I was explaining trauma reactions as an over-active alarm system. One of the women looked deep in thought. I asked what she was thinking about. She was thinking about her 5-year-old, adopted niece and how she might use what she was learning to react differently to her niece’s meltdowns. She explained that when her niece has a meltdown, she immediately just wants to get away from her. She now sees this as her own alarm reaction leading to a flight response. She said she felt guilty for responding this way because she knows that her niece probably feels abandoned by her when she walks away because of her history of abandonment and loss. She wanted to not run away but didn’t know what else she could do. I commended her for recognizing that her alarm was being triggered and also helped her see that her feelings of guilt were also an alarm reactive feeling. I then explained that the alarm is meant to help her notice that something was happening that activated an important value for her. So, when her alarm is triggered, the best way to calm it down is to think about what really matters most to her in that moment. She said, being there for her niece.
Me: Okay, then how does thinking of being there for your niece make you feel?
Her: I feel a little calmer.
Me: And how do you feel about your niece when you are thinking of being there for her?
Her: I feel love for her.
Me: Great, now from that place of calm and love, what would you want to say to her?
Her: I don’t know.
Me: How about if you just walked into that room, sat next to her with that calm and loving energy, and just said, “I’m sorry you are having such a hard time right now. Seeing you like this makes my alarm go off, but I’m not going to leave. I don’t know what to say, but I’m just going to sit right here and stay with you until you calm down.” How would that feel?
Her (tearful): Better.
(some of this technique must be credited to TARGET).
At the end of this training, another participant's adopted son posted this on his Facebook page.