Writing a ‘living bio’ is so essentially different from a professional bio that can get continually refined until it barely has any life force left to it. This is an attempt to share the greater part of my journey in a way that brings my heart squarely into the telling of who I am and what I stand for.
Part of my story is a twist to the fact that I was being raised by loving parents. They truly tried as hard as they knew how to reach me… to set me on the straight and narrow. However having only normal and traditional methods of parenting at their disposal, my intensity and challenging choices left them in an endless array of compromised positions. Not only were the lessons they were striving to teach not having the intended impact but the progression of my ever-more difficult behaviors combined with their limited repertoire of techniques made life combustible at every turn.
As a young adult, even my best-intended desire to remedy this by seeking help by way of varied conventional therapies and several different ways of finding forgiveness barely made a dent in my disrepair. The gap in relationship with my family only grew with time. Ultimately relationship with my parents was not recoverable and for better or worse this loss continues to play a big part in my story.
Helping children and parents to not lose one another, helping them to not suffer disconnection in their key relationships and in contrast helping relationships to be a positive influence has become one of the many core passions that carries forward in my life work. Perhaps this passion to some extent is captured in the title of my first book, Transforming the Difficult Child.
The second passion I carry has become the crux of my work, that of helping children to have a congruent and positive relationship internally with their intensity and helping them to awaken to their greatness.
So many children get thrown off course in life and inadvertently begin hating their intensity and life force as a result of experiencing people who can’t handle it. Perhaps worse of all, many adults point back at the child and make the case that no one can handle this child… not the child, not their teachers, not their parents, and we need to make their intensity go away…most often with medications.
These passions have become a hill to die on, so creating first the Children’s Success foundation and then the Nurtured Heart Institute to bring the approach around the world became my dream come true. My vision was to gain more access to educational programs, initiatives, organizations and homes so as to help more and more children to discover that their intensity is in fact their gift. By this point in my journey in 1996 I was confident that the Nurtured Heart Approach indeed awakens children to their greatness and gives each child a sense of who they really are as a great person with great things to contribute.
My personal struggles as an intense child led me to so many challenging situations and relationships. My challenges didn’t end in childhood and led me to death’s door on quite a few occasions. I created the Nurtured Heart Approach, a perspective and practice for transforming challenging children, out of a passion to spare other intense children from such heartbreaks.
During the year of my dissertation as part of my graduate studies in clinical psychology, I felt strongly called to pursue my childhood dream of doing a woodworking. Having gone straight through school to that point it felt like a year off would serve me well in life.
Even though I had wonderfully compelling internship experiences in the field of Milieu Therapy, studying with leaders in that then emerging field, I sensed that I needed to step out of that world for a while to live life fully.
I also knew in my heart that if I completed my doctorate without taking this break, I risked becoming a stodgy, pompous clinician, stuck within APA lines in terms of standard treatments. Without this precious life experience in cabinetmaking, I would have never found the creative edge that now informs my work as a therapist.