More About Dread: Signals

The Emotion Thesaurus: a writer's guide to character expression, arrived in my mailbox today. I unwrapped the package over my desk. The book fell out and opened to the Dread page.  Mmm. We've been talking about this emotion since I published a Dread article on this blog.  

So, I thought it might be helpful for you to discover see how some of these dread descriptions might relate to you.  

Since an excerpt is one and a half pages out of the 167 page book, I believe I can honor copyright laws and share the Dread pages here.

The authors, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, are writers, not members of the mental health profession.  So these descriptions are from their perspective in terms of portraying a character who feels dread. 


Definition: a nearly overpowering fear to face or meet; a strong desire to avoid a future event or circumstance.

Physical Signals:

  1. holding the stomach as if pained
  2. clutching arms to one's chest
  3. shoulders curling forward, caving the chest in
  4. a bent neck
  5. leaning back or away from the source of discomfort
  6. dragging footsteps
  7. making excuses to leave
  8. a quiet voice, offering one-word response
  9. hunched posture and drooping head
  10. clasping one's knees tightly together
  11. avoiding eye contact
  12. turning the torso, shielding it
  13. lifting the shoulders as if to hide one's neck
  14. sweating
  15. rocking slightly
  16. hands that tremble
  17. seeking the safety of darkness, an exist, etc.
  18. holding one's elbows tightly aginst sides
  19. a downward gaze, using the hair as a shield
  20. making oneself appear smaller
  21. huddling in the corner, behind, or against something
  22. flinching or cringing
  23. heavy footsteps
  24. uncontrollable whispering
  25. increased swallowing
  26. arms crossing the stomach in a protective huddle
  27. rubbing and twisting one's hands, spinning rings or braelets
  28. scratching at the skin, picking or biting at nails
  29. clutching comfort items (a necklace, charm, phone, etc.)
  30. dragging the palms down one's pant legs
  31. chewing at one's lips or inner cheek and making them bleed
  32. a pale or sickly complexion

Internal Sensations:

a rolling stomach
  1. heavy or slugginsh heartbeat
  2. chills
  3. cold fingers
  4. tingling in the chest
  5. a weighted chest
  6. difficulty breathing
  7. a sour taste in the mouth
  8. ache in the back of the throad
  9. difficulty swallowing
  10. dizziness
  11. shakiness in the limbs

Mental Resonses:

  1. thoughts of escape
  2. wanting to hide
  3. wishing time woud speed up
  4. an inablity to see a positive outcome
  5. the need to check for danger overriding the need to hide

Cues of Acute or Long-Term Dread:

  1. shaking, shuddering
  2. jumping at sounds
  3. teeth chattering
  4. weeping
  5. seeking any excuse to avoid what is to come
  6. hyperventilating
  7. bargaining, pleading
  8. anxiety attack
  9. may escalate to Anguish (24), Terror (154)

Clues of Suppressed Dread:

  1. acting like one is simply feelng under the weather
  2. attempting to escape via distraction (TV, book, music)
  3. Focusing thoughts to keep fear from taking over
  4. Keeping still

Does this list help you bring your attention to your own physical and mental states
when you are feeling dread? Does this list help stimulate your thinking and make you
more aware of your feelings?

Remember, please, that this list was created by writers for writers. Still, in trying to make a
fictional character seem realistic when feeling dread, the authors may have created a list that
helps you be more realistic about your own real and lived experience.

Let me know what this list raises up for you, including nothing if that's the way it is. :)

Follow up article on Gurze blog: " Exploring the feeling and power of dread"

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are members of the SCBWI, The Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.

Visit their award winning online resource if you want to get support for your own writing projects. And thank you, Angela and Becca for your permission to post the Dread excerpt from your book.

See next article on Gurze blog:  "Exploring the feeling and power of dread" 


0 # interestingshh 2013-04-02 15:06

I find those lists very interesting, but they don't particularly capture the essence of dread as I experience it.

Dread for me is a feeling I feel right in my core, sometimes I get a feeling like the bottom has literally fallen out of my stomach, and it is almost always accompanied by a sensation in the region above my stomach, but beneath my lungs, like a strong contracting feeling.

My mood is often a bit on the irritable side too, I'm quiet and say very little, but then I snap at people about minor things.

