I recently spoke at a sports center for youth about this topic.
Some ideas about what to do include:
Telling someone who is trustworthy what is the reason you are sad and addressing this with them. Having someone show they care can be very helpful.
Doing some things you enjoy; a sport or art, for example.
Listening to happy music.
Spending time with friends.
Eating healthy food and also food that you enjoy, in moderation.
Reading a good book or listening to a radio program you enjoy. Watching a good movie.
Playing a game with friends or family.
Play with or cuddle with a pet.
Cuddle with stuffed animals, blankets, pillows.
Telling yourself encouraging things. In the movie “Corina, Corina” a little girl became withdrawn and mute after her mother died. Her dad hires a nanny who helps her to cheer up and get back to life and school. Whoopi Goldberg’s character tells Molly, “Maybe they won’t like you? Are you kidding? Have you looked in the mirror today? That’s the most likeable face in America! You’re goin’ about this the wrong way. You have to think to yourself: “My name is Molly Singer and there is no one in the world better than me.” That’s what you’ve got to say to yourself. Try it!”
Mindfulness – click here for an exercise in mindfulness for kids.
Remember and think about things one is thankful for.
What other ideas can you or your kids come up with?
A great video showing a healthy way to deal with the sadness of missing a loved one in the song ‘When Somebody Loved Me’ from Toy Story II.
It is helpful to talk to someone that is trustworthy about what is causing the sadness. If a child has lost a loved one or is missing someone who is gone sometimes it is helpful to write a goodbye letter if there was not a chance to say goodbye. It is also helpful to have special times and ways to think about all the good memories of the person and to talk to a trusted person about them. A counselor, teacher, or close relative can be very helpful as well as music or a special song that reminds them of the person they love. Creating pictures and art about them or writing down the memories is a healthy way to grieve and deal with that type of sadness.
For adults- a recent book by COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg
Rachel Hofer, LMHC
Sesamie Street has made videos about important and serious topics for kids such as grief, divorce, and videos for military families and kids about deployment as well as other issues.
I am currently working on a certification in Play Therapy. I have attended a Sandplay workshop before and now I am studying all the research and different theories on Play Therapy at Capella University online. I will write a series of blog posts on different types of Play Therapy. Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, was the first therapist to claim that toys and play could be used with children in psychotherapy. The clinic she founded is still serving children in London today.
I have studied and mostly used Child Centered Play Therapy, the theory developed by Virginia Axline from Carl Rogers work and later developed by Gary Landreth. Through this program I have begun to have a great respect for many other theories and techniques and to use them in therapy. I really like Adlerian Play Therapy, Jungian Play Therapy, and Filial Play Therapy with parents and kids. Today I will share some of what I wrote about Experiential Play Therapy. Some of the posts on this site are ‘Readers Digest’ and others are more academic.
Experiential Play Therapy focuses on allowing the child to express his or her feelings through the symbolism of play. Building trust with the child, validating, expressing respect and supporting their expression of feeling is the important role of the therapist in this theory. The child first will use fantasy and metaphors, which they communicate with as early as age 2, and as trust and confidence grows the child will begin to recreate unresolved difficult situations more closely resembling reality (Shaeffer, 2011, p.187). EPT also involves the parent or parents if possible. The parents can even act in the role of the therapist with a bug in their ear and while the therapist watches and prompts them through a double-sided mirror ( Shaeffer, 2011, 194-196).
There are five distinct phases of therapy in this model: exploratory, testing for protection, dependency, therapeutic growth, and termination. In the exploratory phase the child is just learning what toys are in the playroom and their uses, as well as that the therapist is there as a support and not to make them uncomfortable. The therapist in this phase focuses on reflecting behavior and not so much feelings yet so that the child is not intimidated by focus on vulnerable emotions (Shaeffer, 2011, 188-189). In the testing for protection stage the therapist must convey that he or she will allow the child to freely express their emotions and validate them by acting them out and reflecting them for the child rather than not allowing these expressions or ignoring them. The therapist must set limits while also validating the child’s feelings and needs. Once the child surrenders to the direction of the therapist in setting limits the child will begin to trust and confront their upsetting emotions. This may lead to regressions at home in their behavior (Shaeffer, 2011, p, 189-190). During the next stage, dependency, the child begins to act out the traumatic experience as the aggressor and the therapist must effectively express the meaning of what the child went through in their experience of trauma. Then the child will switch roles and act out their own experience and the therapist must allow the child to overcome the aggressor as the therapist acts out that role (Shaeffer, 2011, p. 190-191). In the last stage, the therapeutic growth stage, the child grieves the loss of their trauma persona and begins exploratory play again to gain a sense of mastery. The child may regress to earlier stages of development which they missed out on because of the trauma and pretend to be a baby asking for nurturing, for example. In the termination phase the therapist must introduce the idea early in the session and allow a few sessions for the child to process the significance of the therapy and gain a sense of closure. The therapist must allow the child to express the importance of the relationship with the therapist and play and reciprocate that to the child (Shaeffer, 2011, p. 192).
