10 Inner Challenges Aging Parents Trigger

The challenge of caring for aging parentsNothing has prepared you for this.

Your parents are getting closer to the end of their lives, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Soon, you might have to reverse roles and become the authority in their lives.

You may have to make tough decisions. . .ones they don’t like.

You will watch their health. . .physical or mental. . .decline.

Does this worry you a bit?

Or, are you downright panicked?

Feeling overwhelmed?

Wish you could turn back the clock and keep things the way they used to be?

Your Biggest Trigger

Good, bad, or ugly. . .no matter what your relationship with your family is, they can trigger you more than anyone else.

While they aren’t to blame, your negative stuff developed early in life in relation to them.

Specifically, before age 2 1/2, you absorbed the feeling that there is something wrong with you, which I call Learned Distress®.

To handle this icky feeling, your brain developed survival mechanisms to cope with, control, or completely bury your Learned Distress.

No matter how hard you’ve worked to deal with it, that negative stuff keeps building in intensity through your life.

And then, the difficult situations you face as your parents age can shove it right up in your face!

This inner negativity probably won’t be a complete surprise.

But, you might feel it more intensely than ever before.

Here are a few of the most common inner challenges people face when their parents age and near the end of life.

1. I Don’t Know How to Handle This

Does this thought cause you to panic?

When parents age, you’ll deal not only with the unknowns inherent to anyone’s life, but with many new conditions and decisions you’ve never encountered.

Fear of the unknown is a huge piece of Learned Distress for many.

When you face the unknown, do you feel like you have to already know everything?

Or, do you feel like you have to work really hard to figure it all out. . .read a lot, talk to experts, rack your brain for solutions?

Or, do you despair at the fear that you can’t possibly even figure it out?

These are common survival mechanisms for the Learned Distress that tells us we have to know exactly how the pathway and its outcome will look.

2. I Can’t Handle This

Ever had the thought, “I’m just too weak”?

You might notice the feeling that you just can’t do this coming up a lot.

You may have to watch your parents decline physically and/or mentally.

You may have to visit hospitals or nursing facilities where you’ll see many elderly and sick people suffering.

You may have to stand up to your parents when they aren’t acting in their own best interest, anymore.

You may feel that you can’t survive the death of your parents.

Learned Distress can make you feel that you just don’t have the inner strength to handle these big challenges.

3. I Need to Fix It All

Do you only feel comfortable if things are under control?

Or, do you need people to do things your way, in order to feel comfortable?

Or, do you need everything to end up in a pretty picture?

Your aging parents will challenge all of these survival mechanisms.

Moments. . .or days or years. . .will feel completely out of your control as your parents age.

4. I Need Things to Be a Certain Way

So, maybe you’ve reconciled yourself to watching your parents age and pass away.

You’re realistic. You know it won’t be all rainbows and roses.

But, you have an idea of how it should go.

As long as things go according to plan, you’ll be OK.

This survival mechanism will not stand up as your parents go through their own, unique aging process.

You’ll be surprised many times along the way, and things may feel out of control, as a result.

5. I Need Things to Stay the Way They’ve Always Been

Change, itself, is a huge challenge to your survival mechanisms.

In fact, your survival mechanism desperately needs things to stay the same.

Aging parents may need more help from you, instead of the other way around.

They might downsize and move.

At some point, they may not remember who you are.

Many more changes than those might happen.

As they do, you may find yourself clutching to the way things were, just to feel like you’re still on solid ground.

6. For Me to Be OK, I Need Them to Be OK

“It’s not about me. I just want you to be happy.”

If that’s something you say a lot, you may find it very difficult to see your parents suffer the effects of aging.

You may find it difficult or impossible to separate how you feel from how they feel.

You may feel like your life is declining with theirs.

As a result, you may try harder and harder to “fix them” at times when you ultimately need to accept their unique pathway to the end of their lives.

7. I Should. . .

“It’s never enough.”

Your parents’ need for greater support may trigger this feeling in one or many ways.

Maybe you visit or help them, but feel you should offer them full-time support.

Maybe you live far away and feel guilty that you can’t be there in person.

Maybe you feel like you need to be loving and supportive in every moment, even when they push all your buttons.

Maybe your relationship with them hasn’t been emotionally healthy, and although “good” kids “should” take care of their parents, you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

“Should” is a word that can alert you that your survival mechanisms are in high gear.

8. I Don’t Matter

This core Learned Distress can be triggered many ways.

Maybe your parents aren’t able to express gratitude for your support in ways that feel good to you.