I recognise that I do, do some of the things on the list, in other situations, but not particulary out of dread. When I read them some of them sound a bit "theatrical". The best way I can describe it is that for me, dread is a very 'inward' feeling, whereas a lot of the things described are quite 'outward'

Don't know if that makes any sense?

0 # DreadJackie 2013-04-02 18:21
I'm new to this site, but I have been in the process of therapy/recovery (binge eating) for four years. I was interested in the topic of dread because I recall feeling this once in the car very distinctly as I was going to the airport to pick up a significant person in my life. Someone I love.

I could barely sit up in my seat while driving. I had to rest my head on the window. I  had to drag myself into the terminal. I felt that it was wrong to feel that way, but I couldn't remove the weight. What I found most interesting today was the list of behaviors related to supressed dread. I feel like this almost daily. I don't know why exactly, but I need to work through it. 

Since December, I have had to adopt dietary restrictions (protein, salt, potassium) related to a genetic kidney disease. I've never been a restricter, but I find that restricting is a blessing for me in regards to my behaviors.

However, it doesn't change my thoughts. It sort of forces me to manage what I put into my body, but as a result, I am more concious of my feelings that I must sit with until they pass. I sit with them. They sit with me. I can't move. I distract myself in the evenings, but I don't do the things I need or want to do. I just sit alone shutting everyone else out in my family.

For me, eating was a pathway to unconciousness which eventually became a form of punishment. I'm wondering if sitting/feeling/not moving is also a form of punishment so that I feel a sense of dread because dread is familiar and uncomfortable. I don't really know the answer yet.

My mental self, spiritual self and physical self have been living in separate compartments for years. I'm trying to learn how to be present in my body now. I don't really like being present, because my body has a habit of betraying me. However, it's my goal to integrate.

It's my goal to live, not just to exist. When I manage to do something that's positive for my health and recovery, I feel hopeful. I'm really glad I found this site. I just ordered your book. I look forward to learning more. Thank you so much for your commitment.  jmk5
0 # response to Shh and Jackiepinkjoanna 2013-04-02 21:11
Dear Shh,

Yes, I agree with you. The list doesn't capture the essence of dread. I posted it because I thought it might deepen the conversation and allow more inner mobility as we examine our own experiences of dread.  Remember, the list was created by writers for writers.  

You know what dread feels like. Writers try to portray it on the page.  The list of descriptions doesn't get to the tenacious grip on the soul dread can be.  Still, the list may help us talk more about dread and help us open some new approaches to our self care.   :-)  J

Dear Jackie,

Welcome to my site.  I almost write "our site" because many people are active here and brave the recovery journey together.  

You raise an important issue in regards to dread.  Sitting still is a form of meditation that allows a person to approach the essence of their authentic nature.  Sitting still is also what terrified people do to hide, to not attract attention to themselves and to not raise feelings from within that are unbearable.

So sitting still can be used to help you to expand your awareness and develop your authentic self. And sitting still can help you shut the world out from your narrow hiding place as you shrink and contract.  

These are different forms of sitting. When you are caught in an eating disorder your mind can trick you into thinking that hiding is meditating. Yet being mindful is the opposite of shutting down.

The beginning of knowing the difference is the beginning of your taking positive action to heal your way out of the dilemma.

I'm glad to know Healing Your Hungry Heart is on its way to you.  The writing and breathing exercises will help you through this.

I recommend that you move through the chapters slowly (except for Chapter 1 which is the required qualifying chapter for the author).  Starting with Chapter 2, a chapter a month is not too slow.  Do the exercises every day.  Be gentle with yourself and let me know how you are doing.

Glad to see you here.

warm regards,

0 # Wow Jackie!KymL 2013-04-02 21:12
Welcome to the site.  You have done some amazing searching into your feelings and experiences with food and feelings!  I hope you see this self awareness as something that's positive for your health and recovery and it gives you hope!  I look forward to hearing more from you and I wish you the very best in your journey!
0 # still useful & hi Jackie!shh 2013-04-03 04:13

Joanna, I feel like although the list doesn't capture dread very well for me, I am finding it useful in that, because I know that I do, do some of the things on that list, like trying to make myself smaller, and looking at the floor to avoid eye contact with people, wishing time away, distracting myself (with my ED behaviours) etc...

