Dr. Marcy Axness is an early development specialist, popular international speaker, top blogger at Mothering.com and author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers. She joins us in this episode of Collective Insights to discuss the steps that every parent should take to ensure their children would develop a healthy brain and a healthy mind. Being a parent comes with a lot of responsibility to not only your children, but to yourself as well, and it is one of the most fulfilling roles one could play in his life. Marcy emphasizes the importance of being mindful of your actions and of allowing your children a stress-free environment. Many parents give their children too many choices to make on a daily basis, and it has major consequences on their behavior and also down the line.
Free Gift from Marcy: "7 Ways to Rewire a Negative Mind" eBooklet
In This Episode We Discussed:
02:44 Marcy’s journey into the field of early development
05:49 How parents affect the expression of their children’s genes starting in the womb
11:49 Importance of presence for orbital frontal cortex development
17:24 Avoid acting on autopilot and multi-tasking
21:41 Understanding parenting principles for your own evolution
25:04 Hardwiring brains to expect peace instead of stress
32:31 The seven basic principles for parenting
35:31 Parents as leaders: Should we let our kids make frequent choices?
49:42 Creating a regular rhythm for your child
53:09 Becoming someone who is worthy of your child’s unquestioning imitation
01:00:52 Healthy, fruitful parenting requires trust
01:03:26 Finding the simplicity in life: Building confidence by learning to rely on our own resources
01:04:50 Going through bad parenting as a child: How to rebuild as an adult
01:10:22 Mindfulness as a meditative and transformative tool for reshaping the quality of our lives
01:20:40 Marcy’s advice for future and present parents on how to read her book
Related & Recommended Links:
Complete Episode Transcription:
Dr. H. Sandison:Welcome to Collective Insights. I'm your host today, Dr. Heather Sandison. I'm a naturopathic doctor and serve here at Neurohacker Collective on the Medical Advisory Board. I'm also the medical director of my clinic, North County Natural Medicine. I am absolutely delighted today to have Dr. Marcy Axness on our program.
Dr. H. Sandison:Dr. Axness is an early development specialist and the author of a book called "Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers." Her book's premise is if we really want to change the world we need to raise a generation who are hard-wired with the brain-based capacities of a peacemaker. These are things like self-regulation, empathy, trust, imagination, and, of course, intelligence. Her work synthesizes and distills leading edge neuroscience and child development research, weaving it into relevant consciousness research findings, spiritual wisdom traditions, and even quantum physics. To suggest the rudiments of a new paradigm for re-thinking early human development, and to offer practical guidelines for thoughtful people striving to become conscious parents. Now, I have to say, Dr. Axness, as I was reading your book I thought about it from not only the perspective of a pregnant mom, but, also, as a child of someone who suffered through having parents.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, I mean, we were all children, we were all babies. We were all conceived and carried in wombs.
Dr. H. Sandison:Exactly. I was reading it really for my own interest and just reading the introduction of your book I saw the overlap with how much of what we care about here at Neurohacker and through Collective Insights about how do we create potential, the highest potential possible for not only the next generation, but even for this generation? So that was why I reached out to have you on the program. Welcome, thank you so much for taking the time to join us.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, I'm so happy to be here with people who are interested in their brain I love that.
Dr. H. Sandison:So, tell me how did you get into it?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, I have to confess that everything I've done professionally really had its seeds in my own personal experience as an adopted person who was raised in not that healthy home, and then went on to have my own babies. One day as I was whipping a hand towel against the counter in the powder room because I was so frustrated with my baby so that I could just drain off enough of the activation, which you guys at Neurohacker probably use that word.
Dr. H. Sandison:Or trigger, would trigger be another word for that?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, so enough of the rage, enough of the activation that was going on in me by all kinds of triggers that at that point I didn't really know and understand so that I could just sit with my baby on the floor and play with blocks. That is really what led me, pulled me in a way, kicking and screaming. I have said motherhood brought me to my knees. That pulled me into an investigation, personally, which led me into a scholarly exploration. I went back to school. I went to Union Institute and University and I got my doctorate in a very interdisciplinary degree that really spans all these different fields which, of course, makes me completely unsuited for employment at any conventional institution of higher learning I might add because they like people to fit in those boxes. You are a sociologist. You are a psychologist.
Dr. Marcy Axness:When it came around time to write a book it was actually my daughter who was in her teens at the time. I knew I wanted to write a book, but I knew we don't need one more parenting book on the shelves at all. We were talking about it, she and I, and out of that conversation came the idea of parenting as a social action, or as activism, social activism, and that's what ignited that idea that's really how the book grew.
Dr. H. Sandison:So you have a PhD, but over and over again I see that you claim your best credentials are that you are the mother of Eve and Ian, your two children, and that they are both grown and flown, flourishing artists, and contributing to society. I love this part of your story where you came out of a less than ideal parenting situation as a child and really turned that around. That inspiration that is such an inspiration, right? Though we are a product of our parents we have the power and potential to shift that for the next generation and for ourselves. Let's dig into that if you don't mind.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Sure.
Dr. H. Sandison:How do parents affect brain development, health and human potential of their children?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, this gets into first of all I like to really start out by saying DNA is not pre-destination. My children are a living proof of that. DNA is more like predisposition. One analogy I've used with my students, and this is old school. This is back when we used maps, what a quaint idea. If you had a car with a map in it to Las Vegas and you get the idea, let's go to Las Vegas, if that map is there you were a little more likely to take the trip then somebody who didn't have that map. That's a pretty good analogy for genetic coding and DNA.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Of course, we're talking here about the great nature-nurture debate. It really, of course, is not a debate it's a dance. It's an interactive collaboration that takes place throughout the lifespan and there are windows of development where genetics, where nature, DNA leads, and then there's others where nurture leads where the environment and it's cues come in very strongly to interact with that genetic download. Throughout life, they're working together in unison taking cues from one another, and elaborating and weaving on what each one calls forth in the individual.
Dr. H. Sandison:So this is like the epigenetic nature of how things are expressed based on the inputs from the environment whether that's nutrients or stress, and you go into a lot of the research on that in your book.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes, absolutely. Here's the thing and I want to say that I learned this from someone that I'm sure you're familiar with at Neurohacker and that's Bruce Lipton.
Dr. H. Sandison:Absolutely, he's been a guest on the show.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, well, he's a dear friend and he was a wonderful mentor. He offered to be... A little known secret he offered to be on my doctoral committee, and I ended up needing to get somebody who was more specifically prenatal development oriented, but I got the best of both worlds because Bruce was always available to me. I learned this right from Bruce. Natures job, I mean, natures overarching imperative is to create organisms who are going to flourish as well as possible in the environment in which they're living, so nature is always responding to what the cues are in the environment and adapting.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Ultimately, when you boil it down it's really quite a simple concept that nature wants to make the adjustments in the individual that are going to allow that person to do as well as possible in their environment, and that cueing and adapting starts way earlier than we used to think it starts in the womb. It starts as that fetal brain is forming in response to the environmental cues of what is life like as mommy is downloading it. I often tell pregnant women just imagine your baby is continually asking what is this world like mommy that I'm going to come into because I'm preparing to be as well-suited as possible for it.
