This month I’d like to talk to you about how anxieties build up in children, how these anxieties can affect them, and best of all, how to get rid of them.
(The anxieties not the children 🙂 )
Small children, with their as yet, limited knowledge of language, tend to process information far more literally than adults.
This is an example I came across during my research. A family were discussing the itinerary of their upcoming holiday – ‘So we fly to Florence on Monday, have 2 days there and then fly to Paris on Thursday morning etc..’ At some stage they heard the sound of crying and discovered their youngest daughter sitting in the corner sobbing as though her heart was going to break. When they finally calmed her down sufficiently to ask what was wrong, she said ‘ I’m really really sad because you’re all going away and leaving me alone because I can’t fly.’
The parents would have cuddled and reassured her, explained about flying in aeroplanes and assumed all was well. Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of emotion the child felt together with the terror of being abandoned and unloved would be too much for that young mind to deal with and the incident would be subjected to repression.
Repression is nature’s way of protecting the delicate minds of children. It is essentially a safety valve that removes intense emotions from the conscious mind and buries them deep in the subconscious. It is the ability to repress memories that gives the impression that children are incredibly resilient and easily bounce back from trauma and unpleasant situations. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the memories are hidden from the conscious mind, it doesn’t mean they have disappeared. They remain as little pockets of anxiety which can be triggered by further anxiety which produce symptoms that inevitably lead to behavioural changes.
There is no way of preventing these repressions building up, they occur during the everyday growing up process and you would be amazed at some of the normal, everyday happenings that lead to repression.
Let’s follow a little girl – we’ll call her Ginny – through some events in her life. To make it more interesting I’m going to describe the scenarios from the perspective of both an adult and a child.
Grown up Ginny loves her husband, knows he loves her, and is a content happy lady. One day, her husband turns to her and says “I love being married, in fact I love it so much I’ve decided to make life even better and go out and find another wife. Then I’ll be twice as happy. Won’t that be fun having another wife to spend time with?” Imagine how Ginny would feel about that?(Not a likely scenario I know, but I’m asking you to imagine how you’d feel).
Two year old Ginny is a happy, content little girl. She has a Mom and dad who love her and she gets loads of attention from both of them. Life is good. Then comes the day that Mom and dad tell her that because they love her so much they’ve chosen to have another child – won’t it be fun to have a new baby sister to play with? The new baby arrives and suddenly Ginny has only half the attention, she has to sleep in her own bed now because the new baby needs to sleep with Mom and Dad….. Instead of feeling ‘lucky’ to have a new sister, Ginny may well feel that the only reason they got a new child was because she just wasn’t good enough or they didn’t love her enough. She’s angry and hurt, but at the same time feels guilty about feeling anger towards the people who care for her and love her. She doesn’t have the capacity to deal with that amount of emotion, so the safety valve kicks in and the emotions are repressed.
Grown up Ginny has spent years saving and scrimping to buy her dream car – a bright red convertible BMW. She drives it home from the showroom and is polishing a speck of dust off the bonnet, when up drives her friend Gary and a stranger. Gary says “Hi Ginny, nice car, give me the keys, my friend Bill would like to take it for a drive.” Ginny would be understandably furious, refuse emphatically and I imagine there would be sseveral four letter words involved. Should Bill actually manage to wrestle the keys from her and drive off, Ginny would have the choice of calling the police and reporting her precious new car stolen. She will be angry for a while and no doubt remove Gary from her Christmas card list, but in time she’ll calm down and get over it.
Seven year old Ginny has finally got her new, beautiful, shiny pink bicycle. She asked Father Christmas for it months ago and here it is! It didn’t come without sacrifice though – she has eaten all her broccoli and sprouts (shudder), kept her room clean, helped Mom with the dishes, done all her homework – she really has earned that bicycle. Then, Mom’s friend and her six year old son come for a visit. Ginny is told to let the boy have a turn riding her bike. Her precious bike? No!!! When she refuses, the bike is taken from her, she lashes out at the other child, screams and cries and is sent to her room. She feels utterly powerless, she’s furious with everyone, especially her Mom and at that moment she actually hates her. Added to all that emotion is also guilt though, because she knows she’s behaved badly and felt hatred (real hatred in that moment) towards the person who she relies on most. It’s far too much emotion for her to deal with and once again the safety valve comes into play and the emotions and guilt are repressed.
As you can see, neither of these situations could have been avoided – parents have more than one child, lessons about sharing and boundaries have to be taught. It’s just life! Another factor that contributes to anxiety build up, is that children are very likely to blame themselves for the bad things that happen. If it wasn’t for me Dad wouldn’t have hit me; It’s my fault Daddy doesn’t live with us any more – if I hadn’t been naughty he wouldn’t have left ……. and so on.
As the years pass, other repressions are added and although they are buried, whenever yet another stressful event occurs, all these buried anxieties are activated.
Imagine a storm drain that is blocked with leaves and tree stumps. It won’t take much of a rainstorm before the drain overflows and the road floods. Well that’s the way it is with a build up of repressions. A seemingly minor event can set all the anxiety related to those repressions jangling and cause a massive over-reaction, together with symptoms that manifest in behavioural problems, bed wetting, fear of the dark, social anxiety, bullying to mention a few.
If we don’t deal with these repressions they follow us through into our adult lives and will continue to cause that same overflow of jangling anxiety that we can’t explain or understand. But they don’t have to. Although the repressions can be released later in life, it is so much easier to help them before they reach full adulthood.
The Blowaway Technique for Children has been used for over 30 years in the UK, and has proved to be remarkably successful in helping children to release these repressions, remove the symptoms and anxieties and empower them.
It is a non-invasive treatment method where the child is never asked to verbalise their fears and concerns. This is important, because having to talk about a specific event could push it deeper into repression.
The Blowaway usually only requires one session and the child would be accompanied by at least one parent (preferably both). During the session, I will encourage him or her to close their eyes and relax and then ask them to imagine a series of emotions which will then be blown away. The family is then asked to agree that nobody questions anyone else about what thoughts arose during the session. And that’s it.
When Neil French first developed the Blowaway in the 70’s, there was a certain amount of scepticism about the effectiveness of the treatment so he decided to go down the rather unconventional route of leaving the decision of payment to the parents – based on the results. I know that he left that in place for at least 10 years and never once did he fail to receive payment. The treatment works! So, because the Blowaway is new to South Africa, I have decided to follow his example. I have such confidence that the Blowaway will help your child, that between now and the 30th June, I’m prepared to leave the decision of payment up to you.
Please feel free to contact me for more information on 074 1649647 or at email@example.com.