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April 17, 2006

17 Apr
Self-Regulation, Up Close and Personal: I had a marvelous little reminder lesson over the weekend in how we develop our capacity for self-soothing and self-regulation from my daughter’s 19 month old son, Lev..
Self-Regulation, Up Close and Personal

I had a marvelous little reminder lesson over the weekend in how we develop our capacity for self-soothing and self-regulation from my daughter’s 19 month old son, Lev. He’s a passionate little guy by nature – very exuberant and affectionate - and, of course, extremely attached to his mother. So when he woke up in the middle of the night this past Saturday, in the dark, strange room & crib belonging to his cousin Arlo, he yowled loudly and intensely.

And, to add insult to injury, when the door opened and it was NOT his mother who’d come to comfort him, but his grandmother instead, he pitched one truly spectacular fit. The yelling (- already impressive -) went up 3 notches when he saw it was I; he hurled himself against the sides of his crib in fury and despair; he pounded his little fists into the mattress; the tears poured in buckets from his tightly clenched eyes; and when I tried to touch him or pick him up, he got even madder. It was a dazzlingly impressive display.

All I could do was stay at a distance he could tolerate and murmur what I hoped were reassuring noises while he hopefully managed himself. After about a minute or two, he started to wind down. The yowls devolved into cries, then whimpers. He found a binkie in the corner of the crib and put it into his mouth (the very same binkie that he’d furiously rejected from me - whacked it clear out of my hand, in fact). His little body started to shudder and breathe deeper breaths. After another half-minute, he finally allowed me to pick up his sweaty, heaving little body and snuggle him. Elmo and Big Bird did the rest - he let me read a Sesame Street book to him as he sat in my lap - these characters have become a new form of transitional object, outdoing the blankie and the thumb, I do believe.

So, the little guy took himself from a majorly adrenergized alarm state to a self-regulated state in about 4 minutes. I figure that’s a very good skill he’s got there, that will stand him in fine stead later on, when he’s subjected to the slings and arrows of normal, every day living and the scary, infuriating events therein.

And don’t forget, parents - it’s not the degree of alarm that’s the issue with your kid - that’s a matter of temperament. It’s the ability to self-regulate that counts and that you want to cultivate.

It’s this ability that we work to restore when PTSD disrupts the normal ebb and flow of distress, followed by self-soothing in adults, by introducing guided imagery, relaxation, breathwork, hypnosis and meditation. If the adult has the basics down from toddlerhood, it’s easier to reclaim this capacity after a trauma.

Just another reminder: our Parkinson’s Disease imagery is in the warehouse, as promised.

And I’m again reviewing new titles for our next catalog. If you have a professionally produced CD or DVD that you think fits our collection of experiential practices, and you’d like us to consider it for distribution, by all means send it to us in Akron for review. But remember, if it’s strictly didactic explanation or lecture format, we won’t want it. We distribute guided practices - imagery, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, breathwork, qigong and the like.

OK, take care and be well,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award