Below is the transcript of the podcast between Alanis and Susan Stiffelman:



Parenting with PresenceTM “Passionately Parenting” with Alanis Morissette March 18, 2014

Susan: Welcoming to the Parenting with Presence Summit. I’m Susan Stiffelman, I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and it is my great pleasure to welcome you here and to welcome our guest. Welcome

Alanis Morissette and thank you so much for being with us today. Alanis: Thank you for having me. It’s an honor.

Susan: Well we all know that you’re a singer, you’re a songwriter, you’re an actor and you’re a passionate parent.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: Yeah I think I really do see parenting and the family structure as the biggest activism that any of us can participate in. I think that it’s the nucleus of all that we see in the world, you know, how we are loved or how are treated as little tiny creatures, really portends for what the future becomes and those of us who have the wear with all and maybe the bravery and the hootspa to heal any wounds from our developmental stages. You know, kudos to us who are doing that work. It would be so much easier to stave off the 40 years of therapy that some of us are in by really focusing on the early years. I think it’s something that is often so under looked and it really does make for what our societies look like.

Alanis: Yeah. So I feel really passionate to be speaking with you and I’m honored to speak with you because I have a general sense that you and I have a similar true north.

Susan: Uh-hum. Yes I think we do. So you know, before we begin you and I just took a moment to connect with each other and just to really envision the parents on the other end. I was talking about you know, may our effort be blessed to reach those who want to hear it and be inspired and uplifted and you added something so sweet. You just said and supported you know, because it can be a lonely journey as we do our best as parents. But as you pointed out, wouldn’t it be great if we had as much information and support and guidance early on as possible to at least spare our kids some of what we’re trying to untangle now right?

Alanis: [Laughs] Yeah. I think one piece of that for me and I’ve been singing it for many mountaintops I can find has been to really render the stages of development not only super clear but kind of a no brainer in society. So that we can see whether it’s Eric, Eric Center, Piaget or all these lovely people, Margaret Muller, Harville Hendrix is sort of the more modernized current version of the stages of development. You Susan, are such a big advocate for clarity around how these stages are so delicate and powerful and achievable to create and portend for adults who have a general sense of connection with themselves. So for me it’s about diving into those stages of development and if it’s relevant to you, you know, now or later I’d love to just kind of do a broad stroke of it so that it can be something that we all –

Susan: Absolutely.

Alanis: –you know, have in our back pockets.
Susan: So yeah sure let’s — Yeah let’s broad stroke. [Laughs] Alanis: You want to broad stroke it? [Laughs]
Susan: Let’s broad stroke.

Alanis: Yeah. There’s been a lot of talk about the attachment stage right? So that’s the eye contact. That’s the message that we exist and that we’re here and we could trust life and that touch is a huge one, holding, breastfeeding can or cannot be a part of it. I know a lot of women who couldn’t breast feed but really in my mind did such an incredible job of the attachment stage of development.

Susan: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.

Alanis: So ideally it would be you know, the entire package of skin on skin, eye contact and consistency and a constancy especially with the maternal mama figure or the caregiver. What that portend for in the future is that some of us myself definitely included with that stage of development having been challenged, I wound up as an adult, I wound up feeling like I didn’t exist and I felt like I was floating. So there was this floating amorphous quality to my life. You know, the spiritual community loves it in a sense because all of the spirit can transcend the body and transcend ego.

Susan: Wow.

Alanis: But if we don’t have a sense of psyche and a sense of self an sense of ego to begin with, (a) there’s nothing to transcend and it makes it really hard to function in day-to-day life.

Susan: Yeah, yeah.

Alanis: So that was a big one and then it segues beautifully around 18 months and it’s not perfectly linear although there are some linear aspects to it. But and so the exploration stage and that’s when we’re out seeking, looking around, seeking to see what this big wild world is all about. We’re either supported in that effort or it’s thwarted and that can make for us feeling shut down, connected but disconnected at the same time. In our adult relationships we can feel claustrophobic, we can feel resentful and just kind of dissociated in a way if we don’t have the freedom to explore while being safe of course.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: As little ones. And then it segues into identity, which is where that mirroring comes in. You know, when the little ones are saying I’m scared and that we wouldn’t change it to no you’re not scared.

Susan: Right.

Alanis: Or there’s nothing scary here.

Susan: Right, right, right.