Dr. H. Sandison:Great. So how to be as well-suited for the world that we live in there's a couple of passages I just want to share with our listeners from your book. Some of what you take from Bruce Lipton this idea that for humanity to survive at this point and indeed thrive will only happen by embracing and cultivating the abilities needed for interdependence and unification suggesting that as Bruce Lipton puts it survival of the most loving. How do we get there? How do we get the most loving children? How do we create ourselves despite what maybe our parents did to us [inaudible 00:10:10]
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right.
Dr. H. Sandison:How do we become the ones that survive as the most loving creatures on earth?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right, well, that is classic Bruce. Of course, he's jumping off of the age-old survival of the fittest, which was Darwin's big, famous thing, but Bruce is talking about Darwin had follow-up research where he really found that this interdependence is a really driving force in natural selection. How do we create the most loving generation and make ourselves, reinvent ourselves day-by-day into more and more loving individuals?
Dr. Marcy Axness:First of all, I'd like to bring it down to a really practical level. I mean, that is beautiful, but it's pretty philosophical and it's pretty high-level. What we're really looking to do is to foster the most well-wired brain possible in our children and in ourselves, but let's face it our children's brains are incredibly malleable. It's a lot easier to create a well-wired brain of a young one than to change our brains. The old teaching a dog new tricks one of the big exciting pieces of news from the Decade of the Brain in the '90s is neuroplasticity. Yes, we are not fixed. Yes, our brains can change really until we're in the grave and that's wonderful, but it's a whole lot easier as the famous quote goes it's easier to build healthy children than to repair broken men.
Dr. H. Sandison:Right.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I paraphrased slightly, it's not quite like that. Really we're talking about when we get really, really practical and nuts and bolts about it we're talking about this little region of the brain called the orbital frontal cortex. Dan Siegal, one of my many teachers he uses a model in the palm of your hand. He uses a model of the OFC as your brain in the palm of your hand, and this is your OFC. I won't go into that. I'll let Dan do that if you ever talk to him. The point about the OFC is it turns out that this little system it's not just a structure it's a system in our brain's right hemisphere it is really what I call the human being success center. It integrates emotion with cognition. It's able to weave together the past and the present. It's responsible for common sense thinking. It's responsible for being able to read people's signals and feelings what we call EQ, emotional quotient that Dan Goleman coined.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's really about the skills of being truly human. It's the clutch, if you will, of the whole right hemisphere. It takes all of the stuff that's coming in from outside the information, sensations, feelings, memory. Well, feelings come from the inside, so it takes all this information and stuff from the inside and puts them together in a way that makes sense, that fits, that has meaning, and that allows us to feel like we fit meaningfully into our surroundings. The OFC is this brain headquarters for all of the capacities of the peacemaker that we're looking to foster.
Dr. Marcy Axness:A lot of my book really is it's what I like to call a scientific blueprint taking all of the science for how do you create a well-wired OFC, and putting it together in a practical way. If I had to boil it down my book is based on seven principles, and the first of which is presence. That word gets thrown around a lot, but if you know someone who can be truly present that's a proxy right there for healthy OFC development. Just start right there as a parent, as an adult child of parents are you able to be present? Are you able to settle and just be here? That's becoming more and more of a challenge these days in the wired world.
Dr. H. Sandison:Right, with technology.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, and that's a whole other piece, and that's a piece that actually isn't in my book because, interestingly, 2012 is what Jean Twenge, I don't know how to pronounce her name, who studies the effects of the smartphones on generations. Actually, she studies generations in general, but she's really zeroing in on how has the smartphone affected generation Y, or the millennials. 2012 was the tipping point at which more than 50% of people owned handheld devices, so the research wasn't rolling in yet when my book came out, but it is now.
Dr. H. Sandison:Do you have thoughts about that now? What are your thoughts? What is the research saying apparently about our ability to be present in such a technologically driven world?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, I actually about a year and a half, maybe two years ago, time flies, I started a blog series called Wired Wednesdays exploring our digital dependence. I've probably written the equivalent of a book just in those blog posts. Yeah, I mean, just a couple of nutshells that's one of the reasons I decided to do a blog series because I wanted to just tease out it's such a huge almost ungraspable issue, right? It also has an aspect of the fish in water thing asking a fish to describe water. Once you're in it it's kind of hard to step back and unwind and unpack these different effects so that's what I've been trying to do.
Dr. Marcy Axness:A couple of nutshell findings is it's really, really clear it's not even up in the air anymore. The more time that people, I'm not even going to say kids, people spend on social media over and above there is a tipping point it's about two hours and 15 minutes or something. There's sort of this break point, so if you're on for two hours a day that still seems like a lot, but I guess it hasn't shown huge effects, but, boy, you get above that and that's when the rates of depression, anxiety, and just general the opposite of what we're looking to cultivate qualities zoom, skyrocket.
Dr. H. Sandison:Does the type of media that you're consuming or the type of interaction that you're having on social media say, does that influence how debilitating it can be like if you're playing violent video games versus connecting with your peers in maybe a more positive way does that affect things?
Dr. Marcy Axness:The video game piece that's a separate thing. I'm really looking at the more garden variety what you see people doing in line at Starbucks because that's so much more pervasive. I mean, yeah, I guess there's a lot of people who do violent video games, but it's sort of a subset. I'm looking at this is that 50% and more who own handheld devices. It was one thing when you had to go home and sit at a computer to go do all this, but now it's in your hand. It's like you remember good old Marshall McLuhan when he said, "The medium is the message."
Dr. Marcy Axness:In this case, I think, the medium is the insidious effect. It is inherently a multitasky kind of thing. Of course, I'm sure you at Neurohacker know that multitasking is a myth. There really is no such thing as multitasking. It's rapid what do they call that rapid? I forget what they call it. You're, basically, like a pinball going between tasks and not doing any of them very well, but I do have a section there's a couple paragraphs in my book about some really fascinating research they did at I believe it was Cambridge University on the effects of autopilot, of doing things on autopilot which is what a lot of times we do when we are supposedly multitasking, you know what I mean?
Dr. H. Sandison:What did they find?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, they found that very rapidly... They had a guy... Do you want me to describe the experiment?
Dr. H. Sandison:Please, yeah, I'm fascinated.