Maybe you become the sole caregiver and feel that you have to do everything, yourself, without any acknowledgment.

Maybe you feel taken advantage of by your parents, siblings, or other family members.

Maybe you are so focused on taking care of your parents that you forget to take care of yourself. You might wake up one day, realizing you lost your own life in the process of trying to take care of theirs.

9. It’s Not Safe to Take Charge

Unless you’ve always stood up to your parents, this can be very difficult.

You may need to take away the car keys, take over the bill paying, make medical decisions, and fulfill a host of other functions that parents can no longer do themselves.

If your survival mechanisms include needing to defer to others, your parents probably trigger that need more than anyone else.

So, you might struggle with swapping roles with them and becoming the decision-maker in the relationship.

10. But, Who Can I Depend on Now?

If you’ve depended on your parents in some way as an adult, you might feel a looming black hole as they begin to age.

If they can’t be there for you, anymore, who can you lean on in difficult times?

What if they start to need the kind of support from you that they have always provided?

Learned Distress can make you feel very dependent on others, and even the fear of losing that support can be overwhelming.

The Good News

Feeling a big discouraged? Don’t be!

At your core, you have the opposite of Learned Distress.

It’s the feeling that you are all good, exactly as you are. I call it your natural well-being.

Well-being is the kernel of energy that you began life with.

It is the very core of who you are.

Your well-being can provide so much. . .peace, inner strength, patience, flexibility. The opposite of all that bad stuff I listed above.

Learned Distress and your ways of surviving with it intensify over your lifetime and come to overwhelm your core well-being.

But, whether or not you feel connected to it, your well-being is there, waiting to be uncovered and support you through your challenges.

Tapping into Your Core Well-Being

You have more access to well-being earlier in life, but as Learned Distress takes over, well-being feels increasingly distant.

Your survival mechanisms give you a way to cope with, control, or bury your Learned Distress for a good part of your life, but at some point, those survival mechanisms become overwhelmed and stop working.

Any big stress, like your parents shifting into their final stage of life, can blow up your survival mechanism for good.

Although it will feel horrible to you, this breakdown has a magnificent silver lining.

It’s the point at which your brain will allow you to peel away Learned Distress permanently.

Until that point, your Learned Distress and its survival mechanisms hold on for dear life. . .they’ve been keeping you going, and your brain can’t even imagine there could be another way.

But, when the brain allows layers of Learned Distress to be removed permanently, well-being shows you a new way that is characterized by ease and an inner knowing that you matter and that you have everything you need within you to face challenges.

“Better than I ever imagined” is the way people describe tapping into their core well-being..

They take on what would have felt impossible and terrifying before with more strength than they knew they had in them.

When they’re in situations they know would have pushed them over the edge in the past, they sometimes don’t even notice that it was a “trigger” situation until we talk about it later.

They have a new sense of flexibility in situations that used to make them panic and try to control everything.

They discover and are able to share their own unique contribution, instead of trying to fulfill a role they’ve always felt they “should.”

They meet the unknown with more grace and peace than they knew they had available to them.

It’s up to You

As your parents approach the end of their lives, how do you want to be?

It will be a time of many challenges and unknowns.

Do you want to cling desperately to your old ways, or would you like to breathe more easily and walk alongside them patiently in their journey?

Would you like to tap into the well-being at your core that allows you to give your parents, yourself, and everyone involved more peace and joy in the entire process?

If you’re not on good terms with them, would you like this to be a time full of regret or peace?

What I wish for you is the ability to look back on your parents’ last stage of life with a sense that you contributed the best of yourself and experienced the best of them, as a result.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

Why “The Secret” Doesn’t Work (and What Does)

Woman with arms crossedHas the Universe failed you?

You watched “The Secret,”and their promises sounded so good.

So, you’ve labored to change your thinking, to raise your vibration.

You’ve done more affirmations than you can count.

You’ve visualized. You’ve made vision boards.

You’ve put what you really want out to the Universe.

You’ve felt it. You’ve acted as if you already have it.

You’ve tried and tried and tried to manifest what you want.

Maybe it worked for a while. For little things.

Or maybe it never worked, at all.

Is There Something Wrong With You?

The Law of Attraction gurus claim that changing your thinking will change your life.

They say if it’s not working, you just need to work harder at it.

You follow their advice, but nothing.

Why isn’t it working for you?

The Actual Source of the Problem

Changing one’s thinking only works for some people for a certain amount of time.


The Law of Attraction is based on consciously deciding what you want and then trying to “manifest” it.

You’re trying to make something happen.