I am using those ideas to sit and reflect about why I do those things, what is usually going on at the time? what are they helping me to avoid? and so on... which is really quite interesting to get into.

Jackie - just wanted to say hello, I am also a binge-eater, although I have also been a restricter too, but in adulthood it's the binge behaviours that are more prominent. Take your time with Joanna's book - it is wonderful, but if like me, there is an inclination to race off and read the whole book grasping at all the new and useful things, do make sure that once you've read it, you go back to chapter 2, and give each chapter the time it merits.

Wow...I am just realising that, that need rush off and read the whole book, grabbing and new concepts and stuffing them in without truly digesting them's a bit of a parallel to bingeing really isn't it?

So I am questioning why, why the need to do that? Something about being prepared for what lies ahead - to make sure there are no nasty surprises or disappointments maybe? To need to pre-empt what is going to happen? Made me tear-up to write that, as I am seeing how it links into the ambivalent nature of my background, of my parents attitudes, that never knowing what you're going to get, one day a behaviour is met with praise, the next day a similar behaviour met with violence and aggression.

Gosh - so much to get into here, I realise how it links in to a ceratin behaviour of my mother's that "sneaking off when the baby is asleep or distracted" - the uncertainty that went with going to sleep or letting my guard down, that she might disappear and I won't know when/if she's coming back.

Woooah - so much insight  coming here - I know I've gone right off on a tangent here, but definitely something to journal about and give more attention to - think I might finally be getting to the bottom of why I eat

S x

0 # Thank you.Jackie 2013-04-03 07:37
Thank you for the warm welcome. For me, knowledge has been helpful in moving forward. I don't want to be stuck. I don't want to cause myself pain or give myself reason to punish. I don't want to punish others. There are plenty of days where I think--off with you ED, into the past you go. I don't need you. Look at me here eating like a normal person. Then I notice that I'm talking to myself internally, that everything on my plate is gone, that it's only been two minutes since we said grace. I haven't engaged in conversation and my children are annoying me because they are complaining or fussing with their food....I think I'll be around for awhile yet :-).
0 # my dreadmylifex2 2013-04-03 20:40
welcome Jackie. I know you will find Joanna's book helpful in your recovery work.  Like others have said, be patient. Recovery is not easy or fast.

I have many of the dread symptoms listed above. I think the inability to see a positive outcome is the most disabling part to this whole dread thing for me.  My depression plays a large role because I don't have the mental or physical energy to move in the right direction sometimes. To make things a little more difficult, I am being worked up for MS. 

On one hand, it will be a relief to finally know why I feel so bad all the time. However, it's not a diagnosis anyone wants to have. So right now I am trying to avoid letting dread settle in over this most likely diagnosis and wondering how it will affect me in my ability to be optimal for my kids and my job. I am a single mom, so it's not like I have a second income to fall back on.

I am also having horrible issues with my adopted 12 year old daughter. Our relationship is not going well and I fear the future and what it holds for us. I have spent many days in tears recently and i find myself avoiding even my closest friends. Dread. I just want to look foward to tomorrow for once in a long time. I know that stress will exacerbate my illness so now more than ever, i need to focus on recovery and mindfulness.
0 # Thank you and morepinkjoanna 2013-04-03 21:40
Hi all,

I'm so glad to see your posts and find you sharing and supporting each other as you go more deeply into your own recovery work.  It's such a joy for me to see this.  It's what supports and encourages me in my work.  Thank you and thank us and thank each other.   :-)

I continued the exploration of dread with an article on the Gurze blog.  (I write two articles a month for them.)  You might want to see it.

"Exploring the feeling and power of dread"

0 # GURZEmylifex2 2013-04-04 17:30
for me, clicking the link above gives me an "error" report. Nonetheless, I simply typed "gurze" into the address page and was able to read your blog post on dread.

  As I read this, and as I continue to explore what dread means to me, I am beginning to sense that there is a connection between depression and dread. Perhaps one causes the other, perhaps they are intertwined...So in trying to figure this out I think about how I feel physically when I feel dread. When I physically feel dread I feel it in my stomach, my chest. I also feel tired and scared. Depression makes me feel sick in my stomach and my chest. It also makes me feel tired and scared.  They both make me want to crawl in bed and sleep forever.