Dr. Marcy Axness:So they had a guy wired up with all the electrode, and everything, so that they could map his brain activity. They had him with a keyboard learn, I think, it was a four or six number sequence and he had to start out from square one, and, basically, every time he'd hit a wrong button he'd get a certain like a loud whatever a wrong-
Dr. H. Sandison:Some sort of negative response.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes, exactly. So he just had to keep working at it 'til he figured out this sequence. Well, the whole time that he was working at it, the opposite of autopilot, his brain was just lit up like the Empire State Building on 4th of July. Once he had it they told him keep doing it until you can just do it without thinking, so he did, and as he did that the light started to go down. Then they asked him to do something else while he continued to do the keypad. It was like all the lights went out, but to me the most instructive part of that research that is most tangibly practical good news for all of us is that when they asked him to go back to doing the sequence as if he were doing it for the first time, in other words, be mindful about it. You must talk about mindfulness a lot.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Really sink himself into that activity completely all the lights came back on, and to me that is the great news about that piece of research so that's why I include it in my book.
Dr. H. Sandison:That would be, yeah, this illustration of presence that instead of being in that multitasking on autopilot that we bring our awareness to whatever it is we're doing, and it sounds like this can happen a lot in parenting.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, that is a perfect way to come back to the question of how parents can really most effectively create these well-wired brains because I have to say it's a win-win this idea of raising a generation for peace because not only is a vibrantly, healthy child like that really a joy to parent then later like you were saying with my kids they go out into the world ready to confidently innovate solutions, and be that peacemaker thinker that we're hoping that we need in our world. Even for people who aren't parents, or aren't even planning on being parents like you said all of this feeds into your own evolution on a daily basis, and by understanding these principles anyone can be part of what I call the evolution solution beginning long before they have children, or if they never have kids.
Dr. Marcy Axness:One of my favorite kind of guest lecture opportunities I used to do was I would go into a high school biology class, and talk to them about prenatal development about the power that they have during pregnancy like I was saying create this well-mapped brain starting even in pregnancy, but as I would get towards the end of the class because they were just eyes that shine. I mean, they were so turned on by this information, but then I said, "Look, you don't have to wait until you're ready to have a family to put all of these principles I'm telling you about to work."
Dr. Marcy Axness:I took a nice long dramatic pause. I said, "You're all pregnant right now." You say that to a group of 16, 17 year olds they'll like, ahhh, they get all blushed out and whatever. Then I talked to them about this idea of cell regeneration. This is all in the book because to me this is another piece of really practical good news, and it's also something I tried in my book to not put out a bunch of stuff that you can read in any old place. I mean, I really tried to bring news that has come out, but somehow didn't get quite the play that really it deserves, and this is one of them, cell regeneration.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I think most people don't realize that our cells are regenerating constantly. Taste buds only live for a few hours that's why you can reform your palate so quickly. White blood cells live for about 10 days. Muscle cells live for about 90 days, and red blood cells they last the longest. They last for about four months. The students were really fascinated to learn that about 1% of their cells die and are replaced every day meaning that at a cellular level we have new bodies every three months. Now that's at a cellular level, but you can see it in action. How many of you and your listeners have noticed how amazingly rapidly presidents age in four or eight years, right?
Dr. H. Sandison:Right.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, I describe using a little analogy of parking cars in parking spaces the concept of cellular receptors in our brain and how they can change in response to what the environment is asking of us. It goes back to that principle that Bruce taught me that nature always wants to make her creations as well-suited to the environment as possible, so you mentioned that I talk a lot about stress in the book, I do. Stress is probably one of the most potent and insidious environmental messages.
Dr. H. Sandison:And as ubiquitous as our smartphones, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, absolutely.
Dr. H. Sandison:They come together.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, by the way, the smartphones do cause stress, too. If your listeners want to go to my website parentingforpeace.com they can see right on the front page where they can go and read some of my Wired Wednesdays blogs. There's one in there I summarized when Anderson Cooper did a "60 Minutes" segment all about how these tech companies absolutely are taking... Talk about neurohacking, they are taking neuroscientific research and using it to get us hooked. They set up a little stress, and then they relieve it. It's all these micro responses that happen in our brains in our reward system, our pleasure-reward system.
Dr. H. Sandison:The word on the street is that they keep their kids out of the schools. They use all the tablets and they put them in Waldorf, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, that's in my book. You read it in my book.
Dr. H. Sandison:Oh, really, that's where I got that.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Word is not on the street, but actually I have to keep word on Facebook and stuff. Evidently, Steve Jobs did not let his kids have the tablets when they came out, yeah, all like that. Listen, I don't envy parents of young kids today. I feel like, woof, I missed that one. For us it was just TV screens and maybe video games, and how quaint is that, but back to this idea of how stress can change the receptors in your brain just like your receptors do change with all of these cues and responses that happen with a smartphone.
Dr. Marcy Axness:The way stress works is if you've got so much stress hormones circulating in your system without abatement, and I mean relentless. Let's say you're a president what will happen is nature wanting to accommodate environmental demand is it will take some of the receptors that are set up for other things like cellular repair and things that we want, who knows, the things that are not essential to life, and they will get rid of those receptors, and they'll create more stress hormone receptors. This is how you see a president just age so incredibly in eight years. To me that's the best example.
Dr. H. Sandison:Unfortunately, these are the things that get turned off like creativity.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes.
Dr. H. Sandison:All of what we want to cultivate, right? This peacemaking, this ability to find creative solutions to connect and be present, so that's really fascinating.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely. Dan Siegal talks about that a lot in his books. He talks about the low road. I mean, when we're under stress we end up on the low road. We lose access to our higher thinking centers. Here in California we have a lot of wildfires. Here's one little example about where I put my understanding of neural functioning to use in a practical way. We have a lot of wildfires, and I used to live in Malibu Canyon, and we actually had to evacuate a couple times. So now knowing very well my own brain, and my own low threshold for stress I have made a very detailed list of things that I would take in an evacuation because I know very well that access to those higher thinking centers absolutely get cut off under stress. It's how we survive. If we had to see a charging tiger and sit and think about things in a creative way humankind would never have survived.
Dr. H. Sandison:Right, and I see this in my practice a lot people who are under constant chronic stress it affects their hormones, it affects their relationships. I mean, there's nothing that it doesn't touch.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right.
Dr. H. Sandison:Now you mentioned at the beginning when we were talking that a fetus inside of a woman if she's pregnant is asking the question, mommy, what is the world that I am going to come into? So, if she is under constant stress that baby is then going to be hardwired to expect that stress in the world.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely.
Dr. H. Sandison:Then through parenting more of the same that can get further and further reinforced.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I just want to say here's one point on which adoption in a general sense is so instructive about prenatal and perinatal development because in adoption, which is one of my fields, very often the situation as I put it it's like the baby has been packing to land in Beirut, but instead lands in Bermuda.
Dr. H. Sandison:Oh, wow, okay.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's as if you were packing to go to a war-torn land, and you land in this lovely place where they're offering you umbrella drinks, and saying, please lie down have a massage. You're not wired for it. This is one of the huge problems in adoption. You have adoptive parents who just want to love this baby. I'm broadly generalizing, but it's fairly safe to say that a crisis pregnancy that is bound for adoption is probably steeped in a certain amount of stress. I certainly was. My mother was, and she had a pretty good situation as they go. I just wanted to throw that in there because when there is mismatch, see, the thing is if there's not a mismatch between prenatal and postnatal instruction things, actually, in an odd way can go smoother if that makes sense.