Alanis: You know, no concave or convex mirroring, just direct mirroring. My son is in the stage right now of he just looks to me and to my husband and to our village as we call it for constant reflection of who am I, what is my identity. Again the spiritual community often pooh-poohs the idea of building a sense of identity.

Susan: Right.

Alanis: But I think without it we wind up kind of struggling in our adults lives. Then the fourth one that I go by is competence. So just really supporting a young person in trying out these things not necessarily stepping on their toes, not doing it for them as such but also not having them in an age inappropriate way requiring them to do things that are a little too early for them to be engaging in. Whether it be by taking care of adults when it’s really not their place


Susan: Right.
Alanis: to be doing that Susan: Right.

Alanis: You know, sometimes the extremes on the continuum can be that the kids are required to be older than their years, which is its own way of thwarting that stage of development. The other end of the continuum –

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: –is that they’re not supported in trying new things and testing at their competence and that makes for all kinds of challenges as adults right? Whether it’s with careers or starting a business or moving or all of these things that do require this bravery and this competence to be able to function well in the world and have that beautiful sense of achievement. We may not have as much access to that if we haven’t had success in our early years. So those are sort of the Harville Hendrix really modernized, condensed, broad stroke and certainly there are other aspects to it and I’m really just broad stroking it. But I think is there are some general understanding of the stages of development and how those early years affect our adulthood, not only can it help us in our marriages because it can be corrective experiences in our committed partnerships and business associations and anything that’s committed and intimate has a very large degree of healing available to us.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: But it would be so lovely if we had to do–if we were able to do a little less healing work and just more living, you know. [Laughs]

Susan: [Laughs] Yeah.

Alanis: So thank you for letting me go off there, I appreciate it.

Susan: Oh gosh, no, no, no because it’s very clear. You have a great way with language obviously and you sort of captured these stages in this process. You know, wouldn’t it be great if there was sort of a big announcer who came on and said okay, your two and a half year old is now launching into the next phase.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: But it doesn’t happen that way. Alanis: No. And when–
Susan: Yeah.
Alanis: Go ahead sorry.

Susan: Well no, no, go on.

Alanis: Yeah and if there’s something missed because a lot of my friends and I you know, we’ve talked about it and we thought well how do we know

those prenormal stages. Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: If I don’t have a recollection. And the answer to that in my mind is that it shows up in our adult relationships.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: You know, if I’m around floating or I have an aversion to touch or it comes up in my sexuality, it comes up in all these different parts of my beingness. So if there’s parts of me that think I can’t do this work because I can’t remember I have the good fortune of being in marriage in being in some really committed friendships where it inevitably comes up anyway.

[Laughs] Susan: Right, yes.

Alanis: So.
Susan: Yeah.
Alanis: Oh an opportunity. [Laughter]

Yeah that’s when I’m being my best self.

Susan: Yeah and you’re… Well that’s the thing. It’s like you know, so we have this opportunity both as adults who can reflect on the things that we’re dealing with in our adult grownup life and how they may have been trigged or informed by what we went through in those early, early years. Then we have this chance as we watch our own children at each stage of their unfolding and development to sort of as you said, you know, spare them to whatever degree we can the years of therapy or figuring it out while at the same time using the observation of what they’re going through to really grow us. You know, –

Alanis: Yes.

Susan: –so there’s nonintuitive –you know, a lot of the work that I do and the ways that I work with parents initially and just initially not for long feels counterintuitive. Because –

Alanis: Yes.

Susan: –I’m inviting parents to do what you just said. Instead of oh you’re not really cold or there’s nothing to be afraid of, I’m actually encouraging and I teach parents how to join with a child where they are to be attuned and reflect back, oh it sounds like you’re really worried about that. And in that moment –

Alanis: And the magic word you just used, the magic word you just used is attunement and in order for me or anyone in my mind to attune means that we on some level have to be at least be willing to feel these feelings of –

Susan: Right. Yeah.

Alanis: –grief and discomfort and frustration and rage and frankly sometimes even joy is snuffed right out right?

Susan: Yeah.
Alanis: So enjoy, you know? Susan: Yeah, yeah.

Alanis: So there’s all these feelings that I’m –you know, I watch my sweet son feeling them and I know it’s incumbent upon me to hold space for him to have this feeling. I’ve come to see that every healing other than joy is bottomless. I’m sorry it has a bottom.

Susan: Wow.


