to the toxic mother’s grasp. Your valuable insight into this well-hidden world may just help one other person who needs the support to break free.

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Home: A place to belong

Home-Belonging
Belonging is an innate need. It is how we know where we fit, what is expected of us, what areas we can safely push the boundaries, and somewhere to retreat to.
Home should be a place where we feel all these things – unfortunately that is not always the case.

So many families have been affected by the choices and actions of those around them. Being a system, like a mobile, one aspect cannot avoid being affected. This is incredibly dangerous for children growing up within families. Sometimes when parents and those around them make mistakes, it can be used as helpful for the children – in ways of demonstrating that even adults make mistakes and have the courage to apologise. For others, it can have harsh consequences.

Children can grow up in life searching for that safe area to retreat to, using only their internal resources that have often been neglected and malnourished. Adults who have had childhoods like this can certainly turn things around and make different choices – though this becomes very difficult when the healthy values have not been instilled in the first place.

So how can one fulfill that need of belonging and safety?
The key tool is self-awareness.

We cannot challenge our thoughts and ideas to see if they are healthy or know where they came from, if we do not have self-awareness.

How does one develop self-awareness?

This is a lengthy, ongoing, empowering journey that we all need to embark on throughout our life.

This involves taking on different tasks such as:

  • Taking a step back

Sometimes we need to just stop of a moment and analyse the situation. What is happening? What am I feeling? Who is involved?

  • Playing the devil’s advocate

The best way to challenge whether your thoughts and actions are healthy and true is to argue against them. If you argue different angles, you get a better picture of what is actually happening without well-intended emotions clouding the image.

  • Explore

Taking time to explore and investigate the “whys”. Why is this happening? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I involved? Identifying these “whys” can help us to put context around what is happening.

Through these activities, we can develop our self-awareness which allows us to tend to our true needs. Those needs which may have been neglected throughout our lives – whether intentional or unintentional.

The first step is a question – let’s see where the journey takes us!

Who am I and why am I here?

Who am I and why am I here?
Purpose:
noun
1. The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. An intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. Determination; resoluteness.

Without purpose, there isn’t any reason to do anything. We eat in order to sustain, we sleep in order to energise, we socialise in order to be connected. Everything we do, has to have purpose.

What is my purpose here with these blogs? This lies primarily with my purpose for becoming a counsellor.

So why did I become a counsellor and what does it have to do with a blog?

This story has taken my whole life to get to this point.
It first began in primary school, when 2 friends in particular, began sharing their struggles and pains with me. It felt powerful. I felt like I had something to give – though I was not sure what it was at the time.

Then high school came and the same thing happened. This time I knew it was because I was so quiet, I had the trust of others not to spread their secrets.

Then high school came to a close and I had to work out my next step.

The school counsellor suggested counselling – I felt I knew better and would go into psychology instead. Though I soon found out that the very essence of what I loved doing, would take years to get to if I continued that path. One thing led to another and I eventually found the right course for me.

I grew, I changed, I started thriving.

I was challenged to improve my life by applying what I learned in everyday situations. I still have a long way to go. Though now I feel like I have the basic foundations to keep riding this roller-coaster of life.

So what does blogging have to do with it?

As a counsellor, my desire is to make myself redundant.

Some people just need some nudges to explore areas in their life and to challenge their thinking.  Others, like myself, need a bit more intensive work to get the ball rolling.
My purpose for blogging, is to achieve both. To give a directive nudge to make the unknown explored and to highlight areas that need to be explored more intensively.

So now you know who I am and why I am here.
The question you now need to ask is who are you and why are you here?

Does your HSC result determine your future success in life?

Life after the HSC
Sweaty palms, deafening heart beats, shallow breathing, panic setting in staring at the blank piece of paper.

They are my memories of the HSC. I remember them vividly, and, I am still alive. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, and a career that brings me a great sense of purpose. Though if you went off my HSC results, I shouldn’t have the life I have now.

They were low, quite frankly I had burnt myself out in year 11 and was just over study – I didn’t really care anymore. Until the actual exam time came around. Then there was panic, sleepless nights, what would happen to me? Why had I not studied harder earlier?
Yet, here I am. Relieved that all those bad dreams did not become a reality.

The HSC results don’t have to dictate the rest of your life, they may have an effect on your short term plans, though there are always other options – sometimes they are better than your first choices.

In my year 11 exam for Senior Science, I achieved almost 100%. This was a real surprise because I was sick, I had very little sleep, and I was just over it – I didn’t care anymore. I finished that exam 1 hour early. Apparently, because I let myself off the hook, because I just tried my best and accepted it was the best I could do, my mind could recall things a lot easier than if I had fogged up my mind with stress and worry.

So, as you head into that exam room, remember:

1. You are more than a number;
2. Life will carry on;
3. Do your best and know that it is the best you can do;
4. The less unnecessary stress you put on yourself, the clearer your mind will be.