Dr. H. Sandison:That's probably how it's designed, right? This divine design is preparing this new human for a stressful environment.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Again, nature wants its creatures to survive, so if you've got a lot of stress in the womb it's like an animal example I give is if there's a giraffe that's pregnant during a very heavy lion season she's full of stress all the time so that that baby will come out ready to run from lions.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I want to go back you mentioned that you have seven basic principles that you share in the book, and presence was number one. Do you mind going through them?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Sure, absolutely. There's seven principles, and then there's seven steps to apply them at each step so it's events becoming a matrix starting preconception, and going up into adolescence. The principles are presence. You already said presence, awareness. Rhythm, which is a very well kept secret, or little known secret to parenting a really well-wired brain. Example, which we should really get into because that's one of the prime ways that parents can raise a well-wired child. Nurturance, which is pretty self-explanatory. Nurturance, trust, and simplicity.
Dr. H. Sandison:I love it because this is an acronym for parents.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, how else would I ever be able to remember them all when I'm being interviewed?
Dr. H. Sandison:That's great. So do you want to add anything about presence?
Dr. Marcy Axness:No, you brought it back with that mindfulness we were talking about that piece of research they did at Cambridge. When they asked the guy to bring his full awareness back to just pressing those numbers his brain lit up. If we can remember that, I mean, that's a very vivid image for people to keep in their mind to know that when those lights are on, and when you can be present with your child that's a nurturance right there. Children they are nurtured by our presence, by our engagement just as much as they are by their mother's milk.
Dr. H. Sandison:Right, attention is a form of love, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely.
Dr. H. Sandison:Maybe the highest form of love is giving someone your full attention. I think this is a prelude, I hope, into setting an example, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes.
Dr. H. Sandison:So, A, awareness, is that right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Awareness, to me awareness just covers all the book learning like people who are listening to this podcast right now are adding to their awareness. It's just understanding. A huge one for parents is understanding child brain development, and that a four-year-old, or a five-year-old is not a miniature adult, but we do in our culture tend to treat them that way. I mean, parents are pulled off point at every turn really by our culture and marketing. In many different ways they're given this message you're not quite enough, but if you get this system, or this product, or this kit then maybe you have some hope of meeting your parental responsibilities.
Dr. H. Sandison:There's this idea that if you have all the options in the world, and maybe you're doing better than somebody else that if your kid can choose from 164 different colors of crayons versus four colors of crayons that that's a better off kid, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah.
Dr. H. Sandison:You argue that maybe that's not the best thing that asking your child what do you want to eat versus saying we have greens or salmon tonight.
Dr. Marcy Axness:That is one of the pitfalls that parents do fall into. It's an epidemic as I see it. The young child, I'm talking about young kids now, way too many choices. That is to bring it back to what we're talking about stress that is a form of stress for the child because the young child really wants a calm, loving, confident leader. We go wrong. I see parents going wrong all the time on this. The more parents I've worked with the more I realize how many of them experience life with small kids as a series of tactical maneuvers, and crisis management incidents. It's just putting out the next fire, and it's not their fault. Our culture really seduces very well-meaning parents. These are all well-meaning parents into doing things that really can suck the joy, and the peace, and the healthy brain development right out of parenting.
Dr. H. Sandison:So what would you suggest around that? Day-to-day interaction with a small child what does that conversation look like?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, let me give a nice overarching piece, again, learned from Bruce Lipton. If people just take away one thing that I say today this could very valuably or fruitfully be it because it informs every moment of their lives and it's this. At every moment we are either in growth mode, or we are in protection mode. Right down to our cells we're continually checking those environmental messages, those environmental cues, and asking are conditions safe and secure so I can grow into my fullest potential, or are conditions threatening, and insecure so that I have to protect and I have to limit my potential and expend my energy to defend myself. That's going on all the time, and, also, with your kids. Like I said, the young child really wants to know that you know with confidence what's supposed to happen, but in our culture...
Dr. Marcy Axness:In the '50s it was this very authoritarian, my way or the highway, just do it because I said so, sort of thing, and then it swung all the way over to really permissive in the '70s, super permissive parenting we don't want to crush their spirit. It's really never swung back into balance I don't think. It's sort of all over the map. There's this misguided idea that democratic parenting giving the child too much of the say in what happens in the family, too much, what I call, it's too much negotiation, explanation, and justification for every little thing that happens. What this does is it makes the young child insecure because they don't feel they have a leader. If you've ever watched Cesar Millan the dog trainer.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, if people understand that that whole principle of being a pack leader you've got it 90% knocked in terms of parenting the young child because-
Dr. H. Sandison:Let me just make sure we're comparing parenting to training a dog?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, that's why I don't say it that often. At the level of the brain just the point of view that the dog wants a pack leader.
Dr. H. Sandison:And this is to reduce stress.
Dr. Marcy Axness:And a child wants a leader.
Dr. H. Sandison:Okay, yeah, it just makes a lot of sense because if the parent is giving all the authority back to the child, and they're not ready for it then that creates the sense of stress, and the child is going, wait, where's my parent?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely, and what happens that's when the child becomes difficult, or as I often hear a handful because think of it if you're in a situation where nobody's in control let's say, I don't know, you could be in a tour, at some event, or whatever, and nobody's in charge, you feel that you need to start controlling because nobody's driving this bus. I mean, this is how a lot of young kids feel. Nobody is driving this bus I guess I better, and that's when these behavioral issues can become an issue.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Go to the drawer and pick out what you want to wear, it's which pants would you like, this one or this one? It's not what do you want do you want for breakfast? It's would you like bananas or strawberries on your cereal? It's not a choice every 10 minutes because I do hear parents do that. I use, I mean, just kind of loosely the rule of thumb the old rule that they used to use for birthday parties they used to say if your child is turning five you can invite five people plus one extra. I use the same thing for choices. For a three-year-old give him three or four choices in the course of a whole day.
Dr. H. Sandison:Oh, wow.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I've heard parents give that in a course of an hour.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's really entered the collective in a very insidious way. The "conventional wisdom" is that it helps them have a sense of self, and whatever, but if you've studied Magda Gerber like I have what you learn is that most parenting missteps they err not in the content of what they're doing, but in the timing. Very often parents give the young child way too much say in what goes on in the family, and then they flip it, and crank down the locks on the adolescent, the pre-teen and the adolescent when really developmentally it needs to be exactly flipped, so that's where the awareness piece comes in. Parents need to understand really what's appropriate.
