Monday, August 1, 2011
Friday, May 7, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
A friend proposes that an embryonic chicken's "cracking out" of her shell occurs when there is no more food in the shell hence, "she will search beyond the safety and confinement of her containment when there is no more nourishment within.”
This analogy is powerful for parents as well as for teens-transitioning-towards-adulthood. Kids need to grow and for a while they will remain in the safety of their home and other environments that represent their particular “shell”. But as time goes on, their reach, physically, mentally, emotionally, searches for meaning and experience beyond the shell, hungry and hard-wired to move beyond their confines. It is at this moment that choice enters in. Some choices they will discover are wise, new friends that enhance life, new endeavors that add dimension to their growth. Yet some avenues and people will prove unhealthy. The discerning adolescent will begin to pick up on these unhealthy choices and opt out. Others will remain and face the challenge of developing the will and discernment to detach themselves from choices of activities and friends that serve to their detriment. It is here that parents, teachers and therapists play such a key role in supporting this growth and guiding individuals to more positive choices. . Some may say, that many of us don’t want to move on from our safety net, from our shell. “Aren't we all chicken to evolve beyond our own level of comfort," at times? Yes, but it is often then that the human brain and the world conspire to engage us in opportunity that allow us to move outside our comfort zones, the only way in which we can grow and lay claim to the dreams to which we aspire. A shell is a nice thing up to a point, but life forever in the shell is not what its cracked up to be.
I’ve been a group member and a group facilitator over the last few years. Currently finishing high school and bound for George Washington University in the fall, I’m just about ready to go out into the world, for the most part on my own. My experiences working with age groups ranging from pre-teens to early 20’s have had a major impact on me. Having a support group and a place that we can consider “safe” carries so much worth. We all walk different roads, fight different battles, and bring different stories to tell - but in the end we are connected. No matter how diverse a group of people may seem, there are always ways for us to be able to relate to another. It is one thing to hear someone, but another to really understand what they are going though. These connections that we make with others help us to understand other people, and also ourselves. They remind us to stay positive and reassure us of how much we are capable. But the most amazing thing we gain from talking among others – is the feeling that we are not alone.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The goal of Body Tracing is to be found in deepening kids awareness of their body boundaries, their edges,
The process is powerful, as they are guided to be mindful of shifts in their experience of their body while their outline is traced by another. Being viewed by the group members also brings up powerful feelings. One member commented on "never, ever feeling as seen before", sharing that they feel lost in their family of five kids. Another, who struggles with body dysmorphia found the idea too triggering, and asked us to turn the lights down, first. By candlelight, using a small flashlight to "trace" the edges of her body, the group created a safe experience for her, in a unique and evocative environment for the group members. (Subsequently, this group wished to have all sessions transpire by candlelight, and we continued in this dimly lit environment for the winter months).
When group members are "traced” their experience begins as the participants explore feelings of safety when lying on the ground, atop the paper, and having the experience of being gazed at by their ongoing group members and therapist(s). All the preparation for their body being traced is noted, and then one kid volunteers to be the first to have their body traced. I use a VERY long pencil so that my hands are not touching their body yet they feel the edge of the pencil as it slowly inches aside their body, their face often in concentration, breaking out in giggling with slight tickling, awareness of their breath, how their body feels, as they relax into the process, and how the breathing might affect the tracing (bumpy, etc.) Developing awareness of the mind and body interaction is the foundation of Pat Ogden’s sensorimotor psychotherapy, and she has inspired many of the tools utilized in the “body tracing”. The experience of all the time and attention focused upon them can be character changing and often is described as a highlight of their experience.
In the group each participant does a few body tracings on art-scroll paper or white sheets (during halloween, they love this image of fashioning a costume of the various parts of themselves). The process elucidates the range of feelings experienced, and we encourage the clients to explore their emotions...asking them to embody or carry in their body a feeling that they have spoken about. For example, often they are in touch with anger, and as they embody these feelings and draw upon associations with a particular situation that they had described intermittently during past groups, they could connect their thoughts with feelings in their body. Examining the shifts therein, as these feelings "entered their body" once they are asked to visualize them, helps them to identify the shifts--clenched fists, tightening, constricted breathing, changes in body temperature as they expressed feeling sweaty, cold, clammy, etc. A second body tracing is then done, capturing these feelings. The contrast is highlighted.
Issues of anxiety are examined throughout the "body tracing" exercise, especially when fears or anxiety have been identified as a preexisting problem for group members. Even if these have not been spoken about in prior sessions, these feelings are ubiquitous
Following the tracing of the body, which each child gets to experience at least two times, they are asked to identify/name each drawing. Sample comments are: "this first one is the one where I was giggly ‘cuz that was so tickly” or “we all laughed as the pencil went under my armpit". “This second one is the one where I started to talk about when I was blamed for eating the leftover chocolate cake, yet didn't do it, so I was angry…there I had my fists clenched". (this information is noted at the bottom of the drawing, writing down their words, so that they can remember their thoughts, feelings, comments, associations etc.).