EPT also harnesses the power of play for therapeutic purposes. In short, a picture is worth a thousand words and a therapist may enter that picture in ways that are not possible for an expression of an idea such as “I was so scared when this happened (Shaeffer, 2011, 193-194).” Metaphors and symbolism of toys or pictures also allow the child to express ideas with more emotional control over the level of arousal associated with traumatic memories (Shaeffer, 2011, p. 193). This is a good point about play therapy in general that emphasizes the importance of its use with adults as well as children.
EPT is best for children who have disorders that are related to some experience that was traumatic. Some of these include ODD, PTSD, SAD, AD, OCD, and elimination disorders (Shaeffer, 2011, p. 196). ADHD may sometimes be a misdiagnosis for these disorders as traumatic experiences can affect attention and focus.
EPT is a newer concept in play therapy but there is evidence to support its effectiveness. There are studies of relationship therapies that are experiential models and they have evidence of positive outcomes (Ray & Bratton, 2010, C. Norton & Norton, 2002). Another study which was very important in overcoming my skepticism and concerns, especially considering any court involvement, proved that the metaphors and symbols children use in their play are consistent with the actual events of trauma even at an early age of 2 years, for example (Paley & Alpert, 2003). Of course any disclosure of a child’s therapy and notes is used with discretion or by Judge’s subpoena. Decisions based upon the child’s play are considered in light of the whole case as well as the research and discretion given the ‘private’ and even ‘secret’ nature of therapy. There is also research on how the brain’s memories and processes are activated therapeutically through EPT (Shaeffer, 2011, p. 197-198).
Ray, D. & Bratton, S. (2010).What the research shows about play therapy: Twenty-first century update.
In Braggerly, D.. Ray, & S. Bratton (Eds.), Child-centered play therapy research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Norton, C., & Norton, B. (2002). Reaching children through play therapy: an experiential approach (2nd ed.) Denver, CO: White Apple Press.
Paley, J., & Alpert, J. (2003). Memory of infant trauma. Psychoanalytic Psychology, (20)2, 329-347.
Schaeffer, Charles E. (2011). Foundations of Play Therapy. 2nd Ed. Wiley and Sons
Rachel Hofer, MS
Our minds are more powerful than we realize when it comes to success.
Let’s start by opening up your mind a bit to see what’s already there in that box that says, “Career Journey.” Relax, sit back, and visualize:
Imagine you are in a boat going down a river that is your life and career. What do you see? Where are you headed? Who is on the sidelines cheering you on? Who is speaking to you from the shore and what are they saying? Is anyone in the boat with you? This is your career journey.
Okay. As far as Careers- there are many that may be a good fit for you. Just decide on one before you retire and we can talk about career matching for personality, skills, interests, and values in another post. Here in this visualization you see a situation you have. Now let’s look at some steps to put the wind in your sails.
Research shows that having goals is a huge factor in success (Canfield & Hansen, 1996; Gage, 2006; Hansen and Allen, 2002; Klauser, 2001; Matthews, 1990; Rutherford, 1998; McColl, 2007; Proctor, 1997; Vitale, 2008). We know that if you write down your goals you are much more likely to achieve them! When you write down your goals you become much more aware of them. They are reinforced in your mind. The first step is to be aware of your goals. If we do not have them there are thousands of voices we hear from our culture, friends, family, mentors, teachers, TV and the media, and our own hearts that will distract us from what we really want to do. Our own hearts often want to do things we really do not desire. Goals are the rudder to steer our boat in the right direction.