Dr. H. Sandison:Thank you. From an awareness perspective I think that that's very counterintuitive, or maybe not counterintuitive, but different from what we're taught and what we see societally is that we are encouraged to give more and more choices to kids.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I think somehow that specter of the '50s parent is still so strong in our consciousness that we don't want to do anything that even smacks of that, right? I'm talking about a whole different animal. I'm talking about being the calm, authoritative leader. I've seen such transformations happen in parents I've worked with going from, oh, do you want to do this? Oh, should we do? To this is what we're going to do now. You can practically just feel the child just like, awe, they can relax and be in growth mode.
Dr. H. Sandison:So awareness, thank you for sharing that nugget. I think there's a lot of parents who could use that, and probably a lot of children who experience that potentially who can look back and say, hey, my mom or dad gave me a few too many choices. I have to tell you that another hat I put on as I keep reading your book is the one of I have patients or colleagues or friends who share an experience of their parenting, and I have so much more compassion for their perspective because you can see how their parents got it wrong so that the wiring is just a little out of touch, and maybe that's influencing some of their behaviors, or some of their health outcomes. I think part of my point is that even if you're not ever considering being a parent there's so many insights in your book around how much parenting is both a privilege, but also just this huge responsibility. There's so much potential in it for better or worse.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah. I touched on it a little earlier this pervasive lack of confidence that I see in parents. I mentioned that there's so many messages in our culture, in the media conveying that you're not quite enough, but if you do this, buy this, usually it's buy this, so that can really shake confidence and create a lot of stress and doubt around parenting choices, but something else that can really undermine confidence, and I'm talking about down to a cellular level really is exactly what you just said. When we didn't receive the kind of parenting that we're trying to give our children that can really set up stress. That's where I was that day that I was whipping the hand towel against the counter. It's like I was-
Dr. H. Sandison:At least you weren't whipping it against your child, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, yes, exactly, but, again, well, I didn't say this, but I will now. I was the always gleaming, hyper-achieving from the outside look great mom. I wore J. Crew. I made my homemade baby food. Anybody looking at me was like, oh, my gosh she's... But I was just struggling so much. I was really scraping from an empty well, and that is what can happen when a parent is trying to flip the script from how they were parented. I would have to say that I would bet that the majority of parents that I've seen in my practice would fit that bill. I think when you're in practice you tend to attract similar people as yourself, so I've seen, like I said, some just really beautiful transformations.
Dr. H. Sandison:It sounds like there's this dedication, right? You're attracting a group of parents who really are dedicated to doing the best they possibly can whether that means making the homemade baby food or wearing J. Crew, whatever it means for them, but reaching out to someone like you who can help them be the best parent possible I guess is consistent with that right there that's the awareness piece again.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right.
Dr. H. Sandison:So tell me about rhythm.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I'm going to leave you with one daunting comment on example. Basically, this is the question to ask yourself. Look in the mirror each day and ask yourself this question. Am I worthy of my child's unquestioning imitation?
Dr. H. Sandison:Oh, wow.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I know, that's a blow you back in your chair kind of a thing.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah, I thought you were going to end with love, and that was going to be an easy one, but imitation.
Dr. Marcy Axness:The thing is whether or not you answer yes that is what's going to happen, so better you confront that reality now. Rudolf Steiner who developed Waldorf Education he was a brilliant thinker in many, many, many fields. He had four PhDs or 13 PhDs. I don't know, he was crazy brilliant. He used to say people your children learn most from who you are when nobody's looking.
Dr. H. Sandison:Interesting.
Dr. Marcy Axness:That's just, yes, just a bright spot to leave you on with example.
Dr. H. Sandison:Your book is sprinkled with quotes from people like Rudolf Steiner and Einstein and some of these really, really great thinkers. I love that because there is so much inspiration. The goal here is to create more of those great thinkers. Here at Neurohacker we love Becky Fuller, and DaVinci, and Einstein, and Edison, and Tesla, and all of these people who... And Rudolph Steiner, certainly, who have contributed not just in one, not just in medicine, or not just in gardening, not gardening.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Permaculture.
Dr. H. Sandison:Permaculture, right.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Biodynamic agriculture.
Dr. H. Sandison:Agriculture, thank you, that's the word I was looking for, so not just in one area or one field, but really on a whole systems base they're elevating the conversation about how can we do this better, and not falling into these boxes of, well, this is how I was taught, this is the convention, but, no, saying let's take a step back. Let's look from a wider perspective how can we elevate the entire conversation to all of society, all at once, and really solve problems on a much greater level.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right, and what I also what to throw in there that it's so important that listeners know about my book, but about this idea in general about what I said parenting is a social action. It's not just about how can I make it better for my kids, but also for myself. How can I find more joy, more aliveness on a day-to-day basis because, again, that is what's going to feed your child. My kid didn't care if I wore J. Crew, and probably didn't care that I made homemade baby food. I know that there were issues that there was this divergent between who I was deep down inside where I'm hitting the towel on the counter, and who I am with the face on. I have to have compassion for myself. A big part of this is self-compassion. I don't want the idea to be like this is how you're going to improve the product of your child at all. This is just about upleveling the experience for all of you each day.
Dr. H. Sandison:Let's go back to those things that the child cares about. So presence, awareness, rhythm was the next one, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, yeah, rhythm is just such a boon to parents. This comes right out of Rudolf Steiner. I learned all of this as a Waldorf mom. Children thrive, the young child I'm talking about, when I say young child I'm talking about up to about seven because they're a different creature under the hood. Their brains are just really operating in a whole different way. They thrive on rhythm, daily rhythm. This is when we eat. This is when we sleep. Those are the two big tent poles. This is when we wake up, when we eat, when we sleep, but weekly rhythms. Wednesdays we go visit Oma. Thursdays we go to the farmers' market, whatever it may be. Things that to us as adults may seem monotonous and boring that kind of a rhythm, that regularity, that rhythmicity is absolutely like nectar to a child, particularly, when we're talking about all this technology there's more of a discursive nature to just everybody's conscious... Really powerful kind of antidote, if you will, or at least a mediating influence. Did I just freeze?
Dr. H. Sandison:You're good.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, good. Kind of a remedial influence around all that is rhythm is to make the home rhythm just so, so strong. Come on, parents, it can make your life so much easier once you get over this idea that it's boring. If you just have the same thing each Tuesday, Tuesday is pasta night. Wednesday is meatloaf night, or tofu night, or whatever, it is your kids it's just feeding them at a level that you can't see, but it's that OFC food, man.
Dr. H. Sandison:So, rhythm, just having that predictable rhythm that they can count on. It sounds like that goes back to what you were talking about an awareness around not having quite so much authority or decision-making that the decision is already made, and there's a leader who's driving the bus so that they don't have to worry about what's for dinner on Tuesday, or where they're going on Sunday.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely. Bruce Perry, I don't know if you've had him on, or if you know about his work, but he's one of the leaders in child trauma. Basically, he talks about how external regularity and predictability wires in the internal rhythmicity and regularity and that's what you want. You want a well-regulated brain.