Right now I am dealing with a lot of stress. But I ask myself, does my depression and dread magnify what may otherwise be just "average" stress??  I wake up with a feeling of dread. It has become an automatic part of my day. Sometimes, honestly, if I am not feeling dread or depression I get frantic. It's like these two things protect me.  What does that mean?? I think perhaps I have felt so bad for so long, that I am afraid to feel any other way. Happiness never lasts, I guess. I mean, it shouldn't be that way, but I can never count on feeling good for too long.

I have stepped up my therapy sessions to once a week. I am working really hard on digging through my past and how it is affecting my present. It's really hard. But I think I am doing the best I can.  I want to stop letting dread dictate my life. I want to be happy and not be scared to be happy.  I wonder if anyone else can relate to these feelings?
0 # depression, dead and recoverypinkjoanna 2013-04-04 18:14
Dear Tracy,

Thank you for the heads up about the bad link. I corrected it.

Yes, I think you will discover that feelings of dread and depression are connected. Eventually you'll discover that all your feelings are connected in some way because they are all yours and you are a whole person. You may feel divided up at times, but those are feelings. You are Tracy all the way through. :-)

I think you are asking great questions. They will help you stay present and attentive to your process and help in your recovery work.

Sometimes people are afraid to be happy because the thought of being happy and losing it is to terrible (dreadful?) to consider.

An important part of recovery is learning, through experience and memory, that feelings - all of them - come and go and come again. When we stay present and centered we can allow them to flow through us and experience being alive for all of it.

I know many people can relate to what you are feeling. I hope they write to you. I'm also glad to know you are seeing your therapist once a week now. It's good to know you are reaching out for what you need and getting it.

Laura R
0 # Dread and AnxietyLaura R 2013-04-04 22:01

I relate to a lot of things on the list. One thing that happens to me often is that dread escalates into anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if anxiety is my way of not feeling dread. Then I wonder if I had a better way of dealing with dread if I could stop it from changing to anxiety. I dread the kind of anxiety that triggers panic attacks.

I was talking to my psychiatrist about how I am a little disappointed that although I've done a good job of improving my eating over the last couple of years, I still have an awful lot of intense anxiety. I guess I was hoping eating would be a little more of a silver bullet for anxiety :-) Wishful thinking. Psych says more self compassion is needed
 around the anxiety instead of frustration.



0 # dread and anxietymylifex2 2013-04-05 06:02
dread and anxiety are definitely tied in a bundle for me as well.  I hate the free floating when I can't put a finger on what is wrong, but I feel terrible.
0 # That's familiar to meJackie 2013-04-05 13:03
Tracy-- I have a twelve year old daughter too. I was also adopted as a child so maybe there is something I will say that you will be able to relate to. My oldest daughter is twenty seven and my youngest daughter is five. My youngest child, a boy, was stillborn. He would be four now.

Sometimes twelve is an uncomfortable time for mothers and daughters. I felt like I lost my best friend when my oldest turned twelve. She developed into her own person and I struggled because I couldn't see me in her anymore.

I didn't see what I valued in her choices, in her words. I worried so much about who she would become and what people would think if she wasn't perfect. Years later, I see me in her. I see her beautiful loving soul. I see what she values. I see everything I worried I wouldn't see when I was busy lecturing her.  

I now see those past lectures as my fear speaking. I've always been so afraid of losing what I love. She was my first true family member. She meant everything to me and still does. I didn't like her choices very much between sixteen and twenty four. I wouldn't accept them even though I always loved her.

I think what saved our relationship is honesty. I was blunt about what I thought and how I felt. I expected her to communicate in the same way--even when I didn't like what she was saying.  

Now, do you think I could transfer all that learning to my current twelve year old? No! Apparently not. My current twelve year old really needs me, but I find her exhausting to deal with. She's different from her sister. Nothing I say to her  stays in her head and I have to remind her about everything.

She loves to argue, and so do I. I won't let her win which means that I am not really listening to her. I don't want to argue about nonsense. I believe that is wrong on my part. I keep asking myself how would you feel if someone treated you that way? I would hate it.

The thing is, she doesn't hate me. She just wants to be with me and doesn't know how. She doesn't know how to get there because I haven't told her. I've been in my own pain/grief/ED and I haven't shown her what to do with hers.

