When 1 Person in the Family is Symptomatic Others are Affected

In the past I have been honored to share the perspective of my friends and colleagues as they write a guest blog for Cognitive Connections.  Today I am excited to introduce you to Andrea Maloney Schara.  Andrea is a Family Systems Coach and author of “Your Mindful Compass”.  She specializes in coaching people to have more fun and be more creative as they seek to define a self in their family and social systems.


Thank you Andrea for sharing your thoughts!  If anyone is interested in reaching out to Andrea you can find her at:  http://thelearningspacedc.com/pages/staff/andrea

Your Mindful Compass Coaching with Andrea Schara from a Family Systems Perspective

Families with symptomatic members are often frustrated in looking for ways to understand the issues facing the family as a whole. People who have a symptomatic member know that suffering is not confined to one individual.  Often family members ask: “Am I making things better or worse?”  Despite years of research on the impact of relationships disturbance, there is precious little available in today’s mental health cafeteria to enable an understanding of the family as a unit, which absorbs and reacts to suffering in automatic and or primitive ways.

 Families are given individual solutions to system’s level problems. What is acceptable, standard, “scientifically” tested treatment today has not yet caught up with the research on relationships done back in the sixties.[1],[2]  Partially this is due to the difficult of measuring systems level change in a social group. 

What a tremendous leap it is to go from understanding the impact of death, divorce, cancer or addictions as a problem in one person, to seeing how the family system reacts to suffering.  What a challenge for those trained in the medical model to perceive the family as an ancient emotional unit. Shakespeare saw the family as a primitive unit guiding the behavior of its members, but he was unable to provide solutions. Solutions require a focus on building a more resilient psychology and physiology in order to break patterns of emotionally programmed reactivity.

Often people who have been frustrated with the individual approach can make the leap to systems thinking.  Those who have both courage and curiosity are able to observe the family as a more primitive organism with goals of its own. There is no blame once you see the family as a system. There is simply personal responsibility to find ways to become a stronger self.

When coaching a family leader (the one who is willing to change self in the system) I add NeurOptimal neurofeedback training as a way to allow the integration of feelings and thinking, and promote an increased ability to observe.  The training takes place over the sensory motor neuron strip.  Old ways of seeing the world are often replaced with a calmer, more realistic understanding of the various social systems people inhabit. This enables one to redefine how they will participate in these social systems.  Over time people are less threated by changes in important relationships. Most people to do ten sessions of neuorfeedback and then reassess. Those I coach over the phone rent neurofeedback personal systems. The basics of my approach can be found in my book Your Mindful Compass detailing how each of us has a compass that automatically guides us in specific directions, which are compatible with the rules that worked in the past.  When we are dealing with new and difficult problems, often our compass needs to be recalibrated. As people figure out what they believe and where they stand, they are better able to speak to the emotional system of the family.  Family members can be stuck in the past way of reacting, believing and being.

In the initial coaching session, we develop a family diagram of three generations. This gives us an overview of the system and a different way of understanding how problems arise and are maintained.  Most people find it useful to meet every week or two and then move to once a month consulting. Some people have an immediate response and a different view of problems after the first session. Others take more time to report a breakthrough, and still others find a system’s approach and neurofeedback too challenging.  The beautiful thing is that when one person in the family can use knowledge of the family system to change self they are breaking old patterns which will eventually benefit the entire family.

Andrea Maloney Schara

[1] In 1967, psychiatristsThomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 medical patients as a way to determine whether stressful events might cause illnesses. Patients were asked to tally a list of 43 life events based on a relative score. A positive correlation of 0.118 was found between their life events and their illnesses.

[2]Family Therapy in Clinical Practice by Murray Bowen, 1978


Could You be in an Emotional Abusive Relationship?

We are in a position of unrest in our Country.  We know it, we feel it and we are all watching and moved by the threats and promises our leaders are making on our behalf.  Many do not trust the ‘politicians’ and many do not trust ‘the rich and their big businesses’ and their agendas.

But let’s explore the underlying thoughts that go into ‘following’ the leader of our choice.  Is it possible we are supporting a candidate that has truly ‘gotten us under their spell’?  Is it possible we are  being manipulated as a group of people in the same way an emotional abuser maintains control over their victim?