You are important and valuable, regardless of what your marks suggest. Walk into those exam rooms strong, focused, and confident that you will walk out as the same important and valuable person who walked in there in the first place. Ready to take on life after school.

Anxiety: Is it really a bad thing?

bench
The first thing I do when I begin to get anxious is to try and distract myself from the anxious thought. Funny thing is that when I try to not think about it, I find I can’t think of anything else!
So why do we get anxious?
Everyone gets anxious – the year 12 student studying for the test of their life, an expectant mother, a father providing for his family, the two day old baby unsure of when the next meal is coming, and so on.

Getting anxious motivates the student to study hard, the expectant mother to learn everything there is to know about labor and how to care for her baby, the father to ensure he has  good health and employers, and the motivates the baby to scream down the house to ensure their message is sent to the food provider!
So in these cases anxiety is actually a good thing. I would go as far as calling it a tool for our personal tool boxes.

A hammer is a very helpful tool when you want to put a nail into the fence – however it is also a dangerous tool if not used correctly. The same with anxiety, there are healthy levels/uses of anxiety and unhealthy levels/uses.

Anxiety disorders can develop from a traumatic experience, learned behavior as a child or just from a normal anxious thought (for instance the year 12 student may have spent the whole year preparing for their final tests that they have a long period of anxiety and have trouble letting go, continuing the high stress levels into further education/employment only to burn out).

This kind of anxiety can be extremely debilitating, often made worse by society in their often genuine desire to take away the pain! So how do we control those initially rational anxious thoughts? After all the best lies have an element of truth in them, the same with anxious thought patterns.

Here are five helpful tools to start with:

♦ Exercise: I am no expert in the science of physical exercise, however i have heard that endorphins in the body helps us to cope with the physical and mental stresses in life.

♦ Meditation: Yoga is a common one, however meditation can be focusing on anything you prefer such as through prayer, reading the bible, music, nature walks, etc. Just ensure they are healthy to focus on.

♦ Breathing exercises:Similar to meditation, only you can do it anywhere you are when you start to begin to panic.

♦ Distraction/diffusion: This does not involve removing the anxiety, just lessening the impact of the symptoms. When anxious thoughts arise you can say “thanks mind for that thought” or imagining the thought as a physical being altering its appearance to look funny or change your perspective on it. It is important to come back to the thought addressing it in the new perspective, it is important to listen to yourself and not ignore your own needs.

♦ Counselling combined with medical assessment: Anxiety does not generally have a medical cause as it is a secondary emotion, however stresses in the body can mimic anxiety symptoms which may then cause anxiety that they may return. So it is best to ensure there is nothing physically wrong as well as receiving tools and techniques to help deal with the root cause of the anxiety. The key in all these techniques is to not dismiss your feelings – they are real and need to be addressed.

The following story explains the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety really well:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” Remember to put the glass down.

Maria Ciancarelli.

You Don’t Have to Fight Alone


Even the strongest

In a war, a country never fights on their own – allies are drawn in through their friendships with other countries in order to fight the battle.

So why should anyone fight a war within themselves by themselves? Why do it alone when there is always someone to recruit, no matter where they come from or how they arrived – be active in seeking support!

Even the strongest need someone to lean on when they are tired and weary.

Empathy

Empathy
Sheldon Cooper, while searching for a birthday present with Penny for Leonard’s first birthday party, divulged that he had to find the perfect present for Leonard in order to ensure that he is not severely disappointed as Sheldon was when at his 12th birthday, instead of receiving the desired titanium centrifuge to separate radioactive isotopes, his parents gave him a motorised dirt bike! While most of us would assume that a motorised dirt bike for a 12 year old boy would be a great present to receive, it was not for Sheldon.

My point? it is important to find out how a person feels about their situation instead of assuming whether something is good or bad based on our own feelings. This is called empathy, appreciating the feelings of another – especially when it just does not seem logical to you.

The impact of our family of origin

Fammily of Origin

The impact of our family of origin: Beauty addict Corinne meets Simon who was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome – signs of this syndrome involve facial disfigurement.

 
Simon goes on a journey to learn about Corinne and her addiction. Through learning about Corinne’s life, Simon uncovers that she is running away from her Jamaican heritage which she inherited from her biological father who abandoned her and her mum during pregnancy. Simon learns more about her mask and personal insecurities.
 
A commendable decision he makes to help Corinne, was to take her to Jamaica. Corinne is interested in this. She said that she thinks Simon wants her to love who she is – Corinne wisely stated that she doesn’t know who she is to be able to love and accept herself.
 
During her trip, a man said to her that she looks Jamaican. Corinne said that she felt proud when he said that. It is when we face our pasts that we can love and accept ourselves, and enjoy our future.

Read more here