Alanis: So if I sit there –you know, my husband I joke that when our son Ever is feeling anger or frustration, he’ll feel it for 20 seconds maybe. It feels like three hours. [Laughs]

Susan: Yeah, right.

Alanis: You know, and my husband is so you know, we’ll have a lot of eye contact and we’ll just you know, we’ll whisper to each other you know, just sit with this, sit with this, stay, stay, stay, stay.

Susan: Wow.

Alanis: You know, and then he’ll come out the other side and my son he’s looking to our eyes to see how we are being with his feeling at any given moment. You probably – my assumption is you teach this everywhere you turn.

Susan: Yeah, yeah.

Alanis: You know, to be practicing it in real time it’s exactly what you just said which is it does require my husband and I to feel the same feelings. If we’re going to be empathic and in tune and connected heart to heart with our son, we have to be willing to feel that feeling along with him. There are some that come up that I can see are challenges for either of us, you know.

Susan: Yeah. Well because you know and then it comes back to that place of you know, I talk in my work, I use my hands, the right hand above the left, the right hand being the parent, represents the parent as that calm captain of the ship. When the hands are side by side and you and I have talked about this.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: But when the hands are side by side, that’s where you’re pushing and pushing back and the lawyer and you’re negotiating with your kids about whatever it is they’re asking for.

Alanis: Right.

Susan: And then when it really falls apart then your hand is below the child’s and you’re desperately –

Alanis: Right.

Susan: –you know, flinging around these threats and bribes and trying to restore some –

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: –bit of control. But it was never going to be about control and it’s always –

Alanis: No.

Susan: We lose our way when we become needy and so if you could be present with a child whatever their experience is, it’s sorrow, it’s anger, it’s frustration, it’s disappointment. And simply be there in an empathic way as you said be present but as that captain who doesn’t need it to be different than it is.

Alanis: Yeah and also if there is stuff that’s coming up in the moment that it’s really up to us as adults to go process that in our own time to the degree that we’re able to table it in the moment. You know, because this isn’t a perfectionistic approach. There are times where whatever it is, whatever emotion our son is feeling you know, we do need to debrief it later. But not on Ever’s time.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: You know, like –

Susan: Exactly.

Alanis: –I don’t want to push it. You know, and also the idea too that our kids just go back and forth between the continuum, between you know, chaos often. Because the younger they are, there’s this beautiful like wildness and chaos. You know, and to the degree that we’re able to hold that chaotic part of our own continuum and our own life. You know, so the more rigid we are with our survival strategies, the more our kids especially around three or even two and older you know, their chaos can really bring up a lot of stuff for us.

Susan: Yes.

Alanis: It’s really trigger our rigidity and our desire to control which is not even possible.

Susan: No.

Alanis: You know, and although and I think what happened sometimes is people hear this invitation for chaos and it scares them understandably because the assumption is that we’re out of control and that there are no boundaries. But that boundary show up in a whole different way. You know, boundaries show up –

Susan: Wow.

Alanis: –with this heart to heart connection and if that’s already been established over the first many years of this creature’s life, I can see that my son trusts me. I don’t gratuitously say no to him.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: But when I do say oh, you know, if he’s right near the edge of the ferryboat that we’re on and he sees in my eyes that it’s an unequivocal no, but it’s –

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: –you know, I’m basically looking out for him and protecting his physical safety. There is a part of him that actually trusts that because I don’t gratuitously say no.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: I want to make sure that I also have a caveat here saying that I don’t always do it that well. [Laughs] But yeah, yeah, yeah.

Susan: …perfect. Well may I officially welcome to the club then. [Laughs]

Alanis: [Laughs] Thanks yeah. So yeah the whole boundary thing you know, just because there’s an allowance feeling and just because there’s an allowance for chaos in no way means that there’s no real boundaries in place.

Susan: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.

Alanis: That they can coexist. You know? Susan: Right.

Alanis: And I think you know, maybe it’s a Buddhist thing but sometimes when I speak with friends and people that I’ve met and in a couple of workshops that I’ve led, I feel like there’s this thought that you’re either a very boundaried, rigid parent or you’re out of control and you’re chaotic.

Susan: Right.

Alanis: In my mind, you can be in the middle of a continuum and actually do both depending upon what the case asks of us, you know?