The victim that stays with an abuser does so because the abuser uses a consistent pattern of Self Confidence, Dependence, Attachment:

  • BullyingDevaluing/threatening  making bold statements such as “you are worthless”, “you do not belong” – this creates personal insecurities and distrust in your own opinions, judgements or beliefs
  • Instilling fear, scarcity, or distrust in others, or in the process of life  “they will hurt you”, “you can’t make it on your own”, “you don’t have enough smarts/money”- this creates a dependence on the abuser
  • Creating an artificial love, bond or supportive role of “I am here for you and will take care of and protect you like no other can”, “you can’t do it without ME”.- this creates an emotional attachment  

The abuser is verbally offensive, threatening, bullying, and uses constant criticism to make you believe you are unable to function without them.  They use tactics like intimidation, shaming and manipulation to ‘control’ and subjugate the other person.  They end the cycle or pattern with a sense of love and support that solidifies your attachment to them in a way that allows you to believe they care and that they will ‘help’ you, like no other.  Therefore as a victim it is easier to ignore their cruel, degrading  words and instead justify and support the abusers process.

Many abusers have a variety of personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorders.

**Here is the kicker, most of the time the victim of emotional abuse does not see themselves as being ‘mistreated’ or abused.  They have developed methods of denial and of minimizing the situation, or even supporting and defending the abuser.  The bully has followers because it is a common fallacy that the bully will protect and not turn against their followers.

However, the long term effects of being emotionally abused are depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD. Plus being controlled leads to a devastating and possibly even life threatening environment.

Here are some of the signs of emotional abuse:

  1. The abuser humiliates, puts down or makes fun of people publicly
  2. They regularly demean or disregard other’s opinions, ideas, suggestions or needs
  3. The abuser uses sarcasm or ‘teasing’ to degrade or create insecurities
  4. They accuse others of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks
  5. The abuser tries to control by treating individuals like a child
  6. They correct or chastise other’s behavior publicly
  7. The abuser tries to control other’s finances and how money is spent
  8. They try to belittle and trivialize others, their accomplishments or their hopes and dreams
  9. The abuser tries to make others feel as though they are always wrong and the abuser is always right
  10. They give disapproving or contemptuous looks or body language
  11. The abuser regularly points out flaws, mistakes or shortcomings of others
  12. They accuse or blame others of things that are proven untrue
  13. The abuser has an inability to laugh at themselves and can not tolerate others laughing at them
  14. They are intolerant of any seeming lack of respect
  15.  The abuser makes excuses for their behavior, tries to blame others and has difficulty apologizing
  16. They repeatedly cross boundaries and ignore your requests
  17. The abuser blames others for their problems, life difficulties or unhappiness
  18. They call others names, give them unpleasant labels, or makes cutting remarks under their breath
  19. The abuser is emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable most of the time
  20. They resort to pouting or withdrawal to get attention or attain what they want.
  21. The abuser doesn’t show empathy or compassion
  22. They play ‘victim’ and try to deflect blame rather than taking personal responsibility
  23. The abuser disengages or uses neglect or abandonment to punish or frighten
  24. They don’t seem to notice or care about other’s feelings
  25. The abuser views others as an extension of themselves rather than as an individual
  26. They withhold personal contact, sex, money or support as a way to manipulate and control
  27. The abuser shares personal information told in confidence that could prove to be embarrassing or humiliating about individuals he protects publically
  28. They invalidate or deny their emotional abusive behavior when confronted
  29. The abuser makes subtle threats or negative remarks with intent to frighten or control you

30 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Relationship


As a community of Americans we are getting ready to vote for our next leader. It is so important to look at our reasoning for voting for an individual.  We have one candidate that is using these abusive techniques to gain followers:

  • Devaluing entire groups of people
  • Instilling FEAR that the Country is bad and needs reform
  • Developing artificial bonds- ONLY they can save us

Is this a method of mass group control?  When we look at others that have used this technique to gain allegiance within a large group of individuals in history, they are all considered Dictators.  Is this what we want for America?

Do we understand we are being persuaded to believe, follow and support a candidate that is using a psychological method to gain dominance?  Do his followers understand this is form of manipulation?

Is it ethical to use known psychological techniques of manipulation to ‘control’ a large group of individuals?  We’ve made it illegal to use subliminal advertising in marketing because we know this is a form of psychological/emotional dominance.  Should we continue to condone this form of advertising in a political arena?

Is it illegal to harass, threaten or create an unsafe environment for an entire group of individuals?