I must change. If I make anything a priority, it has to be this. I sometimes hate myself because of this. My five year old is what saves me. She sees what is valuable about me and she sees what is broken. She speaks the truth at all times. She is my gift and I am so thankful for the way in which she reminds me to come back to the present. She always says "Mama I love you more than anything, except God." This is who she is.

 Monday night was rough. On Tuesday, I let both of them have it verbally. They frequently engage in trying to manipulate my husband (because they can) into turning against me. I then have to listen to him more or less punishing me for not being a better mother, even when there was no real offense. He can't seem to see that he is being manipulated, and he can't seem to see that I am the same person from one day to the next, not so different and unrecognizable as the children are making me sound.

I told the twelve year old that I was exhausted from having the same conversations every day and that if she took some of the responsibility for taking care of herself (i.e. brushing her teeth, getting ready in a timely manner, picking up after herself without being verbally reminded) then I could focus on talking to her about more interesting things. I might enjoy her company more if she weren't arguing with me about things as mundane and delicious as english muffins. I told the five year old that it wasn't fair for her to jump on that bandwagon just for the joy ride. It isn't fair to mommy and it isn't fair to do that to daddy who loves them very much. So far, so good. 

When I was twelve I was living on my own mental island. I felt little connection to my adoptive parents who felt little connection to me.  I think that I'm often on that island, afraid to swim anywhere else. Inside I have strong voices telling me that they would really like for me to do something different. Inside I know that I am beloved. It's my practice that's funky, that needs to be worked out.

I still haven't done the bulk of what I was supposed to accomplish this week. In my silly mind, I think that I can cram it all into the next three days. Hopefully, I won't use that choice as justification for a binge. I've made some positive steps though.

After posting the other day, I made myself leave my room for the afternoon. I did some cooking/cleaning. Yesterday I didn't go in my room at all once I was awake and dressed. I made myself stay downstairs. I paid the bills and moved some furniture around. I went to a store to help my twelve year old pick out a birthday present for a party she is going to this weekend.

I might add that going shopping has been hard for me too since the death of my son. I don't really like going out of the house on these type of errands. I get too anxious about getting sick in public. I used to use Bach's rescue spray when I had to go in the store. Now I'm finding that I don't have to reach for the spray right away. I keep it with me, but I try to do it without it. I didn't even have to use the restroom while I was there (Miracle).

I also took my twelve year old out to lunch today. I had to cue myself mentally to make eye contact and conversation, but it was what she wanted to do. I also only ate half of my sandwich because that was all I wanted (Miracle). I brought the other half home and it is still in the fridge (Miracle). It has taken four years for me to only eat what I am hungry for....and I did it, just for today.

I read the post about manageable steps and that is what I am trying to do. I could start up the hate machine if I focused on all the things I haven't done that I am supposed to, but hey, I'm typing this from the first floor.

Maybe that's all I had to do, was give myself permission to leave my room and then the props for actually doing it. Maybe I will plan something else to do so that I can feel good when I go to bed tonight.

Tracy, thanks for sharing your questions. I find it helpful to think about how I might answer them. I truly understand how you feel, how your body feels and how tired you are. I'm sending you a hug and a smile.
0 # thank youmylifex2 2013-04-05 16:34
thank you, Jackie, for your kind and encouraging post. I also have a 5 year old daughter :-) I am glad you are here to post. You are very open and honest, which I appreciate. We sound similar in our frustration and approaches with our 12 year old daughters.

I am trying to figure out if her "stuff" is coming from being adopted at a later age (7) vs. being biological or being adopted at a younger age, (like her sister who was 8 months).  I hate to say this, but there is definitely a different type of bond between my two girls. My youngest still thinks I gave birth to her. I am all she has ever known. I have tried to introduce the adoption concept, but she doesn't get the proper time will come.

With my older daughter I feel like all I do is fight with her. I feel that she has respect for everyone in the world but me. I realize that 12 is a tough age. i get that. I try really, really hard to cut her slack for being 12. 

What I can't handle is the blatant disrespect she will give me and then turn around and get notes and certificates from school for being a good citizen, or student of the month.
I am sure there are a lot of attachment issues going on too. She has a hard time showing affection. 

She can walk right by me when I am crying and keep walking.  She never takes responsiblity when she is wrong or has hurt me.  She also likes to argue and have the last word. Always. She doesn't overthink things.  That is all I do. I tend to overtalk and overexplain things with her when we have fights. I think she tunes me out within 2 sentences.

