When Worries Take Over: Filled with "Knowing Horrible Stuff".
A child's thought can shift from "I have a Worry," to "There is nothing good in my World," to "There is nothing good about me."
“There is nothing good about me,” is the most painful thought of all. When a child believes this, life can feel impossible. Watching this transition in thought, and the consequences it can have, will be equally upsetting and disabling for the adults around a child or young person.
One of the children I have been lucky enough to work with was called Ella. Ella was 11 years old when she found the Courage to share her emotional world with me and, together, we drew a picture that helped us both understand how Ella was feeling. Ella wanted me to share it with other children in the hope it would help them. This picture has proved important to lots of children and adults.
This picture explains how it is possible for a child to think, "There is nothing good about me." Even in a world that has an equal balance of 'horrible stuff' and 'I am special' things it is possible for a child to only see the 'horrible stuff'. If a child does not have the tools to help them with the Worries they have, the way they see and hear the world can change. Look closely at the drawing. The glasses represent how Ella sees the world. The lenses of the glasses are dirty and cracked, the frames are made of barbed wire. Ella told me she started to wear these glasses when she had a Worry and before long she was wearing them every day, even though they were painful to wear and the world looked horrid through them. Ella could share in great detail the 'horrible stuff' about herself, going back over many years. When I asked her to say something she felt made her special she was unable to reply. I tried to understand how Ella was feeling and then shared my understanding with her.
My Words to Ella.
"I think you are ‘filled with knowing horrible stuff’. I think your dirty glasses make it impossible to see any of the ‘I am special’ things around you. The barbed wire must make your glasses so painful to wear. I think your ears each have a different role; one is to listen for the ‘I am special’ things whilst the other listens out for ‘horrible stuff’. There is a big problem. Your ‘I am special’ things ear has a big bung in it. It is not hearing anything whereas your horrible stuff’ ear has grown huge and has a magnet on it so that it is sucking all the 'horrible stuff' straight in. I can see all the 'horrible stuff' inside you, filling you up. I don't think you know what to do with it. I want you to know that I can see and hear the ‘I am special’ things around you, Ella, and I am going to hold on tight to it for you, remember it and keep it safe."
Ella paused and began to imagine the possibility of something different. She felt reassured to know that I was keeping hold of the 'I am special' things for her. She had only seen and heard 'horrible stuff' for a long time. It was important she did not feel rushed. It was important for her to know she was not alone. Ella began to imagine being able to see the ‘I am special’ things for herself. She decided she would need a new pair of glasses to see the World, her ‘Good Stuff Goggles’. Together, we began to imagine what they might look like. We talked about their colour, shape, size, material. They were so colourful and sparkly. Before long Ella said,
“I’m ready to take off my barbed wire glasses. I want to
wear my ‘Good Stuff Goggles’.
The more Ella wore her ‘Good Stuff Goggles’, the more ‘I am special’ things she was able to see.
In a busy world it can be difficult to create a safe time and space to sit with paper and pens and connect creatively with a child, but such a space can offer an opportunity to understand their emotional world. It can become possible to understand difficult thoughts and how it feels for a child or young person to live with these thoughts. In this shared understanding is the opportunity for change.
I wonder, what would your ‘Good Stuff Goggles’ look like?
Why not create a safe time and space to sit with paper and pens and imagine with your child or young person what your ‘Good Stuff Goggles’ would look like? 'Good Stuff Goggles' help you to see the good stuff in your day. They help you see the 'I am special' things about you. Think about colour, size, shape, material, special features, scent?! Have fun with it. Maybe imagine more than one design. Which design is your favourite? What is the most important thing about your design? Why is this important? How easy will it be to wear your ‘Good Stuff Goggles’? Is there anything that might stop you wearing them? What could you do about this? Swap drawings. What do you like most about your partner’s drawing? Tell them. When you have finished sharing let your partner know what you most enjoyed about spending time imagining together. It would be lovely to see your drawings. Please feel free to share them.
Wellbeing Greeting Cards are a tool that can help with this. They encourage adults to notice the ‘I am special’ things in a child or young person's world and then to share it. Receiving a card can directly challenge the thought "There is nothing good about me," and even if the child is unable to see or hear the detail in the card, the adult can promise to keep it safe for them and return to it when they are ready. Each card includes a Wellbeing Activity that uses proven therapeutic techniques to encourage you to connect creatively with your child’s emotional world to help support a child or young person’s Wellbeing, develop tools to help to manage their Worries and build a positive sense of self.
To follow the Worry Wizard story and find out more about the activities and materials I have developed to help children with their Worries and Wellbeing please go to www.TheWorryWizard.com
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