If an abuser was in a 1:1 relationship and they were proven to be emotionally abusive it is actually covered under our criminal code that if these remarks are violent, threatening or cause the victim to fear for their safety then it is illegal.  Criminal law prohibits someone from uttering threats of death or bodily harm to another person.  Threats could include, “you make me so mad I am going to break your leg” , or “I am going to slit your throat”.  If it is spoken with the intention of intimidating the recipient then a criminal offence, and criminal court can punish the person.  Is it feasible to think a Class action suit could be brought about to protect the safety of all the individuals that are feeling threatened by these remarks?


In the end,  no candidate has a pristine history and it is important to note that what we know and understand about these candidates are mostly presented through the lens of the media.  However, I will ‘vote my conscience’ and remember that every human being is a gift to our world and has the ability to contribute in a positive way when raised in a supportive environment.  How do we want our children, grandchildren and future generations to live, in fear of others or in knowledgement that  each of us brings to this world a uniqueness and diversity?

Just Another Thought by Dr. Lise’


The Brain that Trains Itself

What?  Brains can train themselves?  YES!

We have known for years about Neuroplasticity  which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by creating new neural connections.  Neurons or nerve cells in the brain will learn a new pathway to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or even changes in their daily environment.

For the first time a system has discovered a method of recording the brain’s cortical activity and ‘mirroring back’ to itself (256 times per second) what it just did so it can learn from it’s own actions or brain events.  As the brain is presented this information it reorganizes and learns from itself!

As this balance occurs the person will first be able to sleep better; falling asleep within 5-20 minutes, staying asleep all night (without too much tossing or turning) and waking feeling refreshed.  This first change helps to generate an environment that allows a reduction in many of the symptoms people have such as; anxiety,  depression, reactions to stress, rumination (repeating certain thoughts over and over) and learning new skills or learning to compensate for lost skills.

This tool has been specially designed to allow for ease of use in the office for therapists or technicians and for families in their home.  It is a simple product that is robust and consistent.  People use this system for attention, memory, sleep, stress, mood concerns, peak performance, brain injuries such as traumatic brain disorders, strokes, concussive syndromes and trauma.

If you are interested in learning more about how to retrain your brain and take advantage of the process of neuroplasticity using the NeurOptimal system call us at 317-258-7444 and we will share more information with you!

A thought from Dr. Lise’






Scared to Death!


We are all affected right now by the stressors of world events, from TV news broadcasts to social media, the world looks like a very scary place.   Due to this constant coverage we are finding more people are being ‘triggered’ by these events and are literally being ‘scared into a physical sickness’.  Interestingly, our minds chemically find value in being ‘scared’ and so some people intentionally watch frightening movies and put themselves into ‘death defying’ activities.

The body gets a ‘high’ or a rush when challenging itself in a psychological, physiological or a behavioral state that feels as if it is a threat to survival whether actual or perceived.  This creates an increase or an activation of arousal in the autonomic and neuroendocrine system.  Therefore watching a frightening movie or playing an activating online game where a perceived threat is ‘just around the corner’ makes our bodies respond just as if it is really happening to us in the moment.

The body and brain is affected by this sustained feeling of fear and chronic stress.  There is a release of steroid and stress hormones, including glucocorticoids and cortisol, these affect the heart, lungs, circulation, metabolism, immune system and skin.  There is also a release of catecholamine’s; dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline).  These activate the amygdala which creates an emotional response.  The brain releases a small protein that decreases sleep and increases a sense of anxiety (encouraging the ability to fight or run).  Lastly, chronic stress and fear will affect cognition; long & short-term memory, concentration, intellectual tasks and the interpretation of social signals.  The brain will not be able to ‘switch’ thoughts creating an inflexible brain that perseverates on ideas and negative thoughts.

We are sadly exposed to stress daily in our lives.  Did you know…

  • More children are killed by hand guns each year than by leukemia
  • More woman are killed by their partners annually than all the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001

(Bessel van der Kolk- How PTSD Affects Mind, Brain & Biology” presentation Chicago, 2014)

And just to put into perspective the FEAR of being killed in a terrorist attack as the media is trying to instill as compared to other ways of dying…

  • Drowning in a bathtub: 1 in 685,000
  • Struck by lightning: 1 in 576,000
  • A car accident: 1 in 18,585
  • Dying from Heart Disease: 1 in 5
  • Dying from cancer: 1 in 7
  • Dying from a Stroke: 1 in 23

And the Odds of dying in an act of terrorism on a plane: 1 in 25 million and in ANY terrorist attack 1 in 9.3 million!



