About Hey Sigmund

Because sometimes the only diagnosis is ‘human’.

Every day there are stunning new insights into the human mind and the way we work, love, play, behave, relate, think and feel. We are learning more and more about what it means to be human, and how to master the art. Now more than ever, anybody who is any version of human has something to gain from the science of psychology.

This website contains the latest research and news in psychology. It attempts to bring psychology into the mainstream, unfolding the brilliance that happens within the scientific realm. We will explain what it all means and why it matters.

Some parts will be immediately relevant to your life, some parts less so but psychology is such a fascinating relevant science that at the very least you will have some excellent fodder for dinner table conversations.

The best of us is already in us, sometimes found, sometimes waiting to be. This website provides the tools to uncover what is waiting patiently beneath our skin to be discovered, or to make a life that is already beautiful, even more so.

I hope you enjoy the readings and find courageous, daring and simple ways to incorporate them into your life.


About the Author – Karen Young.

Karen began her career as a psychologist in private practice. She has worked extensively with children teens and families, and in educational and organisation settings. She has lectured and has a Masters in Gestalt Therapy. It is through her work with children, teens and families, that she learned the power of solid information when it is placed in the solid, loving hands of parents or any important person in the life of a child. 

Karen created Hey Sigmund, an internationally popular online resource, as a way to provide contemporary, research-driven information on the art of being human, and being with humans. The website has a particular emphasis on strengthening the mental wellness of children and adolescents. It attracts millions of readers each year worldwide. The articles have been translated into a number of languages and have been published on various international sites including Parenting Magazine in New Zealand, The Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, and The Mighty.

Karen is often invited to comment by Australian and international media outlets, including The Project and as a regular guest on ABC Radio. She is a sought-after speaker and consultant and works with schools, government bodies, and child and adolescent focused organisations, both in Australia and overseas to build resources, implement procedures, and support the professional development of staff. She recently worked with Plan International Australia to create resources for parents in response to the recent Australian bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is the author of three books, including the bestselling ‘Hey Warrior’ and ‘Hey Awesome’, which creatively assist children to understand and manage anxiety. The books have been translated into a number of languages and have sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide. 

Australia is home, and she lives there with her two children and two stepchildren. Experience has taught her that people can do amazing things with the right information, psychology has something for everyone, jargon doesn’t, everyone has a story to tell, short bios are the longest to write, nobody has it all figured out and the best people to be around are the ones who already know this.


What This Website Is – And Isn’t.

The articles, information and comments on the this website provide general information only and do not constitute advice in any way.

It is important to me that the information provided on this site is thoughtful, detailed, well-researched and relevant, but it is just a guide. What is best for you will depend on your personal history and circumstances. For this reason, if you require more support, information or guidance in relation to a particular issue, please speak with a medical practitioner or counsellor who will be able to take the time to understand the detail of you, your history and your circumstances, and use this to advise you on the most effective course of action.

If you are in need of more immediate support, please click here.

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Whenever the brain registers threat, it organises the body to fight the danger, flee from it, or hide from it. 

Here’s the rub. ‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually dangerous, but about what the brain perceives. It also isn’t always obvious. For a strong, powerful, magnificent, protective brain, ‘threat’ might count as anything that comes with even the teeniest potential of making a mistake, failure, humiliation, judgement, shame, separation from important adults, exclusion, unfamiliarity, unpredictability. They’re the things that can make any of us feel vulnerable.

Once the brain registers threat the body will respond. This can drive all sorts of behaviour. Some will be obvious and some won’t be. The responses can be ones that make them bigger (aggression, tantrums) or ones that make them smaller (going quiet or still, shrinking, withdrawing). All are attempts to get the body to safety. None are about misbehaviour, misintent, or disrespect. 

One of the ways bodies stay safe is by hiding, or by getting small. When children are in distress, they might look calm, but unless there is a felt sense of safety, the body will be surging with neurochemicals that make it impossible for that young brain to learn or connect. 

We all have our things that can send us there. These things are different for all of us, and often below our awareness. The responses to these ‘things’ are automatic and instinctive, and we won’t always know what has sent us there. 

We just need to be mindful that sometimes it’s when children seem like no trouble at all that they need our help the most. The signs can include a wilted body, sad or distant eyes, making the body smaller, wriggly bodies, a heavy head. 

It can also look as though they are ignoring you or being quietly defiant. They aren’t - their bodies are trying to keep them safe. A  body in flight or flight can’t hear words as well as it can when it’s calm.