Dr. H. Sandison:How amazing, and then there's more capacity I guess to be creative and to be intellectual, and to get into these other realms.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, absolutely. I heard Stephen Colbert talking about... I think it was on a podcast about the way that... This was on his old show, but I'm sure it's similar on his current show how all that creativity happens. He says, "Yeah, people I think just think we're all loosey-goosey." He says, "No, you have a really firm structure and it's within that that the creativity can happen."
Dr. H. Sandison:Interesting. Then example is the next in our parenting acronym, or parents.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes, we did talk about that. Ask yourself each day am I worthy of my child's unquestioning imitation? If you can get that, if you really can swallow that one and get onboard with it you're going to be miles, miles ahead because watching, example, modeling, is what they call it in psychology that is the number one form of learning throughout nature. We are animals we're human animals, but we are animals, and we are part of nature, and we are no different. Watching and modeling is the number one form of teaching and learning.
Dr. H. Sandison:I have to reflect that what's coming up for me is when you say that I'm like, gulp, my frenetic energy and checking my phone, and rushing around, and constantly taking too much on. These things that we do they're, I guess, I want to go back to having compassion for ourselves.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes, hey.
Dr. H. Sandison:It's brought up the most stress for me of anything that you've said as I think about parenting. Imitation, my child will imitate me and, wow, there is so much responsibility in that.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Listen, I will tell you, well, first of all I'll say that I have seen, I think, a lot of parents that I've worked with, moms, especially, unsign up their kid from three activities a week, or themselves. I mean, I've seen a lot of people slow down for whatever that's worth. Children don't learn from our perfection. They learn from our striving, so we're not going for perfection. It's striving. It's the fact that you're even thinking about that, Heather, about that in the context of your own life.
Dr. Marcy Axness:What else did I want to say when you said that? It went out of my head, maybe it will come back, but, yeah, that is the most potent form of teaching. Our children will imitate us and that's a lot of times the most bracing moments of our lives is when we maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but maybe in three years, or five years, or 10 years suddenly you're going, "Oh, my God that's me. That was me. That is me." They are our most powerful mirrors.
Dr. H. Sandison:Is it that similar moment when you look in the mirror you say something you're like, "That was my mom."
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, well, there you go. Part of this awareness of example and all these principles it's power. I know for a fact that my book made it to The View, got handed to The View by one of the producers whose husband I met in a taxicab in New York City, so I know for a fact it got looked at at some point. I think that a common politically correct response to my book if somebody just thinks they know what it's about is, oh, that's just putting more stress and guilt on parents, and especially mothers. It really isn't that. It's power. It's giving you power because if you can weather the blowing back in your chair of learning some of this and just sit with it. As part of your self-compassion, Heather, right now just say, I'm not going to make any drastic changes. I'm just going to sit with this, and see what authentically might bubble up for you as maybe a slight adjustment.
Dr. H. Sandison:I think a lot of people say this about parenting is you learn so much about yourself, right? Your children teach you more than you teach them probably, so it is this invitation to delve deeper into self-growth and just trying to be the best, fulfill our potential.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah.
Dr. H. Sandison:The N in the parent acronym, nurture, nourish?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Nurturance.
Dr. H. Sandison:Nurturance.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Back to example, I think, this can also help us with that concept. Aristotle said this, "We are what we repeatedly do." I love to look to some of the ancient people who were talking before smartphones and stuff. Nurturance is really just all the different ways that we love our child, and it can take so many different forms. The color we paint their room. The books that we choose for them. The foods that we serve them. It's all very ripe opportunity for fulfilling nurturance. It's funny because nurturance appears in some dictionaries, but not in others, but I love it as a word.
Dr. H. Sandison:So it's everything that they would consume visually, so the environment that they're in, the foods they would eat, the books they would read, the people they're surrounded by.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely. Well, everything that nurtures them really. It brings in your presence. Your presence in one of the biggest forms of nurturance there is, but, yeah, everything that they're surrounded with. Again, sometimes, I don't know what it is when I go to Target or go to the mall, and I see a six-day-old baby I wish I could just jump into the parent's mind just for a second, and just whisper the idea of what is it like this environment through brand new eyes, and ears, and skin. A lot of times the baby will be asleep because the sensations are just so strong that the nervous system is overwhelmed, and it just sort of shuts down. Every form of nurturing your child that's nurturance.
Dr. H. Sandison:Then the opposite, right? What are the things that could detract like that, and it sounds like maybe a trip to Target is a little bit too much stimuli for a six-year-old.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, yeah, actually, in sections of that rhythm at the end of each step I have bullet points of ways in which you can engage each of these principles at this step. I have a whole list of rhythmic activities, and then I have a whole list of antirrhythmic activities that work against that whole sense of rhythm that is so nourishing to the orbital frontal cortex. A lot of time in cars, media that's too adult. Adult conversation in their presence things that maybe people might not stop and think about.
Dr. H. Sandison:Then the T in parents.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Trust. It might be the most subversive thing on the list. I mean, the baby monitors so we can listen at everything that morphs into the cell phone now that the kid carries. It's like we're going to put tracking devices on them. I have real practical ideas in the book for parents during pregnancy to start cultivating their... It's like a muscle. Trust is like a muscle that will definitely atrophy when we rely on all these things. I count myself in this. If I leave the house and don't have my cell phone we all know that feeling. Gosh, that's only in the last 10 years, so what did we do before that?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Okay, well, maybe we made a call from a pay phone, but also there's this idea of our intuitive faculties that I think with our digital dependency I think we let that aspect of our being atrophy a lot. It doesn't get used. Use it or lose it. We don't have to rely on our knowing about that person is going to be home I know it just because they don't have a cell phone or they're not going to text me, or whatever. Trust is something that in order to parent in a really fruitful, healthy way it does require a lot of trust. Not just trust in your child trust in yourself. Trust in life with a capital L.
Dr. H. Sandison:Right. Yeah, and probably your partner.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah.
Dr. H. Sandison:And the village that goes into raising children.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah. One of the exercises that I give them is to think about the first days following conception because I do detail it in my book exactly what happens. I invite parents to go back. As they're getting close to birth I think I give it as an exercise for trusting the process of birth. I make the point if you would have had to trust, or rely on your own devices to make each one of these intricate developmental things happen you would have been sunk, so know that there are forces at work that are bigger, and that you can lean into and trust.
Dr. H. Sandison:Then the S in parents.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Simplicity. Yeah, the more that we can take this little wooden spoon and let it be a scepter, or a flagship, or a microphone as opposed to having more and more and more. The more we can rely on own resources in a simple way that brings so much. It brings an inner resourcefulness that counters what I was saying earlier about the lack of confidence that I see in so many parents. When we can rely more and more on our own resources that counters that lack of confidence. It really builds you up in a way that may not be conscious that you might not be consciously aware of.
Dr. H. Sandison:It sounds like we probably develop some creativity and ingenuity, right?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely.