Susan: Well I think that, you know, I’m working on another book actually about this very thing and this whole notion of can you parent with presence, can you parent in the midst of the storm? You know, this notion that life is messy and certainly raising children — Alanis: Right.

Susan: — you know, it can look on the surface at least very chaotic but underneath it is –

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: — the stillness and underneath if we can sort of step somehow and there’s so many ways that we do this if we can go beneath the surface where if you think of an ocean in all the rough waves and waters and then. But if you dive in deeply, everything is very quiet even in the middle of the horrible storm. That’s where we — Alanis: Yes. Right.

Susan: -you know, ideally want to hold on to ourselves and find ourselves and have practices that help us get there at least some of the time. Right?

Alanis: Yeah and I notice how that’s so astute. I really resonate with what you just said. I’ve just noticed some of the time in the hardest moments for me where I feel like my approach has been judged the most harshly, it’s because how I was being with my son was as grounded as I could possibly be in the chaos.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: And there may have been projections upon me and the circumstance that had it look like perhaps to someone else who was more comfortable with

the rigid approach.


Susan: Wow.

Alanis: That somehow I was flawed in my approach. You know, that there was something wrong with how doing it because I was “giving him the green light to” as a 25-year-old throw oatmeal on someone’s face. You know, like –

Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: It’s just like no, that’s not really what I’m up to here

Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: But it’s not – I am a champion to support the socialization process, please don’t get me wrong

Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: [Laughs] But there’s a message to that you know, there is something to be said for supporting the wildness with this containment.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: And I think it just really creates an adult and a young adult who learns to trust themselves and learns to be discerning moment to moment to moment.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: You know? But that — Susan: And that –
Alanis: –required great faith.

Susan: Yes it requires trust and faith and patience and tolerance for the craziness, sort of that phase. As you said, the feelings are not going to last forever. You know, the child gets frustrated. Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: I talk a lot about this. I take parents through this process, you know, sort of the stages of grief in a way that when a child encounters something that they won’t be allowed to have. Let’s say they want to have the cookie and the first stage would be denial.

Alanis: Uh-hum.

Susan: Even though it’s not linear, oh she’s going to change her mind. And then the next might be anger.

Alanis: If I just scream loud enough.

Susan: Yes, right. Exactly. So now we move into anger, I hate you mommy, you’re so mean.

Alanis: Yes.
Susan: I don’t even like your earrings. Alanis: Right.

Susan: And then If that has not yielded the desired cookies then you get into bargaining, oh you know, with the puppy dog eyes, mommy you’re so

pretty, can I have a cookie. Alanis: Right. [Laughs]

Susan: And it’s just charming really.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: It’s enchanting because our kids you know, like cookies and why wouldn’t they make their best attempt to get a cookie if they’re really good ones.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: But then –

Alanis: Yeah the whole idea too — Yes, sorry, go ahead.

Susan: Well no, so the next thing is going to be you know, in Kubler Ross’ model it’s depression. I call it disappointment.

Alanis: Right.

Susan: If we’re willing to be present with them while they’re sad realizing they’re not going to get a cookie they very quickly move on to acceptance and to

me — Alanis: Totally.

Susan: –this is what I’m thinking in comparison to as captain is can you tolerate that brief little period where they simply have to be sad or cry and just

hang out there with them for a little bit. It won’t last long. Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: And then they’ve learned wow I can actually endure the loss of the cookie, I’ve actually now got another notch on my belt of resilience.

Alanis: Yes, the resilience is huge and they can see that there’s a retained connection throughout these ebbs and flows of feeling.

Susan: Wow.

Alanis: You know, like as best as I can when my son is wanting the cookie and that’s a great example. You know, when he wants the cookie, he’s sort of reaching that disappointment stage and I just make sure that I validate

that yeah I would love to have cookies for breakfast too, who wouldn’t? Susan: Yeah, yeah.

Alanis: You know, that’s the greatest idea of all time and I’m here to protect your long term health and wellbeing.

Susan: Oh.

Alanis: And you know? So the validation is huge and then what you just said of just letting –you know, leaving space and holding space for them to feel their feelings of disappointment. It does, you know, creates this solidity in their being that in an ideal circumstance I would just envision them having that with them forever. That there’s going to be millions of

disappointments in their life. Susan: Right.

Alanis: And that that feeling if disappointment will be one that they recognize and they know that they’ve withstood it and worked through it so many

times as a kid that it’s just a normal part of being human. Susan: Wow.

