- Mental Health
KNOW YOU ARE POWERFUL, PART 2
This is part two of a four part series of hubs. This hub will obviously have more meaning if you read part one.
I think there is something in these series of hubs for all of us who serve people in our chosen occupation or vocation, but these hubs are particularly for you who choose to work with children and teens in residential treatment. You are a precious group of folks who deserve much support and huge salaries and you get neither! So here's for you. Enjoy the read. And let yourself take in the information. It will make your job so much easier if you do.
KNOW YOU ARE POWERFUL, PART 2
We concluded Part one discussing the ways we look for our power outside of ourselves. Here's an excerpt.
We...try to find our power in program components....A resident gets points, levels, money, privileges, stamps, stars, checks, or some kind of payoff for just about every and anything. When these program components seem to work, we tend to feel very powerful, but not because of what we experience on the inside, but because the clever program seems to work.....You never reach that place where you can just tell a kid “it’s time to get up,” and the kid will get up just because of the power you exude (from the inside), a kind of power that does not threaten, but invites, leaves the child feeling safe and secure because you are so clear and so sure that he or she is going to comply. It borders on being hypnotic and magical. That kind of power is inside each of us just waiting to be turned on and used.
So we are here today to begin excavating our inner power. Yes, our power gets buried, usually very early on in our life. Usually somewhere around three years old, and unfortunately, if we don’t take the time to do the excavation work and reconnect to our power, to get our power back on line, so to speak, our power stays buried and dormant.
In today’s training, we will explore the ways our power was buried way back when. This is not a blame game or trying to find a cause or excuse for our ineptitude. It is simply an exploratory journey so we can discover why, when we are in fact very powerful people, we feel so powerless.
Disconnecting From Emotions
One of the ways we lose our power at an early age is disconnecting from our emotions. We will delve more deeply into being at home with our emotions in another training. Suffice to say for today, that many, if not all of us, have disconnected from our emotions to one degree or another. There are even certain emotions we try to avoid or we label as bad and troublesome when in fact all emotions are absolutely wonderful and have a purpose.
Our emotions tell us something about our needs, namely, whether or not they are being met. Many of us have little faith that our needs are important to anyone else but ourselves. We may or may not have found legitimate and or illegitimate ways of meeting our needs for ourselves, but we have little hope that our needs can be met in relationships. This state of affairs leaves us very very vulnerable in our relationships to wounded children and teens. It leave us disconnected from our internal power source, and we have to rely totally upon external “power” which is really no power at all. Relying upon external sources of power, like a level system or a restriction or punishment, is a toss up at best.
Triggers and Swamps
When I am disconnected from my emotions, from my needs, when I am uncomfortable with specific emotions, frightened of them, when I am walking around with unmet needs most of the time, then the emotions and behaviors of the children and teens I serve become TRIGGERS for me, and I tend to react and over react. I am not able to hang out, so to speak, with a kid who is “going off” and calmly walk him through this momentary swamp of anger and depression. Well, of course, it does not appear momentary, because it keeps happening over and over again. That is because no one has walked the resident to the other side. They try to stop the acting out and punish it, so the resident remains STUCK in the middle of the swamp. Never gets to the other side. Never has a chance of learning what the behavior is about, never learns what needs are not getting met, never has to face the trauma related to the acting out, never having the opportunity to move on and leave the swamp behind.
Gandhi and Hitler
When we begin splitting off from our emotions, we tend to divide ourselves into good and bad parts when in fact it is all good. But most of us don’t believe that. So we end up disconnecting from the parts we label as bad.
Someone once said that inside each of us is a Gandhi and a Hitler. If we can own those two characters inside of us, if we can keep them connected, then we are home free with all of who we are. If we try to disconnect from parts of ourselves, then unfortunately, we give those disconnected parts POWER and they have a tendency to act out on their own. We become powerless over those disconnected parts and when to our surprise, they act out, we “have to” say things like, “I’m not that kind of person.”
Good vs Bad = Powerless
When we split ourselves into good and bad parts, we become powerless when it comes to walking alongside a resident who appears so bad, so awful, so out of control, so manipulative, so angry, so disgusting, so disrespectful, that we almost want to say he or she is evil.
Again, as I can own all of who I am inside, as I can stop splitting myself into a Hitler and Gandhi, but remain conscious that I have many parts and sides to myself, that every part has a place and a time to come to the forefront, then I remain a whole person, maybe even a "wholey" person. I have conscious access to my emotions and my needs. I can make conscious decisions about my behavior. No one or no thing ever makes me think or feel or behave in any particular way. I can stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for my thoughts, my feelings, my decisions, and my behavior. I can then model the process to the children and teens I serve. I can walk alongside them and walk them through the swamps of sadness, the swamps of depression, anger, and hopelessness.