I joke with her because she is a lot like a man.  "just the facts,mom".  She can't stand my verbal diarrhea.  She calls me Dr. Phil and Oprah. sigh. so we talked yesterday after 3 days of silence. I told her basically that I am the mom and there will be respect in the home, but that I realize we are different types of people and I will try to listen better.

Of course it took me 15 minutes to say all that, so I am not sure how much she heard. ;-) I told her that it hurts me when she doesn't come to me when she has hurt me. I want to continue to explore this lack of empathy, perhaps with a counselor for the two of us.

I am sure I have many more challenges to come. I deeply love my children, which is why it hurts so much when we are going through difficulties.

I just wanted to share a little of my struggles as you did with us. Motherhood is not easy, but there are many good times as well. Both of my kids are very smart and very talented in different ways. 

I am working with my therapist on how to continue to navigate single parenthood. (oh, forgot to mention my 5 year old has aspbergers and adhd...sooooooo, yeah...)
0 # Gurze-responseKymL 2013-04-05 19:15

I think my biggest dread of the past was that I'd be alone. I was sure that if people knew the real me that they would go running in the other direction. I would avoid social events because I feared accidently exposing my true self and losing the few friends I had.

I think I got to the point in my life that I hated living with the dread and fantasy fears and I had to trust that friends actually love me for who I am, not for who I was trying to be. It became a choice for with my ED and fears as my companion, or taking the scary steps that had some hope of a real life at the end.

I took those steps starting with recovery friends and I've moved to friends from various areas of my life. I still have fears going to new places and being with news people...just part of my personality, but it's no longer a paralyzing dread. Took a lot of trust, but my life is so much fuller and I'm very grateful to my former self who used all the bravery she had to start making small steps!

0 # White Spacepinkjoanna 2013-04-06 11:16
Dear Everyone,

Please make free use of white space in your posts.  Hit your "Enter" button often.  White space, aka
paragraph breaks, makes your writing much easier to read.

I do not edit your content.  What you say comes out in the comments in your words.
But I do add white space to posts that are jammed.

Please do this yourselves.  Don't let a block of words go more than five or six lines (or less) without a break of white space. 

The paragraph breaks don't have to be according to gammarian rules.  Just give the mind and eyes of your readers a chance to rest and take in what you are saying.   :-)

Thank you.

0 # parentingshh 2013-04-06 16:40

Firstly, Jackie I wanted to say that I am really sorry to read about the stillbirth of your son, that is a huge thing to deal with, it's not just the loss of the little boy that your son would be now, it's all the expectations you had of how life would be once he was here that were never or will never be fulfilled, and that life can change from happy and exciting, to traumatic and painful, so quickly, without and real warning - it is understandable that you would be anxious, on edge, scared that things will unexpectedly go wrong.

I don't know if you have had help and support in dealing with such a life-impacting loss? Here in the UK we have Sands ([censored]://[censored], I don't know if you have anything similar where you are? But more than anything just wanted to say that my heart goes out to you x

In respose to both Jackie and Tracy, I wanted to say that my girls are roughly a year behind yours at 11 and almost 5, although my 11 year old is well and truly in the throes of puberty and has the accompanying moods, attitude, need to start asserting herself more etc, so I do get how frustrating it can be at times.

Something I find helpful though, is to try to keep in mind what my role as a parent is about. Personally, I perceive that my role is to nurture and prepare my children to function successfully as individuals in the adult world. And that is not always as easy as it sounds! For example, if I raise my children to always obey orders, to do whatever it takes to please their parents because life is easier and stress-free for everyone that way - then I might be influencing them to go out into the adult world and be submissive, people-pleaser types, who do not feel able to question, argue, reason, who are open to people taking advantage of them etc, which isn't the way I'd like to send them out into the adult world. Or if I threaten severe punishments like "do this, or else...." then I could potentially showing them that it's okay to bully people etc.

And I find in order to try to keep my focus on preparing them for the adulthood, I have to ask myself sometimes "who am I doing this for?" "is that fulfilling their needs or is it fulfilling something of mine?"

So strangely enough I do welcome the arguments, the challenges to my authority, the differences of opinion etc, the things that make me question my motives, and what I'm trying to achieve, as I think it's really healthy, but that doesn't mean I find them easy to deal with, or that they don't frustrate me and push me to my limit ...because sometimes they do, and sometimes I do find myself thinking "if this is 11, what on earth will it be like when she's 14, how will I cope?"