Alanis: As opposed to it being something that was avoided and staved off or resisted or –

Susan: Right.

Alanis: –denied or you know. [Laughs]

Susan: Boy you really are great at articulating a lot of this, thank you. Yes.

Alanis: So it’s –

Susan: You know, I often say we’re not raising children. You know, we think we are –

Alanis: No.

Susan: –but we’re really raising adults.

Alanis: Yeah, nice.


Susan: So we have to really give them the gift of it sounds just sort of awful but give them the gift of repeated disappointment so that they actually –

Alanis: Yup.
Susan: –you know, grow that muscle and then the girlfriend — Alanis: Yeah and to stay connected. Right.
Susan: And just stay connected through it, exactly.
Alanis: Yeah. Yeah.
Susan: Yes, thank you.
Alanis: Yeah.
Susan: Because then you know like I have –

Alanis: and – because in some ways I mean you know as a young person, I definitely I coupled mom and dad and god, you know, they’re all the

same thing in a way. Susan: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.

Alanis: So there’s this beautiful spiritual existential connection with how I’m raised. You know, because I project those same qualities on to god. It’s

just it was my natural affinity as a young creature. Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: So if I can stay connected… So this is the theory in my mind, if I can stay connected with mom and daddy even in these ugly, uncomfortable moments then it just sends me the message not only of this beautiful

resilience that I can do it and that I’m confident and I’m capable– Susan: Yes.

Alanis: –through these feelings.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: But that god is always with me and that I’m always connected with love no matter what you know.

Susan: Wow. Well yeah, you know, and then the flipside is that if we don’t have faith in our children’s resilience and we send them the message I had a lot of… You know, I’m a therapist so I get a lot of families and parent-child combinations and one of the challenges that I often have working with parents is convincing them not to cave in to their kids. Their child desperately wants and iPad or they don’t want to turn it off or they can’t live without a new phone, they have to go to that slumber party even though they –you know, it’s not really a great idea, they haven’t been feeling well. When we don’t actually move through and be present to stay connected with their children while they simply feel sad and when we instead fix their problems for them or try and talk them out of their unpleasant feelings, we’re sort of sending the message that says I don’t

actually have faith in your resilience or your capacity — Alanis: Right.

Susan: –to endure this.

Alanis: Right.

Susan: And those are the adults who show up in life, you know, stalking their girlfriend because they can’t imagine living without her or you know, –

Alanis: Right.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: Nice. It’s so beautifully put yeah and then also in that exact circumstance too the idea of separating the behavior from the little person. You know,

like yeah you’re — Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: –throwing oatmeal at my face. It’s not really a behavior that ultimately is going to work.

Susan: Okay.

Alanis: You know, until you use that word work a lot you know, –

Susan: Right.

Alanis: –because everything is contextual right? So if you slap someone’s butt on a subway it’s really inappropriate. But if you’re on a football field –

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: –at the super bowl and you just want to touch down and you go over and slap a guy’s butt everyone’s high fiving you.

Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: So the behavior is just kind of this neutral behavior in theory and that it may or may not work given the context so that’s a big one. And then also

separating the behavior from the person. Yeah it wasn’t — Susan: Right.

Alanis: –great that you ripped the iPad at your dad’s head and cut his head. Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis Morissette | p. 16

Alanis: It’s just not awesome but you’re awesome. [Laughs] Susan: [Laughs]
Alanis: You know, so let’s look at that behavior. [Laughs] Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: Yeah.
Susan: That’s great.
Alanis: Dad have a –
Susan: [Laughs]
Alanis: Hypothetically speaking. [Laughs]
Susan: [Laughs]
Alanis: A friend of mind told me that happened — Susan: Right, right. A neighbor’s friend’s sister’s cousin.

Alanis: A neighbor’s friend. Yeah and the other thing too to speak to what you just said a minute ago is the idea too that if you yield to something, you know, I think sometimes what happens is there’s this thought that there

has to be almost a gratuitous no to “prove that I’m the parent in charge.” Susan: Uh-hum. Good one yeah.

Alanis: And so for me I often think if you can yield, lovely.

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: But there are certain case scenarios and certain circumstances where it’s not smart for the child’s wellbeing or physical wellbeing.

Susan: Right.

Alanis: Or safety or you know, that that wouldn’t be the time to yield. You know, –

Susan: Good.