The ways we can reduce FEAR in our lives are varied, but consider trying to reduce your fear by using some of the following techniques:

Turning off the news on TVThey report the same stories over and over and report in a method (auditory and visual) that instills fear.  Instead, read the topics you want to know more about in a reliable subscription to a newspaper online.  

Stop ‘following’ fear based people on Social Media.  The social media sites are highly addictive.  They support a brain state of gossip and voyeurism.  These two elements along with the feeling of anonymity allows and supports the ability that the individual can say anything without repercussion.   This empowers some people to actually become a new persona online, saying and eventually doing things they would never have done in their natural environment.

Surround yourself with kindness and perpetuate qualities of altruism, trust and honestyIt has been researched that people that react and respond in a way that they can feel good about creates a strong, confident and productive individual.  The Physiology of (Dis)Honesty: Does it Impact Health?  http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/dana_carney/physio.dishonesty.pdf

Try using a stress reduction system.  There are many ways of reducing stress such as neurofeedback, biofeedback, yoga, meditation, walking in nature, singing, humming, reading, playing and Instrument or engaging in consensual sex.  Our bodies get accustomed to what we ‘feed it’.  When we drink every night alcohol is it’s favored drink, when we focus on calming activities our brains crave that feeling, supply it with these techniques and reset your internal environment so when you do respond with a ‘fight or flight’ response it is an accurate physiological response.

But Why?

Why do people yell at each other and then wonder why their kids are oppositional and defiant to them, or to their friends & their teachers?  “If all the ‘love’ they see at home is in the form of yelling (or hitting) doesn’t it make sense that they think this is how to show their love?”

Why do parents, swear and use sarcasm to each other and then wonder why their kids are such ‘smart-asses’?  “Sarcasm is the most sophisticated form of language, it is saying one thing and meaning another, this takes high level thinking and most children have not formed this level of reasoning and ‘play’ with language until they are much older.  So for a young child to try to experiment with this language technique it comes across funny and cute as a young child imitates their adult role models but as they grow a little more it is as if they are being a ‘smart-ass’”.

Why is this generation of children so much more violent? ” This is a complex answer and I am positive there are many answers from more chemicals in our food (GMO’s) and more ‘noise’ in the environment to less ‘family-time’.  Also we are seeing a surge in electronics, video games, less communication and human contact in play time.  

Longer periods of time ‘pretending’ to shoot and kill people or animals on video games, can desensitize individuals and reinforce cruelty.  Movies are less family entertaining and are mixing humor and violence together giving the impression it is not only ‘ok to be mean’ but it is funny!  The more realistic and scarier a movie is when focusing on ‘doom and threat’ adds fear which also creates a cocktail of chemicals in our brains.  Our bodies respond just as if we are right there in the room with that killer, sweaty palms, increased heart rate and breathing shorter and more shallow.

 There is a fine line between pretend and reality for many people.  They see more and more realistic deaths, with blood and guts spurting across the screen and a ‘real adrenaline rush’ (including a change in Neurochemistry with increased cortisol, and the ‘addictive, pleasure center’ is activated with a dopamine rush.  Creating a false sense of reality because our bodies are responding as if to say “whew, we made it through that one let’s try it again”! 

Experiments have been done for a very long time on the modeling that children witness and how that will dictate the children’s response to others as well as their learned aggression.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr0OTCVtHbU the original Bobo Doll experiment from 1961 (4.08 minutes) helps to describe psychologically what happens with children.  This experiment has been replicated many times in many ways over the years with each new experiment confirming the original findings!

The American Psychological Association has now confirmed http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/violent-video-games.aspx a link between playing violent video games and aggression. I truly do not believe it is just a few games here and there that causes this violent behavior, I find that a combination of risk factors including the individual’s feelings of loneliness, self-confidence, depression and what they have been modeled at home that can set the perfect scenario for a mental storm for aggression”. 

Happy Father’s Day

Hi Friends…

From time to time, I have ‘guest bloggers’ and today I asked this ‘Father’ to write what he thought about Father’s Day.  It is a perspective I wish so many more people would embrace.  I want to thank him for his contribution and his ability to step outside of the ‘traditional publicized’ holiday to add a sincere, heartfelt explanation for what Father’s Day meant to him.