Dr. H. Sandison:If you have to think about that wooden spoon as a microphone, and a scepter, and a sword and whatever else because you don't have a sword, and a microphone, and a scepter. Then, yeah, you have to get creative and build those neural connections. Excuse me, I'm so used to saying neural transmitters all day. In a nutshell it sounds like this parents acronym is the meat of a lot of what you describe in your book about how can I optimize the brain development, the health, the well-being, and the potential of my child. Now if my parents weren't the greatest what can I do to turn things around at this point?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, getting back to what I was saying about cell regeneration and that we are always pregnant with our own future selves. Again, Aristotle said it beautifully, we are what we repeatedly do. A, find models. Find models in your environment, in your memory, even in the media of somebody who you would emulate as a parent. For me it was Blythe Danner, believe it or not.
Dr. H. Sandison:I don't know who that is who's that?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Blythe Danner is the mother on Meet the Parents. You never saw Meet the Parents, oh, my goodness.
Dr. H. Sandison:I'm terrible, I don't watch much.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, my gosh, okay, well, she's also Gwyneth Paltrow's mother.
Dr. H. Sandison:Okay.
Dr. Marcy Axness:She's a beautiful actress in her own right. She was mine just this model of the beneficent mother. That's a fine line you're not going to put somebody up on a pedestal, but you can choose different models recognizing that, yes, you did experience certain shaping forces of your environment as a child. As much as I applaud neuroplasticity and recognize that it is a thing I've been in a lot of therapy throughout my life because I had childhood things that weren't great. Yes, there is huge healing to be had, but I also find myself having to be really patient and compassionate with myself, especially, interestingly enough as I get older. There seems to be a cycling back of certain little vulnerabilities at not just the brain level. You were saying we were, I think, corresponding about how we talk about the brain as shorthand for our whole neuro-emotional nervous system experience, so it isn't just the brain.
Dr. H. Sandison:Which affects every single cell in the body.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right, exactly, and memories we now know are not stored in the brain in a little file cabinet. They are registered throughout nerve networks in the whole body, so it's a pretty complicated thing. I would say be gentle with yourself, and get real practical. I don't know if I'm getting ahead of myself, but I do have a gift to give your listeners that speaks to exactly this.
Dr. H. Sandison:Yeah, can you describe it?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Sure, it's a little eBooklet and it's called "Seven Ways to Rewire a Negative Brain." A lot of times those of us who have some imprints that maybe aren't the ones we would have chosen we can get into a negative spiral, a negative thinking spiral, or a cascade of just less than fruitful, neural pathways that's what they are.
Dr. H. Sandison:Patterning.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, if you think about a nerve impulse it's going down a little pathway that's very well carved in the brain, and that's what therapy really is about. It doesn't get rid of the old pathways, and I guess that's a shorter way of saying what I wanted to say before. It doesn't get rid of the original pathways, but what we do in therapy in any kind of healing is to create new ones. Make a different choice.
Dr. H. Sandison:You've talked about therapy do you have any thoughts about neurofeedback? Have you seen that be helpful?
Dr. Marcy Axness:I think neural feedback is a really good thing. The thing that I'm hearing a lot about these days is brainspotting.
Dr. H. Sandison:I'm not familiar with that can you describe it more?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, brainspotting is fairly, well, new in the last couple few years. Refinement of or elaboration to EMDR.
Dr. H. Sandison:I see. Yeah, EMDR I've had patients get wonderful success with that as well as with neurofeedback. I mean, even psychedelics fit into this category of how do we get this brain re-patterning and CBT aims to do that, cognitive behavioral therapy, and lots of the other therapies. Even tapping the emotional freedom technique.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Oh, yeah. I've done tapping. I've done a lot of tapping.
Dr. H. Sandison:So there's a lot of ways to get here. Would you mind listing the seven steps just briefly. You don't have to give away everything that's in the eBook.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I don't think... Yeah, I don't have it front of me. It comes right from the book, though, so you can look it up since you have my book. Just letting your listeners know it comes right from the book, but it comes in a handy little thing. I mean, here, I'll talk about a couple of them.
Dr. H. Sandison:Please.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, one of my favorites comes from constructed living. I haven't heard anything about it lately, but it was a therapy model really out of Japan. It has this precept, accept your emotions as they are and do what needs to be done. I can't tell you how helpful that has been in my life. Pick up a broom and sweep the floor. Sweeping is a very healing meditative activity. Anybody who has access to a horse paddock, mucking a horse stall is one of the most soothing, calming, centering activities.
Dr. H. Sandison:Doing the dishes.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Doing the dishes, that one because it adds the sensory aspect of the water, and it's repetitive, and you can just, again, to the extent that you're able to be mindful and I do talk a lot about mindfulness in the book because it's a presence practice is what mindfulness is. Really just bringing all of yourself, your mind, your body, your feelings to what you're doing in the moment. A shower is a perfect place to practice mindfulness because that's where we tend to turn on the water, and then go on autopilot and think about our day, or think about the day that happened, or think about the fight you just had with your spouse, or the discussion you have to have with your boss, or whatever it is.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's an excellent practice to start building that muscle to bring yourself back to just feeling the water. The thing is, and I say this in the book, a shower in so many parts of the world is a miracle. It's a miraculous thing to have hot, fresh water pouring over your body, and then all these soaps and shampoo, and scrub, or whatever you've got, so for us to exit that mentally and be somewhere I just really invite you to try it there. It's in a dance practice because as much as you keep bringing yourself back next thing you know you're thinking about something else.
Dr. H. Sandison:Where are all these invitations? There's a comedian, Louis C.K. I think he's the one that talks about flying in a plane and how people are complaining about, oh, I don't have WiFi. I don't have Internet. I don't have this. I don't have enough movies. I don't have all these things to distract me. It's like wait, wait, but you're flying 30,000 feet in the air in this steel contraption getting from one place to another in a matter of hours instead of months that it used to take just a couple of generations before.
Dr. H. Sandison:I love getting on a plane not because I love going through the airport or TSA or anything, but those moments where you can be just be like I don't have access. I can't check my email. The last couple of times I'm reading your book. It's taking the time to center and sit in the middle seat, whatever it is, and just be fully present in it. So finding those invitations in day-to-day life there are so many of them, right? It's that person you described in line at Starbucks looking at their phone, or just being fully present smelling the coffee, and embracing all the sensations.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right. We were talking quite a bit about stress. One of the best definitions I've ever heard of stress is, stress is wanting the present moment to be different than it is. I think that comes from Eckhart Tolle.
Dr. H. Sandison:That's really succinct.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's so true, so that's where mindfulness can transform stress. I tell a story in my book about, again, we're teaching that growing fetal brain what kind of world it needs to prepare for. If you take two pregnant women and you put them into a long bank line at lunch hour, and then this teller, the teller just closed their line and put their sign up and leaving and one woman is just absolutely frantic. She's already late for a meeting. The next woman is just doing what you just said. She's in line. She's looking at the interesting people. Remember that idea? Remember that people watching thing that people used to love to do? People don't do it anymore because they have their heads down in their phones. Basically, my point in telling the story in the book is that you've got this exact same outer circumstances that you've got a completely different download going to those two fetal brains.
