Hope in the Midst of Life ~ January 2018
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. The world can be very complicated, and I am sure that is true in trying to help children with challenges, but let’s talk about a simple thing that does some of the most powerful helping ever…
First you need to know that a popular thing to study right now in emotional health is “TRAUMA”. Trauma changes how we function. We all know “trauma” is something in life that is awful. When most of us hear that word we think of the most horrible things we can imagine. But there are three kinds of trauma. The first is things that are in your life that shouldn’t be. This might be an event that happened, like abuse. The second kind of trauma is things that are absent from your life that should have been there. This is very interesting, because this is not just the awful picture of a child that is neglected and not fed enough. But it can be as “simple” as “When I was ten, nobody responded to me as I thought they should.” What that last statement means is – we all have trauma whether or not we have experienced a horrific incident or neglect. There is one more way we experience trauma. This is through rumination. Dr. Caroline Leaf says that rumination is continuing to dwell on and on about something that is not positive. She says this causes the same physical and emotion effects as the first two types of trauma! Our brain changes the same way from the “big” things as it does the “smaller” things.
So there are many ways to be traumatized, and the reality is – we all have been traumatized in varying degrees. So why is this important? This matters because we react and respond to the world around us through the lens of trauma thinking. Which, simply put, is not positive, and we’re often sorry about it later.
But the great news is… there are many things we can do to heal! One of the most significant and simplest is to help the “joy center” of our brains grow. Behind your right eye is the right orbital pre-frontal cortex – your “joy center”. This is the only place in your brain that continues to have the potential to grow throughout your entire life!
Typically when we think of things that “make us better”… they might not taste good, or they take a whole lot of effort and often aren’t very fun. But the joy center is a very different story! Remember how it is to look into a baby or toddler’s eyes that is happy to be with you! That twinkle, that joy, is what we all need!
Let me explain. If my husband walks into the room where our grandson is, our grandson lights up and is just delighted to see his grandpa, and grandpa is delighted to see him. What happens when their eyes meet is more than just that “twinkle”. A joy message goes back and forth between them at the rate of six times per second and every time it moves from person to person their joy centers increase their stored joy.
When a baby cries, an adult helps the baby by feeding or changing him and talking to him. This is teaching that baby that it is possible to return from pain to joy. Every time that baby experiences this, his joy strength grows as well. This is very important because we can only cope with pain / trauma if we have more joy than we have pain.
What I am telling you is one of the best “simple things” ever! By helping little people, and not so little people, learn that it is possible to return from pain to joy – their joy strength grows. In addition, being “happy to be with”… someone… and looking in their eyes with delight to be with them, causes joy strength to grow. The greater joy strength every person has, the better each one copes with pain.
So cherish the simple things. Go and smile and look in the eyes of someone and be happy to be with them. You will not only help them cope with pain whenever it comes, but you will be helping yourself as well!
Janet Miller MA LPCC