Dad & Child

“Maybe this day should be called Fathers are Happy Day? To me, Father’s Day isn’t about the acknowledgement of being a ‘dad’ from your children, spouse or friends. It’s not about gifts, cards, telephone calls, or emails and texts. Honestly, I received none of those. But what I did get is the wonderful feeling of being able to reflect on how wonderful it is to BE a father. I experienced so much joy, sorrow, happiness, worry, and frustration, yet, at the end of the day, I would do it again. At 55, I would do it now! Start again! I believe Father’s Day is the opportunity to tell your children how wonderful of a life they gave you. You gave to your kids all that time, knowing it took away from your business or your personal success and rarely did your children even know it. The late nights putting together the toys, building the tree-house, going to the games, teaching, coaching, training, comforting, providing, and loving….even from a distance. You see, the day belongs to dads, not for them to be revered as much as all dads should be thanking ‘God’, the ‘universe’, the ‘powers that be’, to have been given the opportunity to experience the lives he has created. Fathers should be happy, regardless of the circumstances of what life brings, not just for all he has done for his children but for all he has done for himself!”

Thank you for this perspective!  Being a ‘Father’ to a child comes in all forms whether you are a birth Father or not.  Many of you no longer have your children in your life for whatever reason- divorced, or being estranged from them, but the ability to take a day to remember the special moments with gratitude are gravely important for keeping your world positive!

I hope you all had a “Father’s are Happy Day!!!”

Neurofeedback and Autism: One Child’s Miraculous Story

autism and neurofeedback

“Yes, we see miracles all the time. Your daughter is experiencing one of them”.

The most gratifying aspect of being a neurofeedback professional is witnessing complete – almost miraculous – transformations in the lives of your clients.

One such client is an eight-year-old little girl. She attends a special school for children with multiple psychological disorders and severe behavioral issues. I provide NeurOptimal neurofeedback sessions there once a week.

We first met two weeks ago. Her mother explained to me that her daughter was autistic and suffered from severe failure anxiety. She typically avoided eye-contact with strangers and would not shake hands on a first meeting.

Her mother and I went to her classroom and asked her to come with us for her first neurofeedback session. Seeing her mother, the girl agreed to come with us.  I kneeled down in front of her, and gave her my hand; she took it and told me her name. I heard her mother whisper, “wow!”.

Hooking her up with the neurofeedback machine with the NeurOptimal sensors for the first time was challenging – she was afraid to be touched on the earlobes.  I allowed her to attach the sensors herself after demonstrating on her pet cat.

During the brain training session, she watched part of a movie called “Spetter”  –  a story about a Dolphin. The session went well and when it was over, she smiled, looked at her mother and said: “NICE!”

The family went home for the weekend the came back the next Friday.

Same girl, same school, same movie, Part II.

Her mother couldn’t stop talking about the changes they’d witnessed in their daughter the week before. The Saturday morning after the first neurofeedback session, she and her husband were awakened early by the sound of a child whistling in their garden.

They went outside to find their daughter dancing in their sun-covered-garden, whistling tunes. When the girl saw her parents, she threw them a smile and said: “Look, there is the sun, and now I can hear the birds. The dance has been stuck in my head but now it is free”.

The mother looked at her husband when he asked: “Could this be possible? After one neurofeedback session?” She said: “Yes, it must be! Nothing else has changed.”

When the mother told me this story, I said, “Yes, we see miracles all the time. Your daughter is experiencing one of them”.

About the Trainer:


NeurOptimal Trainer Hannie Ruinen first tried NeurOptimal neurofeedback on herself 12 years ago to mitigate severe postpartum depression. The experience was so transformative that she integrated NeurOptimal into her life coaching practice. Today, her neurofeedback training clients include special needs children, professional ballet dancers as well as members of the Netherlands Royal Concert Orchestra. She lives in Roermond, Netherlands with her husband and three children.



Reposted with permission from http://www.zengar.com

Being a Neuroptimal neurofeedback practitioner in The Netherlands, I can only emphasize that neuroptimal is the most useful tool to give kids with Autism a more comfortable life. I offer neuroptimal at a family doctors’ health care centre AND at a school for kids with special needs. That school is the best place where I can offer my service as a trainer. The kids at this school are all being diagnosed/double diagnosed with ADD/ADHD/Autism/dyslexia/FAS…..
This story is just one of the hundreds and hundreds experiences all over the world…