Monday, December 7, 2009

Real Tears

David has learned a new technique that has proven to be quite effective. I call it "using emotion to get what he wants". Others call it crying. What is so fascinating is that most children learn this technique quite early and depending on how well it works, continue to use it very strategically for the rest of their lives. David, who just turned six, is just starting to experiment with the idea. I am excited about this experimentation as it demonstrates that he is now learning and taking social cues from others, a challenge for most children with autism. I am most excited that his role model is his seven year old sister Aly who perfected the art of using emotions at a very young age.

Our team has spent a lot of time lately discussing the crying and everyone has a different perspective. I have learned through this process that heightened emotion is incredibly effective because it has stiurred up a myriad of emotions on our team. Although technically we have all been highly trained to not respond to the crying we are all responding in our own way. I am actually quite intrigued by the idea that we thought we were trained to not respond to begin with. Of course there are different ways of responding based on our beliefs and some responses may be more helpful than others but we are always responding.

So, where am I going with this? With all of this talking about crying and my recent interaction with David which went something like this: mom "why are you crying?" David "why are you crying?" mom "I am not crying why are you crying?" David "I am not crying why are you crying?" (for those of you not familiar with autism, repeating language is common in language development and typically happens before language becomes more spontaneous, it is sometimes called echolalia) I have really been reflecting about how we all use emotion to get what we want. I was most inspired by the combination of my conversation with David and a conversation I had with a few members on our team about when David was crying with REAL TEARS. I had to chuckle about the use of this phrase. When I asked people what they meant by REAL TEARS they all said, "you know when he is really crying verses when he is just trying to get something".

So, David doesn't think he is crying, he is wondering why we are crying, and others are deciding David's crying intentions for him and responding based on their beliefs about real tears verses fake tears. How fascinating! If all of this is true, we are teaching David how to magnify his emotions to ensure that we all belive his tears are real since the "realness" is what is getting him what he wants. WOW! How often do we do this in our lives? Think of things in your life or others that have been magnified to ensure people believe they are real. I would bet most people with stress and anxiety "disorders" started out with a little bit of complication in their lives but the little complication didn't get them the "rest" they needed but once they had a psycholigist, prosac, and a label, WOW, now it is real and people will pay attention. Or the people who go to anger management classes because they intensify their anger to make sure people know they are really mad. Here is a question: Does intensifying negetive emotion really work? Although I know I do this, I am now realizing that it never works for me. I intensify "overwhelm" hoping that others will do more so I don't have to "do everything". The truth is, I don't "do everything" and magnifying overwhelm has just gotten me more tired.

Experiment with me this holiday season. Magnify the good emotions of love, gratitude and happiness and see if it is more effective in getting you what you want!

Love to all,

1 comment:

  1. Loved it! Kathy this is so much fun. I'm just thinking of all the ways we learn that intensifying emotion in a way that's perceivable by others and appears "real" works!

    I can remember learning as a kid that looking like you feel really guilty is important if you want to avoid punishment. Then, I've noticed that this carries through to our court systems. I've been on juries where people didn't want to convict because so and so looked as thought they felt really bad about what they'd done.

    Amazing! And what a great foundation for who knows how many disorders.

    Thanks for such an insightful article!


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