The “body tracing” experience is deepened when the children color in their body tracings. This process and choice of colors, texture, etc. can be clinically relevant. One child drew his "angry-self" in all black with the exception of his blue eyes. Even his mouth was a gradation of black, and his wording was "all that comes out, is black, on this angry me". Another child uttered Miley Cyrus’s lyric "boom boom, clap, boom de clap de clap” from the song Throwdown, while poking holes through her “body tracing” up and down the paper with a red crayon (there is no interpretation—rather, observation, attention and curiosity, and attunement-- the inroads to understanding).
At a later date, we attach the two body tracings, securing them at the top, as a costume, which the kids love, and they can play-act the duality of emotions that can coexist. We also can focus on "triggers" of their anger, anxiety, etc., as both externally triggered, and internally triggered. For example, a very useful experience unfolded as one of our very shy girls became aware that the sounds in large public spaces felt acutely anxiety provoking and triggered huge discomfort. We could identify memories of a time when she was lost, in a crowd, having become separated from her mother for a few minutes. She also discussed fears from a book, Little Sisters, from the Baby Sitters Club series, wherein the 7-year-old girl becomes separated from her group in the Museum of Natural History. These memories have become part of her day to day narrative, as she has embodied her fears, walking with her hunched over shoulders, head downward, caved inward posture representing her fears somatically. The “body tracing” experience facilitated her recalling her fearful experiences which she’d spoken about in previous sessions, yet the process helped deepen her understanding of how her body contributed to her ongoing experience of this fearful part of her--from the inside out. Collaboratively, we could experience the duality of selves. The group supported her exploring different elements of her body, playing with the idea of being “the brave one”, the “noisy one”, “the naughty one” (all identities that she and her group members named). As a result of this group experience, she had an “Aha” moment, wherein she saw that noise--that heightened auditory acuity—was especially triggering or her. This idea led to discussion about how we protect or resource ourselves when we are vulnerable. The group came up with the idea that she could put her hands to her ears when she enters crowds, so that, for the first few moments, she could control the booming sounds that were so triggering, while she readjusts and establishes that she is alright, safe, not alone. She tried this at a crowded weekend farmers market that her family frequents and reports feeling a shift in her anxiety. (It isn't necessarily the intervention itself, but the semblance of some control, that is the variable effecting change, as there is so much that is out of her control. Therefore working as a group to help members find their own ways of taking charge of their body--putting hands over ears—is empowering.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations—
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
There is a voice inside most of us that at one point or another whispers or yells “mend my life!” This is exactly why Bob and I wrote A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. This is also why I started writing about Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, and in the 30 years that have passed, research and a tremendous amount of experience have shown that it has efficacious applications for alleviating symptoms of stress, such as anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, burnout, apathy, restlessness, headaches, fatigue, stomach distress, difficulty in concentrating, worry, overwork, substance abuse, smoking, eating problems, sleep disturbances, or feeling overwhelmed. It can also has applications to help with the stresses associated with living with illness, chronic pain, and conditions such as AIDS, arthritis, asthma, cancer, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, and many other medical conditions. There’s even research that shows this work changes our brains for the better.
We hope you enjoy it and spread the word about it for years to come. We’ve created a Facebook Fan Page community that is a central point for anyone interested in or who has been working through the book. We will be posting weekly video blogs that answer frequently asked questions and give tips about applying mindfulness to daily life.
Another element of the “body tracing” experience is “making masks”. An extension of the body tracing process, multiple masks are made. This exercise paralleling our weekly discussion of "How do you feel today", wherein they identify their feelings, each session, week after week. Utilizing a mirror that names a range of emotions, a “menu” of feelings is available while the group members gaze at the mirror. Additionally we utilize a feeling chart that identifies a wide range of emotions, some with big words that younger children can't read, but the picture are an accurate reflection of their emotions (often we rename the pictures on the chart, using their nomenclature). Then a session is devoted to drawing masks out of paper plates, expressing the range of emotions that have been part of prior sessions or that they choose on the day that we do the masks! They are each given a pile of plates suggesting that they can make many masks (Steve Porges uses six hallmark emotions in his research; after spending a week at his lab in Chicago, four years ago, I incorporate these in the “making-mask” exercises).
The masks can be used to reflect group members’ internal states, or for other psycho-educational purposes such as teaching emotions and heightening awareness of self and other, for those challenged in this area. This is especially useful when teaching children to "read their parents". I'll say "we often know when our parents are getting angry at us...yet...sometimes...we don't stop our behavior" (they giggle) then we role play this, and the masks can help us to S.T.O.P., an acronym for a mindfulness technique used to teach children and parents-- S. stands for "stop", T. stands for "Take a look", O stands for "observe", P stands for "proceed.”
This mindfulness technique, developed by Kabot Zinn, who’s famous quote “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” is a philosophy for all of us to incorporate into our lives.