I recently began reading The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. It’s a wonderful book explaining the neuroscience of a child’s brain and how it develops. It’s been tremendous in helping me understand why our 9yo daughter dumps her banana peel on the coffee table after eating it and walks away, why I find her wet towel crumpled in the middle of the floor, or why??? I found her toothbrush down by the pool. And because I’ve learned that our brains do not fully develop until we are in our early 20s (boy does that explain alot!) it’s going to be this way for at least the next twelve years. Breathe in…breathe out…
Outside of these revelations, this book has also been valuable in explaining communication styles. It tells a story about how a two year-old boy went through a traumatic accident with his nanny. Luckily all was well in the end, but it shook the boy up. His mother did something remarkable. Rather than distracting him to feeling better, placating him with toys or ice cream, she let him tell his story over and over until the charge of the trauma released. Reading this completely shifted my perspective on communicating. ….So I practiced this on my beau. Yes, a grown man who recently had a tantrum about my ordering a giant truckload of wood chips to be dumped in our driveway. Clearly not a traumatic incident, but it sent him off a cliff. As he charged through the front door, panicked and yelling, I did something remarkable. I stood there and listened to his story about it. I let him get it all out. What was beneath it all was how incredibly overwhelmed he felt with various deadlines and now this was one more thing to deal with. He needed the space to express the frustration. So I held it for him. Only after he was finished did I calmly reassured him that I understood and outlined how everything was going to work out. I could see that while he was still frustrated, the charge had dissipated, the tension began to ease in his body because he could express it without getting push back or distracted.
Ladies, I know you can relate when you come home from a crappy day and want to tell your husband or boyfriend about it and they go into fix-it mode. “ARRRGH..just listen to me!” It seems so simple, but when something goes wrong, when someone gets angry or hurt, we are programmed to cutoff the expression of it by either defending ourselves or distracting from the incident. When we’re able to express ourselves fully until the charge of it is released we feel so much better because it no longer has to be trapped in our bodies. The tension eases, the adrenals calm, our blood pressure regulates just by having the opportunity to tell our story, whatever it is. It’s why I love my work so much, because it’s an opportunity for you to tell your story and then receive healing so the body may finally release it.
Practice this next time you encounter an argument or a friend who has had a crappy day or even your child who has fallen off their first bicycle. Listen to their story instead of distracting them or defending yourself. Let them work it out by telling it. Hold that calm, supportive space with an empathetic ear and see the healing magic reveal itself.