But I'm proud really!

None of us will ever be the perfect parents, but I believe that if we can accept that and be prepared that sometime in the future (possibly when they are adults), we may have to sit with our children and say "yes, you're right, I didn't handle that very well", or "I did what I thought was best and I'm sorry if it was wrong and that it hurt you or impacted upon you in that way" - that if we can accept the things we didn't do too well, and we are able to be genuinely sorry to our children for that, then there is hope that we can maintain a good relationship with them.



0 # Kahlil Gibran to parentspinkjoanna 2013-04-06 19:03
I loved this many years ago when I first discovered Gibran.  He was "hot" when I was a teen-ager.
I still love this quote, especially the part about parents being bows and the children being arrows going to where the parents can never reach.  

We prepare our children with what we know from our past and present. This is what we give them as equipment to enter a future we can't imagine.  

We need to be kind, resilient, flexible and creative as we allow and encourage them to discover, trust and use their gifts and talents, whether we understand or not.  It's the way it's always been.

I think this task is only done well because so much love is present.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Source: The Prophet: 26 poetic essays, Pages: 17-18 (complete text of The Prophet is on the Cornell University link )
0 # Kids later in lifeKymL 2013-04-06 19:46
So my kids are grown up and I worried a lot about how my issues and my Ed would effect them.  We've talked about it and they tell me that my willingness to reach out for help and to be a little selfish to take care of myself showed them how to handle things that came their way. 

My youngest who is a dancer said my Ed struggles kept her from folding into peer pressure of ED behaviors.  Two of three of my girls have or are in therapy right now and I'm actually proud of that because I taught them that everyone needs help at some time and it's OK to not always be "super woman" and that there is strength in weakness. 

I'm very close to my girls now and we talk about the REAL things in what's hurting us and what our dreams are. 

So I hope no one worries about the effects on your kids when you are actually setting a good example for them!!!  And if your kids are expressing their feelings towards your, good or "bad", that's a good thing!!!  I wasn't allowed to sharing any of mine with my mom and it's caused me a lot of pain as an adult, so celebrate those moments as you grit your teeth and wonder why you had children :-)  
0 # Thank youshh 2013-04-07 14:47

Joanna, thank you for sharing Gibran's words with us, they really resonate with me and describe so well the things I try to be as a parent, the respect I do my best to hold for my children as individuals in their own rights, and the desire I have to try to ensure that they grow up with a strong sense of self, that they feel secure in, to carry them forwards into the unknown.

Kym, thank you to you too, for sharing your experiences as a mother whose children are now adults, and for offering us those words of reassurance.

It's interesting how you relate things back to your own childhood, as I was expected to share everything with my mother, I was told it was wrong to keep anything to myself, that as my mother she should know everything about me and my thoughts and feelings, yet whatever I shared was never the right thing in her eyes, unless it was what she had told me I should be thinking/doing/'s like I wasn't permitted to have any sense of self, and anything that was "me" was bad/wrong/undesirable/the ways and thoughts of a crazy, mentally ill person etc.

And so I know that is why it is important to me that my girls are "themselves" not an extension of me, or a product of what I might like them to do/be, that all of their thoughts, feelings, ideas etc are valid, and that I love them just the same regardless of that, regardless of whether we've had disagreements, regardless of how much they've tested me that day - the love is there just the same.


0 # I could be way offmylifex2 2013-04-07 17:42

I think everyone on this thread is doing their best mothering.  I think we all bring baggage to our relationships with everyone we encounter, our kids notwithstanding. I know that, despite the fact I am struggling with my daughter, I am doing the best I can.  I am admitting that I don't have all the answers and that I need help sometimes.

I too, notice that at times I can bring my mother's way of parenting into my ways.  That is completely normal.  I catch myself and try to do better. I think that is a major accomplishment that many people can't do...that is why abuse perpetuates through the generations. I do love my kids no matter what they do.

I also want my kids to develop their own personalities. It's fun to see the little adults emerging through their everyday lives.  We have ventured off the topic of dread somewhat here, but I feel that something needs to be cleared up a little.