Alanis: –but to have it be an extreme on either end that if it’s 100% yielding all the time there’s some stuff to talk about and work through.

Susan: Right. Right.

Alanis: And if it’s 100% not yielding almost gratuitously –

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: –that some other stuff is inquire into there too right?

Susan: Right. Like I’m the powerful one and I get to say no and I’m going to flaunt that power.

Alanis: Right.

Susan: That you know all the time.

Alanis: And maybe that comes from right – it might come from them having felt powerless and oh –

Susan: Exactly.
Alanis: Here’s the circumstance where I can wield this power. Susan: Yes.
Alanis: You know?
Susan: Right.
Alanis: It’s a confusing message for the little one.
Susan: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Alanis: You know.
Susan: Yeah. You know, –
Alanis: It’s so great.

Susan: –Dan Siegel talks about that flexibility that if you’re in your body and you’re present and you’re able to –you know, something is getting through that for you and you’re triggered, that you can sort of process that however you need to do that and then respond with flexibility to that particular situation in that particular moment with that child as opposed to this kneejerk no, I’m in charge or yes sweetheart, you know,

whatever you want.

Alanis: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of times the yes whatever you want is born from fear of the feeling of our child being frustrated or disappointment and

the acting out of that right?
Susan: Yeah. Thank you and guess what else?

Alanis: So –
Susan: They might like you. Alanis: Right. Heaven forbid. Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: You know, and again if we take that same model and apply it to ourselves which is the grand invitation here to see what is coming up in our children or not. You know, the idea that you don’t like the behavior of me setting the boundary but I know in my heart that of course we have a

bond. You know, and I don’t need to have it — Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: — be proven every second, you know? So — Susan: Right.
Alanis: Yeah. But just think they hate you. [Laughs] Susan: Yeah, yeah. And that temporary moment — Alanis: And at the moment they really do.

Susan: Yup. Alanis: Yeah.


Susan: I remember that you know and that’s where I often will counsel parents, well make sure you have your own friends because –

Alanis: Yeah.
Susan: –you’re going to need to have — Alanis: Your own friends.
Susan: or whoever it’s a practice. Alanis: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs]

Susan: Yeah. But it can’t be your child. You can’t look to have that relationship be gosh I don’t want them to not like me. Say you know, what if I reject

me if I say no so.
Alanis: Right, well then we’re not the parent anymore. You know, then we’re — Susan: Exactly.
Alanis: — looking to them for things that are age inappropriate and frankly Susan: That’s right.

Alanis: –you know, Pia Melody has these great models of covert and overt heaven forbid sexual abuse and a lot of the sexual abuse that she talks about in the covert department has to do with us wanting our children to

be the spouse that we don’t have or the friends that we don’t have. Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: And how dangerous that can be. You know, –

Susan: Wow.

Alanis: –and it just creates this really you know, challenging trauma for them to have to work through later and creates challenges for their future

relationships. You know, so — Susan: I’m glad you brought that up.

Alanis: So definitely you know, I just see how as an adult you know, I have to work on my marriage. I have to foster and nurture my girl friendships

Alanis Morissette | p. 20

because if I don’t, there’s going to be some weird leaky energy where I’m looking to my son for something that’s wildly inappropriate. I just got to stay on top of that.

Susan: Wow. I’m very happy that you brought that up because our kids really boy they know. You know, they are such a mirror for us and they know. They know when we’ve crossed that line just vibrationally. It doesn’t have

to be anything observable. But if there’s that icky feeling — Alanis: Exactly.

Susan: –that’s just not clean, I talk about clean parenting and dirty parenting.

Alanis: Clean, nice.

Susan: And clean parenting you know, doesn’t come with our own neediness. It doesn’t come with our own agenda and our kids –

Alanis: Right.

Susan: — smell it a mile away when we have this sort of need in our back pocket that says boy I really want you to like me or think I’m cool and hip or whatever it might be that pollutes the relationship and the purity of that

relationship –

Alanis: Yeah. Yeah or snuggle or hold my hand or look at me or whatever the need is, you know?

Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: And if we don’t have somewhere else to go look to have those needs be met, our poor kids you know what I mean? So –

Susan: Yeah.
Alanis: —wow we covered a lot in a very –
Susan: Wow, I know. I’m thinking okay let’s see part 2 and 3 and 4 and 5. Wow. Alanis: Yeah, I love it.
Susan: Very good.
Alanis: I love the small talk with you. [Laughs]

Susan: Awesome.