Dr. H. Sandison:There's a choice. Again, this goes back to that responsibility that potential, but then that responsibility to choose.
Dr. Marcy Axness:There's always a choice, yeah. Sometimes, when we're in a moment that's overwhelming it doesn't feel like there's a choice and I count myself among that. Sometimes, I'm like, I'm just going to wallow, and that's just the way it is, and that's okay, too, but even that little witness that says I know I'm wallowing, that is growth. That's the striving piece. We and our children nobody learns through perfection. It's through striving and that's that piece is that part that knows, okay, I'm wallowing right now and that's okay.
Dr. H. Sandison:You're at the mindfulness. That increase in that space between the trigger and the reaction and then we can make that choice they love it.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Right.
Dr. H. Sandison:You have a PhD. Your book is very grounded with science and the neuroscience, and you made a point about how the brain entered the research picture in the '90s. Since then we've really physicalized what's happening in the brain. You make an argument that there needs to be some balance in how we interpret that in this research that is coning out about the brain. Can you expand on that a bit?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Well, yeah, once we did physicalize it, it made it more graspable for people and suddenly it was a more tractable idea, and that's when we had all of these leaps forward in serotonin and reuptake inhibitors the whole chemical theory of depression which, by the way, has not ever been borne out I'll just say as a quick aside.
Dr. H. Sandison:We couldn't agree more.
Dr. Marcy Axness:That brought more funding and we've seen big pharma just run with it. The pendulum it swung a bit far out, and we ended up collectively and culturally in what I call a brainest framework where everything boils down to the brain, and that also isn't great because we're so much more than our brains. I mentioned just a little rough prints to memory, and how we know that memory is not centered in the brain. Within a brain centric framework it's impossible, for example, to consider retaining memories around conception and pregnancy, but the fact that people do has absolutely been documented.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Candace Pert in her amazing book "Molecules of Emotion" it was her team that discovered the opioid receptors. She points out that to understand the capacity of the body to retain life memories we have to keep in mind science's really pretty recent discovery of peptides of transmitters of hormones, and how they have receptors throughout the body. She talks about the distribution throughout the body's nerves having very huge significance for this. She writes I believe that Sigmund Freud were he alive today he would gleefully point out as molecular confirmation of his theories which was the body is the unconscious mind.
Dr. H. Sandison:Okay, so just bringing it back. There is this temptation to go into a reductionistic mode to understand something like to understand something like the brain that's so, so, so, so complex that it would be a disservice to think that we ever could, but reducing it into neurotransmitters and brain waves and all of these things can be helpful. Then just reminding ourselves, okay, it fits into this bigger context.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Absolutely, and I think that that is a really fruitful process to go in, to zoom in and then zoom out. I'm known for zooming out. A friend of mine calls me meta girl. I tend to really like to take a big picture, but I know that people need really practical hand holds. Actually, in the years since my book has come out I've gotten better and better and better at crunching it down into practical things. One thing I want to say is we're probably getting close to closing out is that, again, this is for everyone not just for parents. This is a promise of our biology. We are designed to become... We're evolving creatures, right? We're designed to become happier, more intelligent, more peaceful. That's what so much of Bruce Lipton's stuff is about is stepping into this promised potential that we all have as members of the human species.
Dr. H. Sandison:How can we contribute to that? How can we make it go a little quicker, right? As we wrap up thank you for sharing your seven steps, your free eBook we so appreciate that for listeners. That will be in the show notes at the bottom and people can click on that and get a link there. Then where can everyone find your book "Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers" by Dr. Marcy Axness, where can we find it, Amazon?
Dr. Marcy Axness:Amazon.
Dr. H. Sandison:Easy enough, all right.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Actually, for reasons I never did understand you can actually read a lot of the book right there when you click on the peek inside of the sample. I think it's the same if you have Kindle you can click on send a sample. I think that same sample is what you can read online.
Dr. H. Sandison:Okay, and then is there an audio version as well if somebody wants to listen in the car?
Dr. Marcy Axness:That is a heartbreaking thing I was just thinking about. I was just imagining a conversation with my publisher today about so I guess the audiobook isn't going to happen, eh? It was in my contract.
Dr. H. Sandison:Aah.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I know.
Dr. H. Sandison:Hasn't been recorded yet, okay.
Dr. Marcy Axness:It hasn't been recorded yet.
Dr. H. Sandison:Hopefully, in the future because this is a dense book I'll say.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes.
Dr. H. Sandison:It's taken me a while to get through, but very empowering.
Dr. Marcy Axness:I want to throw out to people who are inclined to go and get the book here is what I tell people when I actually am at an event, or when I have a chance to see a buyer whose not yet read the book. This is my author's recommendation for how to read the book. Read the introduction and the epilogue, and then go to the step that you are either at right now, or interested in. It is a long book. It is a dense book. It is not meant to be a cover to cover read. Ideally it's meant to be a 15, 20 year companion for people who start reading it before they're parents it could be a 20 year companion. I really want to stress that. It is not meant to be a slim parenting volume that you can read cover to cover in two nights.
Dr. H. Sandison:That was a relief for me because I was like I don't know how I'm ever going to get through this before our podcast, so thank you for that permission to not read the whole thing cover to cover.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Not just permission it's my fervent plea because then they'll just get discouraged and stick it on the shelf.
Dr. H. Sandison:And overwhelmed. Thank you for that. You do do events. Do you have any speaking engagements coming up where people could potentially run into you?
Dr. Marcy Axness:You know what, I don't. My next one is a keynote in Denver next year.
Dr. H. Sandison:Oh, so you can relax for the rest of the year.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yeah, I'm a mountain girl living in the forest and beauty.
Dr. H. Sandison:Living simplicity.
Dr. Marcy Axness:Yes, I am.
Dr. H. Sandison:Good for you. Is there anything else you want to add for our listeners before we sign off?
Dr. Marcy Axness:It's so funny I know that there was something that popped into my head when you were talking about how daunting the example thing was and it never did come back, and I know as soon as we hang up I will think of it, so I'll email it to you and you can put it in the show notes.
Dr. H. Sandison:Thanks, that's what we'll plan to do. Marcy, it's been such a pleasure having you. I've learned so much, and I know that our listeners have as well. It's been so fun digging into how we were affected by our parents, how we can affect the world and change the world through our children, and also the awareness of how this works. Thank you for imparting this wisdom on us.
Dr. Marcy Axness:My gosh, it was really a pleasure. It was a pleasure to be here. I just send out a big virtual hug to all of you.
Dr. H. Sandison:Thank you, Marcy, it was a pleasure.
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