This poster is a feature in our upcoming live workshop called Building An Emotionally Safe Home. I think visually so when I heard about emotional processing this image is the only way I could make sense of it. As it turns out we can't think clearly when we are experiencing difficult emotions. Not you, not me, not anyone. It's a survival technique put together by our amazing brains. The basic idea is that when faced with intense emotions, like those that pop up during an emergency life or death situation, our executive functioning shuts down. Our brain doesn't want us analyzing anything at this point, no logic, no debate, it wants us to stay alive.
For instance, if a bear were to charge at us on the family hike, the brain feels that anxiety and shuts down processing. It doesn't want us to take the time to figure anything out, (Is this a brown bear or a grizzly bear? Hmmmm...) it wants us to fucking grab the children and fight primal-ly for our lives.
You know as well as I do that for a six-year old, big sister grabbing her favorite hairtie just as she was about to use it is the very same thing as a grizzly bear charging in the woods. Maybe this doesn't make sense to you but it makes sense to the six-year old, and more importantly, it makes sense to the six-year old's brain. Intense emotion? Shut down executive function!
This means that at this particular moment, giving the six-year old information about hairtie ownership, sharing, and proper expression of emotion is... POINTLESS! She can't hear it, it's not her fault her brain isn't available for that.
What to do?
EMPATHY FOR THE FEELINGS! Empathy for the feelings helps them shift up through the emotional spectrum until your child's brain is again available to digest information. Then you discuss the actions involved in the hairtie debacle. Only then.
Isn't this important to know???
We think so. We think parents need this kind of information in order to save ourselves A LOT of grief. We think teachers need this information because what the capital of Portugal is just simply will not enter ANYONE'S mind if they aren't in an emotional state that allows for that kind of processing. See what this means? It means that all the hubbub about test scores and core concepts and accelerated learning, all the effort put into this stuff is worth nothing if the emotional needs of the child are not deeply considered and facilitated.
Want more of this sort of thing?
We have upcoming live workshops for parents:
October 20th, Open Way Mindfullness Center 2pm
November 23rd, Meadowsweet Herbs 2pm
October 26, venue to be determined (anyone have any ideas?) 2pm
Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, Bay Area, January 2014
Now booking workshops for educators, caregivers, organizations, and staff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. We're willing to travel!
An online workshop is also in the works.
Our other course, an empathy parenting course called Parenting on the Same Team is now underway! We are so happy to have a gaggle of awesome folks to work with again. If you want in, fret not, you can still join. Just click the button on the right and I'll hook you up.