This is just another form of what I call Learned Distress®.

The Real Secret

Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Learned Distress is the problem, in the first place.

It’s the feeling you absorbed early in life that there’s something wrong with you PLUS the survival mechanism your brain developed to handle that awful feeling.

It’s the reason you feel dissatisfied with your life.

So, you can’t use Learned Distress to dig out of this hole.

To climb out of it for good, you have to get rid of your Learned Distress.

Why “The Secret” Works for Some People

Some Learned Distress survival mechanisms allow people to make things happen.

If this is you, once you have a strategy for accomplishing a goal, you work at it, and you succeed.

You may have to make a Herculean effort.

It may only work in one part of your life, like relationships or career.

And, it probably feels harder and harder over time to make it work.

But, you do succeed.

Why “The Secret” Never Works for Some People

Some Learned Distress survival mechanisms defeat strategies for accomplishing goals.

If this is your mechanism, you make the same Herculean effort as other people, but it never pays off.

You can even be smarter and more dedicated than anyone else, and your efforts never give you the result you want.

So, when you try to use Law of Attraction methods, your survival mechanism takes over and your attempts at manifesting fail.

The Real Goal

In your heart of hearts, what do you really want?

A big house? A million dollars?

The perfect body?

The perfect job?

A mate that has every last characteristic on the list you’ve made?

I think deep down, what you really want is to feel good being yourself, exactly as you are.

Did you just roll your eyes?

“Yeah, right, Sara. Like that’s going to happen!”

The Source of Feeling Good

At your very core, you already do feel good being you, exactly as you are.

This good feeling is the little kernel of energy that you began life with.

You might think of it as the part of you that is from God, or Source, or part of the All.

I call it your “natural well-being.”

How It Was Meant to Be

As you grew in your mother’s womb and for the first couple years of your life, your core well-being was meant to grow into your unique way of being human and fitting with your surroundings.

The fuel for that well-being expansion was the way people around you felt about being themselves.

Just as a growing plant absorbs water and sunlight, your developing brain was a sponge.

It absorbed how your parents and early caregivers felt about being human.

Your sponge-brain turned all that feeling into how you feel about being yourself.

If we lived in a perfect world, you would have absorbed their well-being and turned it into lots more well-being for you.


Your parents and early caregivers didn’t always feel wonderful, did they?

I bet they felt downright lousy sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time.

From those moments, you absorbed the feeling that there is something wrong being human.

Not from what they said or did.

Just from how they felt.

Your brain turned that awful feeling into the sense that there is something wrong being you, just the way you are.

Learned Distress embeds itself into your sense of self.

Your sense of self becomes the automatic, generating force behind every moment of your life. Without your conscious input or control.

Your moments that feel bad now are a recall and repetition of the way negative moments felt early in your life.

An Alternative to the Grind Stone

Learned Distress is greedy.

It intensifies over time, and it overwhelms your natural well-being.

More and more moments are generated from the feeling that something is wrong with you.

To have good things and situations, you have to bury, deny, or leap over the Learned Distress and make those good things happen.

If your survival mechanism will even let you.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

But, you still have natural well-being at your core.

What would moments be like that are generated from the feeling that you are all good, just as you are?

They would feel great, right?

Without you having to work so darned hard for it.

Putting Well-Being in the Driver’s Seat

Quanta Change throws Learned Distress off its greedy perch and allows well-being to become the generating force behind more and more moments.

This process works with your brain during sleep, when it is most open to change, to permanently remove layers of Learned Distress.

As clients start to experience moments that are generated from well-being, they are shocked.

They can’t believe good things could happen so easily for them.

People who have done lots of work on themselves are especially surprised at how different their results are. They aren’t used to feeling good without controlling or working around their Learned Distress.

Sometimes, they find that what they always thought they wanted is no longer their goal. One client is transitioning out of the career she has worked for since she was young, having found that it was based much more on her need to be perfect and get others’ approval than it was on what really makes her happy.

Others find finally are able to achieve what they’ve strived for, perhaps for decades, but have felt held back from. One client said, “It’s been the most creative and productive year of my life professionally, and we have more money in the bank than we have in our entire marriage.”

All of my clients find a greater sense of peace and ease in being themselves in some way, and that’s often a great surprise to them. One said, “For the first time in my life, I actually like myself! No, wait, I love myself! I’m a good person, and I deserve to feel good about my life!”

Well-Being vs. Magical Thinking

Your core well-being can provide everything you need to achieve what really matters to you.

However, that does not mean that you will sit on the sofa eating bon-bons the rest of your life.