GRIEF AND LOSS
The image of the swamp is a good segue (segway) to remind ourselves about grief and loss. Every child or teen in residence has a long history of loss and grief. Guess what MUST happen when we lose? Our body, so we are talking physiological, not psychological, demands we go through what we have come to describe as grieving. This grieving entails experiencing a host of emotions, namely anger and depression. To try to eliminate or skip over the anger and depression leaves the person stuck in the swamp of loss. And yes, this is huge, more to delve into in another day of training. But for now, we want to remember, all of our children and teens are grieving and so all of them will be angry and depressed. As a staff person, how lucky can you get? Think of it this way, better than lice or the measles!
Our Own History Of Loss
But speaking of contagion! Each one of us has a history of losses in our life. To the degree that we have cut short our grieving or have tried to eliminate grieving or skip over it, we are going to be at a total loss of walking along side any of the residence in their grief. Instead of walking with them, we are going to tell them to get over it and suck it up. Unfortunately, they usually do not exerise that option.
Instead of suck it up, we will have to learn to say some alternative “things,” things that perhaps have never been said to us, so they are foreign to us. They will probably sound funny to us to say, let alone think about saying. Things like,
*Hey, I get it, and you know what? It makes perfectly good sense to me that you are as angry as you are right now.
*Hey, you know what? What just happened, your Mom saying she can’t come to visit you this weekend. That is just plain sad, just plain sad. You know what I do when something sad happens in my life? I used to rant and rave and throw sh*t, but now I just cry and I cry till I don’t feel like crying anymore.
*Hey, you know when I just told you to get your room cleaned up, you got a very scared look on your face. Did you feel it? So tell me, what happened there? Who do I remind you of?
*You know the other day, you just went off on me, and you had a look in your eyes. I’m not sure what that look was. Kind of looked like you were feeling pain or something. Tell me about it.
*You know, when you argue with everyone, you get this really powerful look on your face. Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you ever feel that inside your gut? What is that about? Do you know?
*O my God, you have the entire pantry under your bed. You know what, I get it. And we’ll just
keep working with you on this one.
*You know, I am so sorry that I keep asking you stupid questions like “did you do your chore?” If you asked me if I did my chore, I’d probably say yes too, even if I hadn’t.”
*So what was going on there when you started punching on Jack? You know sometimes, I wonder if you weren’t someone’s punching bag and now that you’re a little bigger, you’re getting back. The problem is it wasn’t Jack. But who was it. Tell me about it.”
At Home With Our Losses
When we are at home with our own losses, with the traumas, little and big, of our own lives, we can ask all kinds of very interesting questions. Questions which show the resident we are willing to walk alongside of them to the other side. And believe it or not, at that moment, you can dispense with all the gimmicks, restrictions, and punishments. You are able, at that moment, to hold the resident both responsible and accountable. The consequences become fitting of the behavior.
"So you punched Jack. Well, you and I have to sit down with Jack, and you got to look at Jack and make amends....You punched a hole in the wall, and so you gotta work with the maintenance guy you don’t like and help repair the hole....you smoked marijuana out there in the back, so I can’t give you as much freedom to be unsupervised till I know you’ve seriously addressed your drug use and can handle being out of my sight.”
Your Drill Instructor Hat
I was so excited, when during the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I got an invite to work at a residential treatment center. And within a few days of being on the job, I learned I had to be tough. Well, I learned by watching my seasoned coworkers. At 5' 7" tall, I was no where near the size of my coworkers, so I quickly took on a drill instructor persona. I've come to call that "persona" my drill instructor hat. The pattern for the "hat" I found in the many movies I had seen over the years and watching my coworkers!
So, I walked tall. Okay, a good thing. My voice was loud but soon my voice became harsh. I got in residents' faces when I talked to them, well, no scolded them. I learned how to be intimidating even to kids who towered over me. I was afraid of no one and of no thing, except for the bears on a camping trip!
It did not take long for me to realize that none of us were relating to the kids, none of us were walking along side of them, none of us were really providing anything for them except a kind of artificial control which did nothing for their ultimate return to the "outside." After reading Easson's classic work The Severely Disturbed Adolescent, I hung up my drill instructor hat and within a few years became passionate about training residential staff training so we could all hang up our drill instructor's hats.
When you hang up that hat, you get down! Get down into the swamps.
You know, the methodology of the drill instructor works well when you're remodeling a house! You gut the house, take it down to the bare bones, and then rebuild. But it doesn’t work with human beings to strip them down to zero because there is no way to rebuild them. If you question that, talk to folks who have experienced the drill instructor methodology. Notice how connected they are, how together they are, how at home with themselves they are, how at peace with the world they are, how they get along with people? The problem is they are not at home at all. They have never come back, they have never been the same again.
So it is time to end Part two. THANKS FOR READING AND COMMENTING. Looking forward to seeing you over on Part three. Yes, I can see you. That's what happens when you go inside and find your inner power!
An easy and motivating book on relationships. And relationships are the bottom line in working with residents.