Alanis: Great.

Susan: Well we’re winding down, which is just sort of bumming me out because of so many other things that I want to talk about.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: You know, you had this very sweet thing that I read when I was sort of snooping around and looking for things for us to chat about. Almost none of which, we needed to talk about because we had our own. But I love

this thing that — Alanis: That’s great.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: But you said something some days I’m not centered and that’s just how it’s going to be.

Susan: Uh-hum. And I just think it’s sweet for parents to really –you know, I’ve talked a lot in these conversations about self-care and kindness and

compassion and maybe you want to close with something about that.

Alanis: You know, I do my best to create the self-care and Harville Hendrix has this beautiful quote that says that we’re wounded in relationship and

that healing happens in relationship. You know, and so — Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: So for me my committed partnership with my husband, my committed you know, colleagues that I have for life I just feel like those are the – my commitment to my therapist. You know, I feel that my commitment, my adult relationship commitments are where I can have some really corrective experiences with my twin brother, with my friends. So I really – for me to be responsible in that area of self-care it’s definitely, you know, getting many, getting my teeth cleaned, very basic grooming things with sleep and food and cooking and moving my body and exercising, having my eyes in the sun. You know, being near hot water is huge whether it’s


tea or soup or hot tub or all three at once.

I’ll be taking a bath in the soup but it’s very – you know, self-care is huge and then there are just times where I’m just not on my best.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: And I would turn to my husband of the sweet village that we have is comprised of aunties and uncles.

Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: You know, I’ll just turn to someone and just say I can’t I can’t do it right now. I need to leave the room. For me, thankfully I can recharge my

batteries in about 10, 15 minutes so I can return. Susan: Uh-hum.

Alanis: And then when I’m alone and there’s no one around, I just turn parenting in that moment into a really profound spiritual practice of okay, this is an alchemy now, I’m in a hot kitchen, I “have reached my max” and yet I

have another hour to go. Susan: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.

Alanis: And how can I turn this into grist for the mill and also the first do no harm thing is huge for me on a lot of levels outside of just food and just the approach to life and that is if I need to – if I feel like I’m maxed out as a parent, quiet presence is pretty lovely. You know, and you’re just sitting there with a tiny little smile on my face and just breathing is sometimes

better than me feeling like I have to do something. Susan: That’s right.

Alanis: I remember two days ago, my friend said what’s the best thing I can do to support young boys in feeling comfortable with their feelings and feeling comfortable with the feminine aspects of life. I said to be honest the number one in that list I would say is quiet presence standing next to

them. Susan: Wow.

Alanis: You know, and you’re such an advocate for that and I thank you for that. It’s huge.


Susan: Hmm. Yes, well you know, it’s journey, it’s a path, it’s an adventure and I don’t know. I think we could just keep saying the same thing, which is just how awesome it is to grow through this experience of discovery, and splitting our hearts open to this kind of love that you know, is so wild and messy and chaotic and stunning and deep and crazy and you know, it’s


Alanis: Yeah. It’s so beautiful and the last thing I want to say is that you know, when I mess up and when my husband and I mess up and we do a lot,

nothing wrong with a beautiful little apology. Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: Thank you.
Susan: You know, it’s just a quick repair like oh man, I’m so sorry. Alanis: Uh-hum.
Susan: I didn’t mean to do that.
Alanis: Uh-hum.

Susan: Or you know, or I was maxed out and I was really unconscious and checked out. I’m really sorry. You know, an apology goes a long way that repairs –

Alanis: Yes. I’m glad you brought that you because I’ve been talking and writing more about that, this notion that we model for our children how to live life, how to bump against other humans. And a huge part of that is going to be you know, touching someone’s shoulder, looking at them in the eye and saying I’m sorry without the part too which is but, you know, I

wouldn’t have stepped on your feet if you hadn’t put it where it is. Susan: Yeah. [Laughs]

Alanis: But owning it completely –

Susan: Yeah, yeah no excuse, no caveat of some defense or some struggle. You know, just a straight up, I’m so sorry, my bad.

Alanis: Uh-hum.
Susan: And we’re done.

Alanis: A friend of mine was telling me –

Susan: I don’t mean we’re done but I mean I’m done.

Alanis: No but there’s one little piece I’ll add to that even though we’re going over I hope it’s okay.