Getting rid of Learned Distress does give you more ease in having the life you want.

But, tapping into your core well-being is not like rubbing the bottle and having a genie pop out to grant your wishes.

It gives you access to your life’s purpose, along with the resources to fulfill it.

When Learned Distress is in the driver’s seat, what we want—be it material goods, a job, a relationship, etc.—is often just a way to try and fix the feeling that there’s something wrong with us. When we come from that place, the “fix” never works for long, nor does the satisfaction it brings last.

What’s truly satisfying in life is fulfilling your purpose for being on the planet.

Why Are You Really Here?

You have a unique contribution to make.

Maybe to your family, your community, or to a much larger audience.

Does that sound daunting? Scary? Exhausting?

That’s your Learned Distress talking.

But, when you get it out of the way, your well-being can provide the inspiration, energy, and resources to discover and offer your unique contribution

You will feel more energized and joyous than you’ve even imagined was possible.

So, what will it be?

Do you want to keep trying to manifest the things that will just keep your Learned Distress at bay (for a while)?

Or, are you ready to step into your soul’s purpose in the world?

Your call.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

How Dreams Can Conquer Your Biggest Challenges

Dream work can conquer your biggest challengesWhat on earth was that about?!

How often do you wake up from a dream and ask yourself that?

Do you wonder why dreams are so bizarre, even when they make perfect sense while you’re asleep?

Do you wonder how they might impact your waking life?

What about nightmares? What are they about?

Maybe you’ve read dream interpretation guides, but you’re still not sure.

Do your dreams really mean anything at all?Continue reading

The Truth about Unconditional Love

The truth of unconditional lovePeople say that love is a choice.

That it’s something you do.

Does this frustrate you as much as it does me? Are you exhausted from doing and choosing over and over and over?

Are there people that you just can’t love, no matter how hard you try?

Are there people who you would love only if they would change that one infuriating thing?

If they get their act together? If they stop being so ____________?

Are there people who you struggle to love? Are there people you have heaped love upon, only to be invisible to them?

If the truth about love is that it’s something you do and it’s a choice, shouldn’t it work better than this?

Does love have to be this grueling?Continue reading

How to Stop Worrying about What People Think of You

Worried womanYour mind won’t stop.

You just talked with a friend or finished an important meeting.

Over the next few hours or days, every detail of the conversation plays itself over and over in your head.

As each detail flashes by, a voice in your head asks, “What did they think of that?” “Why did you say it that way?”

Or, the voice just screams, “Wow, that was stupid. They probably really hate you now.”

You wish you could go back and fix it. Maybe you try. You send an email to clarify what you meant. And another.

You look back at those emails, and the same voice speaks: “Why in the world did you say that?” And then, “Why haven’t they written back?! Oh, no! You probably just made it worse!”

You lose sleep. You relax only when you find out for sure that they aren’t mad at you.Continue reading

Why You Should Take EVERYTHING Personally

Why you should take everything personallyDon’t take things personally.

You’ve heard this before, right?

About how much happier you’ll be when you do it?

So, you’ve tried to put it into practice. You give people the benefit of the doubt. You refocus. You tell yourself that you don’t need people’s approval.

And, things have gotten a little better. Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you manage to stay calm as you tell yourself that they’re having a worse day than you are.

But, someone pushes a button. . .you know, THAT button, and the ground you’ve gained instantly slips away. You’re as upset as you’ve ever been, or even more so.

What happened? Why can’t you overcome this problem, when it seems like everyone else has? Friends say how great their lives are now that they don’t take things personally, and you just shake your head. There must be something wrong with you.Continue reading

3 Relationship Cures That Never Work (and the One That Does)

What to do when your relationship drives you crazy.It’s always easy at the beginning. You meet someone new, you go on a few dates, you fall in love. With the most wonderful person.

Then, it starts creeping in. There’s that one thing they do…

If they could only be more _________.

If only they would stop _________.

The tension builds between the things you love about them and the things you hate. You have to make a choice about how to move forward, and you have some options. One of these is probably your default, so keep reading until you find the one that you recognize.Continue reading

The Most Remarkable Word You’ll Read Today

Surprised womanThe word is “already.”

What’s so remarkable about that word, you ask? Here’s some context.

You are already good enough. Yes, YOU. Just as you are right now.

Without losing another pound.

Without earning another dollar.

Without putting on make-up.

Without finding the perfect mate.

Without your child bringing home straight A’s.

Without the promotion.

Without cleaning your house.

You are already good enough.


You don’t believe me, do you?