I want to first say that when we comment on how we raise our children, we should make note that everyone on this site has thier own unique way of parenting. I may parent my children differently than someone else, but this does not mean I do not love or deeply care for my kids. It doesnt mean my kids are going to end up psychologically damaged.  I do expect respect from my children. Respect does not equal abuse or bondage. It is a form of power, yes, but children need healthy direction and guidance to navigate through life safely. 

The type of respect that I want from my kids enables me to keep them safe because I know that they trust me to lead them. When a parent is not respected, it is as if the child is saying we are on equal playing fields. But see, we cant be. The reason? As adults we know more, we have experienced more, we have been thru more. Some parents abuse this power, yes, and that is a horrible thing to have to grow up with and would make a person more likely to stay as far away from that form of parenting as possible. 

Good parents are not perfect parents, but they are able to help steer their children out of danger and into the right direction. If I did not desire respect from my kids, it would be like saying "go ahead, chart your own course...good luck..hope you make it"....I don't think anyone here does that AT ALL. I think we just call it different things. I respect my kids as well, and I try to allow them to develop their own uniqueness.  Do I give them advice? Sure I do. Again, I don't feel this is a bad thing.

Incidently, I still hold respect for my parents. They will always be older than me..they will always beat me to life experiences I have not yet had.  I still look to them for advice, but I filter it to taylor my parenting style.  I could be way off base for feeling like I needed to write this, but I feel better doing so. 

I love you all.

0 # I don't know where to put thismylifex2 2013-04-10 17:50
Joanna, what do you know about somatic experiencing/therapy ? My therapist briefly mentioned it to me and I had never heard of it. We are trying to to get things moving with my trauma work. She even mentioned ECT for my depression  which I see as a last resort.
0 # Wow!shh 2013-04-10 18:16

I'm amazed to see someone have such a good grasp, and seemingly very genuine, comfortable, acceptance, of this type of viewpoint at such a young age.

Whilst it's not dissimilar to my own viewpoint, I'm not sure I could imagine my girls having such a solid understanding of it as this boy seems to have. Although my eldest has always been very taken with the concept of "big bang theory" to explain how we and the universe that we are part of came to be, ever since she was about 5 or 6, and she finds religion so unpalatable, although she can respect other people's choices to believe in whatever they wish to believe in - but in that she also shows the naivety that comes with being so young, in the way she dismisses any attempts by me or my husdand to reason with her that there is much value and much to be learnt from a lot of religious teachings in themselves without needing to believe in or follow the faiths that they originate from,

But she is young, and I suspect that will change as she gets older, and realises the value of being open to listening to and reflecting upon a whole range of ideas and viewpoints (in all areas of life), including the ones that challenge your own beliefs, not just the ones that support them.


0 # Your daughter sounds amazingmylifex2 2013-04-10 18:25
And insightful too :-)
0 # Somatic therapy - Tracyshh 2013-04-10 18:50

Thank you Tracy :-)

I just wondered if you had tried looking up 'Peter A Levine' on Google or even better on YouTube to try to get a bit more insight into somatic therapy?


0 # somatic therapy - sensorimotorpinkjoanna 2013-04-10 21:06
Dear Tracy,

The word that will help you research what you want is "sensorimotor."

When sensorimotor work is done with a knowledgeable clinicial it is very helpful in healing from with trauma.

Peter Levine is excellent.  I know of his work and have heard him speak several times.  Most recently he also showed a video of his work with a child -powerful and moving.

I suggest you explore the work of Pat Ogden, also a leader in the field.


I use some of this method in my private practice work and find it helpful.  As I know you appreciate, trauma is often in the history or present of a person with an eating disorder.
0 # Thank youmylifex2 2013-04-11 09:35
Thank you both for the feedback.  I have done some research on this, googling both names given. It is very interesting stuff, a little triggering to watch the videos. It would take major bravery ony part to go through this, but it may be the answer for me.
0 # Kids n StuffJackie 2013-04-11 17:45
Since we are still talking about our kids. My five year old daughter said this to me this morning...

"Mom you are not as fat as you used to be. Now your heart is bigger than your body." 

I went for EMDR therapy to work on my PTSD for a brief period of time when I was younger--The therapist ended up moving to Belgium. I didn't trust her replacement, so I didn't get very far with it, but I found EMDR fascinating.

Joanna, my book arrived today!  Yay!

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