Sunday, October 21, 2012

Interactions: A True Story

A quote from ``The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain,'' by Louis Cozolino
Being human means communicating with others. ... Through our interactions we have the power to impact one another at every level. One of my most powerful experiences of the truth of this fact ... [took place] at the home of a friend. I had volunteered to watch his two young children for a few hours ... I had known Jessica and Sam, 4 and 6 years old, all their lives. ... The minute their father left they shifted from low to medium to high gear and I found myself in the midst of a frenzy of excitement.
Toys began flying out of closets and storage containers; games were begun and tossed aside; videos were started, stopped, and replaced ... I kept trying to refocus Sam and Jessica's activity, to no avail. ...
... My suggestion that we sit and talk for a while passed unnoticed. After a few seconds, Sam looked at his sister and yelled, ``Show Lou how you burp your dolly!'' Both let out a scream and Jessica soon returned with an adorable squishy doll. ... Jessica threw the doll on the floor face first and drove her fists into its back. As Jessica and Sam took turns crushing the doll into the carpet, I watched in horror, completely identifying with the doll. ....
I quickly reminded myself that I was feeling sorry for a ball of cotton and that I should turn my attention  back to the children. ... I struggled to make sense of what was happening and asked myself if there might be some symbolic message in the way they were treating this doll. Jessica and Sam had experienced a great deal of stress in their brief lives ... The frantic activity that I was witnessing may have reflected the accumulated anxiety from all they had gone through, mixed with normal child exuberance. ...
... Perhaps Sam and Jessica were showing me that when they needed to be comforted, they were met with more pain, or, at the very least, insufficient understanding and warmth. ... Was their behavior a form of communication?
... I felt my anxiety growing when finally, they turned to me and cried in unison: ``Your turn!'' I hesitated. The chant of ``Burp the baby, burp the baby'' began to rise. I looked at both of them and said, ``I know another way to burp a baby. Here is how my mom burped me.'' A cheer went up. ...
I gently picked up the doll and brought it to my left shoulder. Rubbing its back in a circular motion using my right hand, looking down at it with tenderness, I quietly said, ``This will make you feel better, little one.'' A silence fell on the hallway. I looked up to find Jessica and Sam transfixed, as if hypnotized. Their eyes followed the low circles of my hands, heads tilted like puppies. Their bodies relaxed, their hands limp at their sides, calm for the first time.
After following the movement of my hand for about 30 seconds, Jessica looked up at me and softly asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' ... then carefully, almost respectfully, she took the doll from me and placed it on the floor with its back against the wall. She stepped over to me, climbed over my crossed legs and put her head on my shoulder where the doll's head had been. She turned to me and almost inaudibly said, ``I'm ready now.'' As I rubbed Jessica's back, I felt her growing more and more limp as she melted into my shoulder and chest. ... When I looked over to [Sam], I could see that he was in the same posture and state of mind he had been in watching me burp the doll. He eventually looked up at me and asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' Before I could answer, Jessica lifted her head slightly and told him, ``In a minute.''
After a while, she gave up her spot on my shoulder and Sam had his turn being ``burped.'' --- pp.48-50, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy 

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