Goals may take some work to create. You need to discern what are desires, out of your control, and what are goals. Do you have a pie in the sky? Then you need to create achievable goals. They must be specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic. For example, if your goal is “I want to be an acrobat,” you may need to define what ‘acrobat’ means. Does it merely mean you can do a handstand or does it mean you are in a Cirque show? How will you know when you are an acrobat? What are the steps to take to become an ‘acrobat’?
In contrast, people have even died from having no meaningful purpose or goals. Can you think of what you have looked forward to in the mornings when you start your day over the last month? What has been on your schedule? What family time or vacation did you look forward to? How would you feel if you had no goals and no purpose for the day? Nothing to look forward to? Or what if your work felt pointless? An extreme case of how this affects people comes from, sad to say we even have this research, prisoners of war. In WWII Germans conducted experiments to see what would happen if prisoners were required to shovel and wheel dirt back and forth all day and many of the prisoners lost their minds, running from the work (Latham, 2007). Korean POWs lost hope, many developing ‘mirasmus’, the lack of the will to live, and died within two days (Schein, 1963). They just went in a corner, put a blanket over their head, and died (Blackett, 2011).
Self-Talk and the Voices of Outside Influences
Even once you have your goals, there is still a battle in the mind. We deal with self-talk on a constant basis that can either move us forward or drag us away from our goals. People often deal with the burden of ‘hand-me-down’ goals from parents or other people in their lives (Blackett, 2011). For example, that father who wants his son to be a doctor when all the son wants is to be an artist. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help people to become more aware of and combat lies, automatic thoughts, rules, ‘shoulds’, and negative core beliefs that get in the way of success. Many people deal with negative core beliefs such as, “I am unlovable,” “I am worthless,” or “I am defective,” that were learned from early childhood experiences. This does not mean the parent, caregiver, friend, or experiences through which they learned these beliefs intentionally caused pain. However, the child’s understanding is limited and these negative beliefs stay with us a long time unless we become aware and address them. They become self-talk. Most of this is subconscious; that realm of the mind out of our conscious awareness that comes out in our dreams.
I once attended a hypnosis workshop where I gained insight into this idea of the subconscious. The presenter explained that no one can be hypnotized unless they want to be. To further elaborate, he drew a diagram of the theory of the mind that explains how hypnosis works. The theory of the mind shows that there are three circles- the critical mind which is conscious, then the subconscious which forms habits, then the unconscious that controls our automatic bodily functions. In order for hypnosis to work the subject must allow their critical mind down so that the power of suggestion can bypass the conscious mind and enter the subconscious to form habits and behavior. The presenter told stories even of how hypnosis and the power of suggestion penetrated the unconscious mind, stopping a person’s bleeding after a car accident. Letting the critical mind down, trusting, and believing that one was not bleeding controlled the autonomic nervous system and bodily functions. Research has well-documented the effectiveness of hypnosis at alleviating pain and psychosomatic pain.
I realized this theory of the mind is very much interconnected with the concept of boundaries as well as hand-me-down goals. If you have never read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No by Henry Cloud and John Townsend it is a great read and the first time I heard of this concept. It basically is an awareness of the fact that we may be conscious of our ability to say yes or no to people in our lives. This also means that if we do not have good boundaries we can be trusting of and allow the influences of negative leaders and beliefs on a subconscious level. We can be seduced. The picture of ‘boundaries’ looks similar to that of the theory of the mind presented in this hypnosis workshop.
While you may still be skeptical of these ideas, we can agree that there are people who influence our thinking and we can benefit from an awareness of this and the power of choice. How many people have been dragged down by sibling jealousy, a hyper-critical parent, or even the voices of peer pressure when friends are our only family? One famous extreme example being Joseph, from the Old Testament Biblical story, who was thrown down a well by his jealous siblings and sold into slavery. A hypothetical situation may be a member of a gang, caught up in drugs who is dreaming of a better life and career. He may not even go to college, or be in school but peer pressure may ruin his or her school record and financial support of the state. We do not have to be slaves to the negative influences of others. We can all agree we have a choice and can make strides towards a healthier circle of influence. Further, we all have been children once, and we can benefit from being in touch with our inner child that looks for guidance. Let’s look at what some of psychology has to say about our inner child. Psychology being the efforts students have made over the past 150 years to describe, understand, predict, and control behavior.