Would you believe it if your mom said it? Or your best friend? Or if it came from a respected mentor?

Would you still believe it tomorrow? Or, the next day?

Or, would you sink back into that “not good enough” place, just like you have all of your life?

Hearing that you’re good enough from someone else never really sticks for long, does it?

So, You “Do”

You try to earn your way to “good enough.”

Do more.

Be more.

Be nicer.

Get organized.

Wake up earlier.

Work later.

Work harder.

Work out harder.

Eat better.

Eat less.


If you just do enough, you will feel good enough. You look at people around you, and they are clearly good enough. If you could just be a little more like them, you could be good enough, too.

But…and this is a hard thing to swallow…you can’t earn this one. Not even if you’re an expert earner, and you’ve been successful at every single thing you’ve put your mind to.

So, You “Think”

You go to therapy and faithfully follow all of your therapist’s instructions.

You read the latest guru’s book.

You do all the affirmations.

You use your guided meditation every day. Twice on Monday.

If you can just think differently, you’ll finally feel good enough. But, you wake up each day right back in your “not good enough” hole.

You’re beating your head against some invisible wall, and you’re not even making much of a dent.

The Wall You Must Get Around

That wall is your rational brain. While it is operating…while you are doing and thinking…you can’t access the part of yourself that stores how you feel.

In order to change at the deepest level, you must bypass that wall.

Beyond the wall is your sense of self, which stores how you feel about being human. Trapped inside that storage bank is the feeling you absorbed early in life that there is something wrong with you being just the way you are.

Not only do you experience that rotten feeling repeatedly now, but your brain actually uses it to generate the negative moments of your life. So, you feel it and the situations in your life confirm it.

You’re hit with “not good enough” from all sides.

But, there’s hope. When you get beyond the rational brain wall and tap into your sense of self, you can really change that feeling.

The Key to Bypassing the Wall

You might think that meditation or hypnosis will get you around the wall. But, they only put the rational brain on the sideline, and it snaps back into action all too easily.

The good news is that your rational brain shuts down entirely every day…while you sleep. And, sleep is when your sense of self recharges itself. These two factors make sleep the most optimal time for deep and lasting change.

It’s a bit tricky, though, since you’re asleep when you need to access your sense of self. A researcher named Mimi Herrmann spent 20 years discovering how to give your sleeping brain permission for change, and I worked with her for 5 years, helping her refine how to tell your brain the specific changes you want to make.

By engaging in three integral actions—working with a guide to understand this change process, sleeping with a recorded message that is a catalyst for change, doing simple daytime work to shift your feeling—you can permanently remove layers of that horrible feeling that there is something wrong with you.

The Other Side of the Wall

One of my clients is an expert at “earning.” She’s at the top of her field and she has always succeeded by working hard. But, she hit her “not good enough” wall recently. On a day that should have been a celebration of her personal and professional pinnacles, she was all alone.

“It was the best day of my career, and I looked better than I’ve ever looked before, and no one wanted to share it with me. If I could do all of this and still be alone, I must not be lovable.”

Being good enough was still something she had to earn.

We spent a couple of months removing layers of “not good enough,” and she realized one afternoon that what people think of her doesn’t matter. For the first time in her life, she felt free to just be who she is. In years of working on herself, she had never felt this way. All the books and gurus told her this is how she was supposed to feel, but just knowing that (with her rational brain) never took away “not good enough.”

Not only does she feel different, but she’s speaking up for what she really wants, even with people she’s always deferred to. She’s expressing herself without reservation or worry about what others will think, and people are reacting to her in wonderful, new ways she never expected, certainly not from just being herself. Even in her career, things feel better and more effortless.

This is what I hear from clients all the time. “Wow, Sara, I never thought I could just be myself. It’s so weird to finally feel that I’m good enough, and people seem to like me even more!”

It Was Already There

Notice that my clients don’t mention learning this new feeling. That’s because it was already there.

The core of who you are as a human being is the feeling that you are just right, exactly as you are.

You don’t need to create that feeling. You just need to uncover it.

It might seem selfish to spend time and energy uncovering the feeling that you are good enough.

But, it’s the most unselfish thing you could ever do.

At your core is the uniqueness that you are here to express. And when you are plugged into it, there is more light for everyone.

The world is in trouble in a myriad of ways. Your uniqueness holds the solution to some piece of that trouble. The world needs you to unlock your uniqueness and put it into action.

And, as a little side benefit, your life will get better, too. But, if that feels too selfish, just focus on the good you’ll do for the world by finally feeling that you already good enough. Because you are. Yes, YOU.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.