What they need (what all kids need) are big signs of safety from the adult in the room - loving, warm, voices and faces that are communicating clear intent: ‘I’m here, I see you and I’ve got you. You are safe, and you can do this. I’m with you.’♥️
I’d love to invite you to an online webinar:
‘Thriving in a Stressful World: Practical Ways to Help Ourselves and Our Children Feel Secure And Calm’

As we emerge from the pandemic, stressors are heightened, and anxiety is an ever more common experience. We know from research that the important adults in the life of a child or teen have enormous capacity to help their world feel again, and to bring a felt sense of calm and safety to those young ones. This felt sense of security is essential for learning, regulation, and general well-being. 

I’m thrilled to be joining @marc.brackett and Dr Farah Schroder to explore the role of emotion regulation and the function of anxiety in our lives. Participants will learn ways to help express and regulate their own, and their children’s, emotions, even when our world may feel a little scary and stressful. We will also share practical and holistic strategies that can be most effective in fostering well-being for both ourselves and children. 

In this webinar, hosted by @dalailamacenter you will have the opportunity to learn creative, evidence-informed takeaways to help you and the children in your care build resilience and foster a sense of security and calmness. Join us for this 1 ½ hour session, including a dynamic Q&A period.
 
Webinar Details:
Thursday, October 14, 2021
1:30 - 3:00 PM PST
 
Registrants will receive a Zoom link to attend the webinar live, as well as a private link to a recording of the webinar to watch if they cannot join in at the scheduled time.

Register here:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/thriving-in-a-stressful-world-a-heart-mind-live-webinar-tickets-170348045590

The link to register is in my story.♥️
So much of what our kids and teens are going through isn’t normal - online school, extended separation from their loved people, lockdowns, masks. Even if what they are going through isn’t ‘normal’, their response will be completely understandable. Not all children will respond the same way if course, but whatever they feel will be understandable, relatable, and ‘normal’. 

Whether they feel anxious, confused, frustrated, angry, or nothing at all, it’s important that their response is normalised. Research has found that children are more likely to struggle with traumatic events if they believe their response isn’t normal. This is because they tend to be more likely to interpret their response as a sign of breakage. 

Try, ‘What’s happening is scary. There’s no ‘right’ way to feel and different people will feel different things. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel.’

Any message you can give them that you can handle all their feelings and all their words will help them feel safer, and their world feel steadier.♥️
We need to change the way we think about discipline. It’s true that traditional ‘discipline’ (separation, shame, consequences/punishment that don’t make sense) might bring compliant children, but what happens when the fear of punishment or separation isn’t there? Or when they learn that the best way to avoid punishment is to keep you out of the loop?

Our greatest parenting ‘tool’ is our use of self - our wisdom, modelling, conversations, but for any of this to have influence we need access to their ‘thinking’ brain - the prefrontal cortex - the part that can learn, think through consequences, plan, make deliberate decisions. During stress this part switches off. It is this way for all of us. None of us are up for lectures or learning (or adorable behaviour) when we’re stressed.

The greatest stress for young brains is a felt sense of separation from their important people. It’s why time-outs, shame, calm down corners/chairs/spaces which insist on separation just don’t work. They create compliance, but a compliant child doesn’t mean a calm child. As long as a child doesn’t feel calm and safe, we have no access to the part of the brain that can learn and be influenced by us.

Behind all behaviour is a need - power,  influence, independence, attention (connection), to belong, sleep - to name a few). The need will be valid. Children are still figuring out the world (aren’t we all) and their way of meeting a need won’t always make sense. Sometimes it will make us furious. (And sometimes because of that we’ll also lose our thinking brains and say or do things that aren’t great.)

So what do we do when they get it wrong? The same thing we hope our people will do when we get things wrong. First, we recognise that the behaviour is not a sign of a bad child or a bad parent, but their best attempt to meet a need with limited available resources. Then we collect them - we calm ourselves so we can bring calm to them. Breathe, be with. Then we connect through validation. Finally, when their bodies are calm and their thinking brain is back, talk about what’s happened, what they can do differently next time, and how they can put things right. Collect, connect, redirect.
Our nervous systems are talking to each other every minute of every day. We will catch what our children are feeling and they will catch ours. We feel their distress, and this can feed their distress. Our capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

Children create their distress in us as a way to recruit support to help them carry the emotional load. It’s how it’s meant to be. Whatever you are feeling is likely to be a reflection what your children are feeling. If you are frustrated, angry, helpless, scared, it’s likely that they are feeling that way too. Every response in you and in them is relevant. 

You don’t need to fix their feelings. Let their feelings come, so they can go. The healing is in the happening. 

In that moment of big feelings it’s more about who you are than what you do. Feel what they feel with a strong, steady heart. They will feel you there with them. They will feel it in you that you get them, that you can handle whatever they are feeling, and that you are there. This will help calm them more than anything. We feel safest when we are ‘with’. Feel the feeling, breathe, and be with - and you don’t need to do more than that. 
There will be a time for teaching, learning, redirecting, but the middle of a storm is not that time.♥️

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