We all need leadership and can be vulnerable to outside influences because of the power of our inner child. Children are like little sponges and are much more trusting. I would guess for this reason they may be more easily hypnotized. Famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung, provides insight into the power of the child in us all. He has a strong understanding of the power of thinking and our ‘subconscious,’ where our dreams come from as well as may be suppressed. Find your true dreams of success! This is what they mean when you hear ‘unlocking the power of the subconscious ( or unconscious).’
In Jungian theory is the idea of the collective unconscious, which is the collection of primordial images from myths, fairy tales, and legends that a child has to pull from in understanding the world. This is how the child forms their own identity in individuation, separating from their parents/caregivers and becoming an individual. A part of this collective unconscious are “archetypes”, which are metaphorical images. Examples of these include the ‘hero’, ‘beggar,’ ‘clown,’ ‘villain,’ ‘virgin,’ ‘wounded healer,’ and countless others that play out repeatedly in stories across the ages. Jung’s theory of child therapy began with his interest and understanding of the child archetype and it was not until later in his studies that he applied archetypes to a theory of child psychology. Jung did some work with children but mainly focused on adults and his followers developed Jungian Analytical Play Therapy (Shaefer, 2011).
The strongest archetype according to Carl Jung is the child and I believe the power there lies with the wisdom of humility. Whether it is the Western Greek Socrates’ paradox, “I know one thing; that I know nothing,” or Eastern Chinese Laozi, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”; even Jesus has this wisdom, “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Carl Jung grew more closely in touch with his inner child towards the end of his life and found healing. When our child is orphaned we are especially vulnerable to being seduced. Hitler was given as a great example of a powerful hypnotist. The people were hungry and in need of a leader. He would even stand up over the people so they literally looked up to him like God. Propaganda and film from famous film director Leni Riefenstahl was used to impress the messages into the minds of the people. The people were responsible in allowing the seduction and hypnosis.
The diagram even looks similar to the diagram of ‘boundaries’ outlining who is in our ‘inner circle.’ of influence. Who do we allow into our subconscious and even unconscious minds? Are they ‘safe’? What ‘hand me down’ goals do you have? What self-talk and core beliefs may get in the way of your success?
A Story and a Film to Illustrate the Power of the Mind for Your Career:
Good Will Hunting and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
In Good Will Hunting Matt Damon plays the janitor at MIT with a genius IQ and gift for math. He is discovered solving extremely advanced math problems left on the board while cleaning the university at night.
When he is arrested for attacking a police officer he gains leniency by agreeing at the professor’s request to see a therapist, in the professor’s hopes he will help with this professor’s career in math. He is his own public defender. He needs help from a psychologist, played by Robin Williams, in order to overcome his own self-talk and negative core beliefs. He had been abused in his youth and this was holding him back from finding direction with his life and career. In this clip from a scene Robin Williams, who sadly struggled with heart issues and depression that led to his untimely death, as the therapist leads Will Hunting to a point of healing in one of his deepest darkest struggles. I would say the therapist in this scene even hypnotizes Will- you can see how much of a struggle it is for him to trust the therapist in letting down his critical mind to, in this case, embrace the truth instead of a lie. He has to in some sense become a child again to embrace the truth.
Will’s circle of friends is in fact very supportive.
Finally, an African Folk Tale that kills some of the big lies that get in the way of work.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
I read this with a group of children recently and afterwards we went around the circle. The children were told to ring the singing bowl once quietly and to say something small and something true. Some of the little girls said, “I saw a flower.” Then some of the boys said, “I saw a shark!” and “I saw a shark AND an Alligator.” This was not small and it was not true. It was human nature. Then one of the little girls said, “I saw a BABY flower.” This was small, but it was not true. There is no baby flower. There are seeds, they grow, and then the flower blooms.
“I saw a farmer picking a yam bigger than me.” Is the mosquito judging the farmer’s work? His productivity? Or is he just bragging about how big he is? No one wants to listen to the lies. But the reaction causes a chain reaction leading to the death of a baby owl whose mother is the wisdom that awakens the sun each day. That is her job and she is so sad she no longer can raise the sun so it is dark as night. Finally, the animals come together to the Lion for court and find out the truth; misunderstanding, gossip, and slander. Now she does not even have the strength to do her job, to awaken the day. The moral of the story is: slap the lie that whispers in your ear and kill it before all this nonsense starts!
Rachel Hofer, MS