This past November I noticed a push for “daily thankfuls” on Facebook and other social media. A lot of the same things have come up: health, family, food, running water, etc. Some might call these things essentials, while reminding themselves not to take them for granted. As Thanksgiving has come and gone, the spirit of thankfulness can last through the winter season, or all year if you try. There are so many little things (and big things) to be thankful for, but I challenge you to find one thing that you may take for granted that someone right now does not have. Even better, think of something that you have that someone needs.
Could it be your health or close friend that is always there for you? Or could it be something as simple as running water? This basic need has been on my mind the last month as I recently returned from an east coast trip when Hurricane Sandy was hitting the shores of Jersey and devastating New York. I was lucky enough to be in Boston and dodge the eye of the storm. In the aftermath of Sandy all I could think about was thank goodness I was only on vacation and could fly home to Seattle on Halloween once Logan International Airport opened back up again to air travel. But what about those who could not just jump on a plane and head to a place they could lay their head at night or where they could turn on their kitchen sink for a glass of water? What about the trauma of watching a house destroyed or fearing for your safety, or a loved ones safety? Sometimes those external factors can really affect your internal processing.
This story is not new. Hurricane Sandy is just the latest. We do not need to be reminded of the countless hurricanes, tropical storms, fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis that have devastated shores and cities across continents just in the last decade.
The one thing I have been thankful for through the last decade is my ability to give in times like these. I am thankful for the various ways I am able to give. I am thankful for my income that allows me to donate monetarily. I am thankful for the time I have to give. I am thankful for my able body to physically get out there and move. I am thankful for my education and experiences that have allowed me to give a little something more specific when any trauma occurs.
No, I cannot magically mend broken water pipes, reroute flooding, or put out a fire, but I can help people feel safe amidst tragedy. Big, small, physical, or not, it affects us all differently. I will save the science for another day, but we can all agree that just as we all learn differently we react differently to situations or stimuli. The biology of the brain and all our neurons is a fascinating miracle machine, but one thing is true for all humans; we are born to attach and communicate through relationships. We can have a relationship with our family, friends, pets and things; I would venture to say that we all have an attachment (of some sort) to those objects in the relationship. Our actions and reactions to a change in that relationship can be earth shattering or they can just be.
Why are some of us so moved to help (to donate, build, volunteer, etc) with one issue but not another? Our reactions to tragedy and trauma are just as diverse as how those IN trauma and tragedy react. We all react differently on the outside. Shock. Horror. Silence. Crying. Shaking. Screaming. All of the above. I react for any human in need. But specifically I move for children in and out of trauma. I have been blessed to see the positive outcomes of working with children of all ages, all going through some form of trauma.
While living in Boston a few years back I had the opportunity to work with children who had been neglected and abused. It became a passion; it made me move. Move to make a difference in their lives and move as an intervention in therapy. I have seen the results of movement therapy with children (especially those who have been in trauma) so I will continue to be passionate about helping anyone affected by a traumatic experience, whether it means donating things or donating my services.
The early childhood intervention for movement therapy that I was a part of in Boston called Rainbowdance, was adapted for toddlers, preschool and kindergarten children, refugee children and their mothers, for autistic, deaf, and blind children, as well as those with physical impairment and attention or learning delays (quoted from Rainbowdance Training Manual). The movement program was created to establish or strengthen attachment and attunement.
Practitioners use music, gestures, natural movement, and stories with children to promote self esteem, empathy, and self regulation. Healthy attachment and trust grows when children build relationships with their parent, peers (in the natural group setting of the program), and therapist. Rhythm and movement patterns help to create the self regulation and soothing needed to grow.
But in all of this goodness is the underlying development of feeling safe.
We all feel safe (or safer) when we have the tools to help us. There are external things like a blanket, leaving the lights on, or having the physical comfort of someone close that can alleviate our stress of not feeling safe. But how do we make ourselves feel safe from within? Our internal processing of things we have learned can be the start. You have a specific way of reacting to certain stimuli, it could be a natural response or it could be a learned one. Remember that being scared and feeling safe can happen all at the same time. You can be startled or scared by a spider or anything that you cannot control. But you can also feel whether or not you are safe in a situation.
Tragedy and trauma can mess with how we perceive being safe. Reinforcing what we have learned as children or re-learning how we respond to things will help with coping. I challenge you to think about how you feel when you are safe and then how you feel when you are not safe. What about safety being threatened through natural disasters vs through oppression by others? Have you been thankful for your own safety this month? (have you had the opportunity to be thankful for your safety?) What have you been thankful for?
As 2012 comes to an end I would like to reiterate what we at Seattle Direct Counseling have encouraged before- coping with change, standing up for something, being mindful of our wellness and finding your motivation… Think about what makes you move. What is your contribution today and everyday? Thinking globally is great, but sometimes even just spreading awareness in your own little circle is all you can give. But it is something, and that might just be the motivation someone else needed to carry a torch.
I am always thankful for my health and my basic needs being met. I am continually thankful for my friends and family.