Four Days in Kentucky

I had mixed feelings about spending four days alone in Kentucky. On the one hand, I was really looking forward to attending the Theraplay training and having some downtime in the evenings, but I was really homesick for Portland and the people I love. Thank God while I was there I found an awesome running trail along the Louisville waterfront and a cozy coffee shop with good vibes and good coffee, not Portland but it’ll do.

Upon arrival in KY, my hotel looked like something straight out of a Hitchcock movie (and I learned I’ve watched way to many crime shows and have no business staying at a creepy hotel by myself.) My goal was to instantly find other places to go and just use the hotel for the necessity of sleeping. I sat down at a nearby restaurant for a quick bite only to find out about the Boston Marathon bombing, and I was pissed off and sick of terrorism. (You know the feeling.) Don’t mess with runners, terrorists! Seriously, WHAT are you DOING?!

I spent my days learning about early childhood attachment disruptions, the effects of shame on children, and the reparative nature of relationships. I filled my evenings with running and reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”. There were some ‘worlds collide’ moments with reading that book while attending the training. She addresses shame and vulnerability, fear and disconnection. “The level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is the measure of our fear and disconnection.” Meanwhile, I’m learning about how when kids’ cries are responded to by abuse or neglect, kids are left thinking that they are not worth being taken care of and that they have to take care of themselves. The trauma and fear of not having their needs met makes them guard themselves, disconnect from others, and have shame-based thoughts about themselves and fear-based thoughts about their world. Brown points out how people stay at surface-level with others almost like a PTSD response. Numbing, isolating, self-protection, fear...shame.

I’m looking forward to piecing together everything I’m learning from both sources and applying it to my practice. I'll be posting more of my Theraplay/Daring Greatly contemplations in the future.

Below is a diagram of the bonding cycle and a list of symptoms of shame in kids. Shame forms in children when their needs are responded to in inappropriate ways.

Children Who Experience Excessive Shame

  • Excessive need to control

  • Oppositional defiant behaviors

  • Intense negative affect-rage; terror and despair

  • Hurting others and self; emotional and physical

  • Poor response to discipline, frustration, responsibility

  • Lies, excuses, blaming

  • Good/bad splitting

  • Sense of entitlement; demanding

  • Victimhood mentality

  • Destructive, stealing, hoarding

  • Manipulative affect and behavior

  • Dissociation and/or hypervigilence

*Material taken from Theraplay Level 1 Training powerpoints

heather lokteff, child counselor, west linn
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