Saturday, February 04, 2017

Wrong story? Leave it.

“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
Mo Willems
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

We use the library often. When you have a little one in the house, even when you have a good supply of books for them at home (which is a must!), you can quickly get tired of reading the same books over and over and over and... At least I do. Besides, there is a huge treasure trove of incredible stories out there waiting to be discovered and it's a lot of fun picking out a bunch and finding which your own little ones like best and which they don't ask for more than once.

The quote above is from one of the "read to me 'gain" picks in our current stack of borrowed books. It is a funny book. Even if you don't have a little one, it might amuse you. It amused me. The quote at the end was the kicker. What great advice!

Also, this week, I ran across a comment that a child fearful of interacting in a group needed a social story. What, I asked, is a "social story"? Instead of waiting for an answer, I looked it up. I'm glad I did. Developed by autism consultant and speaker Carol Gray, a social story is intended to assist those with autism fill in missing information most of us already have and take for granted. While the aforementioned child is not autistic, he does have a certain social situation fear. This social story idea would, I think, also be wonderful for social anxiety whether or not it's at the disorder level.

You can find more detailed info here: Carol Gray

In short, social stories help someone be more comfortable going into an unfamiliar situation. (My non-professional-but-with-psych-training interpretation.)

We all have fears. How nice would it be to have someone at our side who understands the fear and knows the situation well enough to explain what's about to happen before it does? Of course that option is not always available. We don't all have that person who can do both of those for us. As a parent, you can watch for nervousness and fear and use words and your knowledge/experience to calmly explain to your child what you're about to do and what can be expected from a situation.

For yourself: what about writing it out?

I know fear and anxiety. I know how terrifying it can be. What if, before we walk into a feared situation, we write 1) what we expect will happen, 2) what scares us about it, and 3) how likely is it the situation will actually be as frightening as we expect? Also, 4) if it is actually that frightening, what measures will we take to control the fear/anxiety?

The stories we tell ourselves are pivotal in shaping our lives, actions, and attitudes. [For more on that check out Narrative Therapy that emphasizes the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.]  What if, after writing out our fear/anxiety, we focus on telling ourselves a new story? Instead of saying, "I can't do that because of my fear," try saying, "Okay, I acknowledge the fear, but I can handle it."

It might take many repetitions before it starts to sink in. After all, how often has the "I'm afraid" story circulated through your thoughts? You can rewrite your story if you refuse to give up, if it matters enough to you, if you're willing to take your own reins and pull them onto another path. Too much of what we believe has come from what we've heard about ourselves (Narrative Therapy). Much of that has come from others, often from way back when we were children and we don't consciously remember hearing those stories, but they have become part of who we are. Much of it, though, is what we've told ourselves too often.

Don't like your current story? Rewrite it. Leave it behind.

Simple idea, not easy to do. Still, it is doable. First, like the Little Engine That Could, you must think you can.

I've added a new page here on my blog to include favorite reads by my grandchildren. The lists are barely started and will grow as they find more favorites.

I just finished this book yesterday and highly recommend it:

Watership Down
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book about a bunch of rabbits making a journey is generally about the last thing I'd pick up, but when Richard Adams stopped running in December 2016, I decided to buy this book since I knew the name of it well but not more than that...


Dawn Wilson said...

I enjoyed reading this, Loraine! Great tips on handling fearful situations! Glad to learn about what a social story is.

LK Hunsaker said...

Thank you, Dawn. As a recovering social phobic, I very much want to help others, especially kids, learn to manage their anxiety so they don't do what I did and avoid things they would like to do other than their fear. That's a hard way to live.