Susan: Yeah, please add.

Alanis: Okay. Well this friend of mine was telling me that in their child’s preschool the kids were actually taught not to just say I’m sorry which is easy especially with children. You know, tell them you’re sorry and the

child sort of you know, well I’m not.

That all I have to do is spit out those two words and then I can push him over again. [Laughs] So their preschool really didn’t encourage simply spouting the words. But they would say if you hurt someone, get down and make sure they’re okay and bring them a cup of water and a damp paper towel. If you saw, if you were a child that three or four year old and you saw another child get hurt, you were to bring them a cup of water or a damp paper towel.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Alanis: So anytime in this preschool that a little kid got hurt, you’d see a little semi-circle of little children with paper towels and cups of water.

Susan: [Laughs] That’s precious.

Alanis: Isn’t it?

Susan: Yeah. That ability taking.

Alanis: The responsibility that taking thing too it starts early. You know, like little things like my son watching me say I don’t know or you know, the

vulnerability — Susan: Yeah.

Alanis: –modeling the vulnerability of he’ll ask me a question and I’ll say I don’t know, let’s investigate, let’s Google that or you know, for me not to be the know it all or for him to see that it’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to –

Susan: Yeah. Alanis: –apologize. Susan: Yes.

Alanis: It’s perfectly normal day-to-day activity to take responsibility and it will help. It will help the new world, the new generation that fly in the face of

narcissism that is so prevalent. Susan: Right.

Alanis: The bummer about narcissism isn’t so much that it’s just a shit ton of people being wounded, pardon my French. It’s more that I mean the bummer about narcissism is that there’s no empathy in it. It precludes the capacity for empathy. You know, and that just creates this profound

separatism and disconnect which is heart breaking to me.

Susan: Yeah. Yeah.


Alanis: You know, so to model for our little creatures all around us that are looking at us and watching us and we’re modeling for them you know, what it could look like to be vulnerable. To say I don’t know, to say I’m sorry, to say, you know, this part here is my responsibility and I really dropped the ball and I’m sorry for the fallout and this is what I’m going to

do differently next time. You know?
Susan: Well I have nothing to add. That’s just it. That’s awesome.

Alanis: Yeah.

Susan: I just love that you’re saying it and you’re saying it so clearly and so bravely and with such you know, yeah so much clarity. Because your kids – our children will pick up that clarity, they pick up on our decisiveness but boy if you’re clear that you can be vulnerable and that you don’t

have to know, that’s a gift that you’re giving your son. Thank you. Alanis: It’s so – well bless you and thank you.

Susan: It’s so awesome.

Alanis: Well bless you and thank you for all the work that you’re doing. I just bow down to you and –

Susan: [Laughs]

Alanis: I just want to follow you in the all towering infernos. [Laughs] [Laughs]

Susan: [Laughs] No, no. I would not advise that. [Laughs] But thank you for your kind words.

Alanis: Yeah . Well keep on it and I’m here and if a part 2 is appropriate or an ongoing conversation between –

Susan: Yes.

Alanis: — us is appropriate, I would love to continue it.

Susan: Thank you, Alanis. Well I’m going to make sure that that happens and oh my gosh okay. So here’s the wind down ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to thank Alanis Morissette again for your extraordinary gifts both in heart, time, music, soul, spirit and clarity. Thank you Alanis.

Alanis: Uh-hum. Thank you so much Susan.

Susan: And your website of course is and thank all of you who are listening for joining us in this just terrific and such fun series. I hope you all visit – I have a Facebook page, Susan Stiffelman. It’s a public figure and if you log on there you can read comments from other people listening. You can add your own thoughts, your comments, look for updates and take part in this conversation that we’re having about so many topics related to parenting with presence. If you have been inspired or supported as you said Alanis by these calls then please tweet, post, send smoke signals to your friends and email. Let them know what we’re up to here. Because you know, we really feel very blessed for the opportunity to reach so many parents and ask that if you feel inspired you will join in our effort. Then of course remember that you can go to if you’d like to own these sessions and different packages for downloads or CDs. That’s made available to you as well.

All right, my friend, thank you, Alanis again. Alanis: Well thank you. Bless you.

Susan: I thank you all for joining us on this Parenting with Presence Summit. I’m Susan Stiffelman signing off until next time and I hope you’ll tune in and continue enjoy this beautiful day.