Dawn Friedman MSEd LPC
therapist • writer
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This is so amazingly interesting:
About 20 percent of people are born with a personality trait called sensory perception sensitivity (SPS) that can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism. The trait can be seen in some children who are “slow to warm up” in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, the study researchers say.
The new results show that these highly sensitive individuals also pay more attention to detail, and have more activity in certain regions of their brains when trying to process visual information than those who are not classified as highly sensitive.
Individuals with this highly sensitive trait prefer to take longer to make decisions, are more conscientious, need more time to themselves in order to reflect, and are more easily bored with small talk, research suggests.
Previous work has also shown that compared with others those with a highly sensitive temperament are more bothered by noise and crowds, more affected by caffeine, and more easily startled. That is, the trait seems to confer sensitivity all around.
The researchers in the current study propose the simple sensory sensitivity to noise, pain, or caffeine is a side effect of an inborn preference to pay more attention to experiences.
It’s been my experience that highly sensitive people often believe something fixable is wrong with them — that they are too sensitive. I would also be interested to know whether or not highly sensitive people are overdiagnosed with anxiety (not that you can’t be highly sensitive AND anxious, mind you).
Sometimes I think that we forget that there are many many many ways to be in the world and none of them is necessarily the right way for anybody else.
Join Ohio Birthparent Group for a free info session on Ohio’s New Adoption Records Law!
Public Info Session on Ohio’s New Adoption Records Law
presented by Ohio Birthparent Group
Saturday, May 31st
Columbus Metropolitan MAIN LIBRARY
96 S. Grant Ave. Columbus, OH 43215
3rd Floor Board Room
Seating is Limited, RSVP Required.
Click the link below to register: Free Public Info Session on Ohio’s New Adoption Records Law – Ohio Birthparent Group.
Therapy is an investment of time and of money and it’d be nice if it came with guarantees but it doesn’t. There are just too many variables to make any promises about how therapy will work for any individual but there are some things you can do to get the most out of your time in the counselor’s office.
- Find the right counselor. Remember your progress comes down to the therapeutic relationship that you build with your therapist. If you want a more touchie-feelie counselor or a less touchie-feelie counselor then go find that person. Whether you want someone with lots of fiddle toys in a comfy overstuffed office or one who keeps everything streamlined and clinical, then go find that person. There are lots of different counselors in the world because there are lots of different people so when you call someone to check them out, don’t be afraid to ask them any weird question you feel you need to ask to feel comfortable.
- Leave the wrong counselor. If you’re working with someone and you just don’t feel comfortable or safe, switch. It’s ok. You’re the client and you get to decide what works for you.
- And if the counselor is almost right? Help them become all the way right. If you have an issue with your therapist and are afraid to bring it up, please give it a shot before you quit therapy. We therapists aren’t psychic so if we’re doing something that isn’t working for you we’d love for you to let us know. I know it’s scary but remember what I said, you’re the client and you get to decide what works for you. Besides it’s good practice for asserting your needs in the rest of your life.
- Show up. Sometimes we have to miss our therapy appointments because our cars don’t start or our kids spike fevers or our bosses move up our deadlines. That’s all true. And then sometimes we miss our therapy appointments because it’s just easier not to go. But therapy only works if we get ourselves into the office and into that chair to talk and listen so even when it’s hard — especially when it’s hard. And you know, you can tell your therapist how hard it was to get there that day; she’ll appreciate knowing.
- Stick to it. Speaking of how hard it is to come, please don’t drop out completely when therapy becomes tough. Sometimes we have to feel worse before we feel better. Growing is hard and sometimes it’s painful, which is why so many of us don’t do it. But you know what? It’s really worth it. I promise.
There’s a lot I don’t know and knowing what I don’t know is a big piece of being a good counselor. One of the most important things I do know is that I can’t make sense of anything without context.
Because I work with kids and parents, people sometimes assume I must have hard and fast rules about what makes for good parenting but hard and fast rules only work on paper. In real life, we make decisions in the context of our histories and our current experiences. We are making big, well thought out decisions and we are making quick, on-the-fly decisions. Those decisions never happen in a vacuum so when people say, “Is this a problem? Is that a problem?” I have to say, “I don’t know. Tell me more.”
Before I meet with a child for the first time, I meet with her parents. We talk about what’s going on and we talk about what the parents have tried already. We talk about what works and what doesn’t work. Parents are sometimes apologetic or defensive when they share one parenting choice or another because parents (unfortunately) are used to being judged. But I don’t judge parents. My job is to understand them and understand their goals and to understand their children so that I can help them live out those goals and to support their children.
Let’s take spanking for a very heated, very emotional example. I know great parents who spank and I know terrible parents who don’t. I can’t really tell anything about a parent or about their child or about their struggle when I hear, “I spank my kids.” It’s just a single choice in a sea of choices so when I hear a parent say, “I spank my kids” I want to know more about that. Why? Is it a knee-jerk reaction? A considered decision? Under what circumstances? What is the child’s reaction? What is the parent’s reaction?
This is how I approach all of those hot button issues: co-sleeping or crying it out, homeschooling or not, time outs or non-coercive parenting. I want to know what these decisions mean in the context of that family. How did those decisions happen? How do those decisions support or undermine the family’s goals? Do the parents feel their choices are working for their children? For themselves? Is it time to consider new options?
When I make recommendations, I make them in front of a background of what the research says, what I know from personal experience and from talking to lots (and lots) of families and — most importantly — I do with respect for the child and family in front of me. I may push parents to reconsider some of their previous choices but I will do it with respect for the values that drive those choices.
One of the things I really like about working with other people’s kids is that they are other people’s kids. When I’m playing with my child clients, it’s very easy to hang back and be observant and to feel invested in their play without fighting any urge to “help.” With my own children, it’s hard not to take advantage of so-called “learning opportunities.” It’s hard not to push a little bit — “What if we added this curved block there?” But I know from my time working with other people’s kids that hanging back and watching creates more opportunity for learning and growth than butting in ever can.
It’s hard not to be a help but well intentioned helping can often be a hindrance.
I notice this when children are opening new toys. Grown ups often start unpacking the items more quickly or they’ll grab the instructions and start to read them out loud. New toys are exciting even for adults! But if we can stand back and let the child come to his exploration in his own sweet time then he will have the chance to make the toy his own. He will get to try things that don’t work before discovering things that do, which is a great big part of learning.
If you are like me and often impatient with your child’s play, try sitting on your hands and watching next time.
- Watch your child put the puzzle piece in the wrong place, discover the wrongness and then try something else.
- If you would like to participate, describe what you see once you know your child has seen it, too, “Huh, that puzzle piece is blue and that space has mostly green around it.”
- Resist the urge to head off mistakes.
- Wait to be invited or ask, “You seem like you’re getting frustrated, can I help?” If they say no, believe them.
- Do the bare minimum of help once your presence is welcomed and be prepared to step back again when your child wants to take the lead once more.
- Allow your child to do things “wrong” because there really is no wrong (as long as people are safe). (It’s a good reason to buy sturdy toys — they need to be able to stand up to rigorous inspection, especially when children are younger.)
- If your child is used to you taking the lead prepare for some push back. If she gets angry because you are not showing her how to do it, model exploring. Let her correct you when she watches you do something that may not work.
Even though I am comfortable watching other people’s children struggle until they figure it out or ask for my help, I sometimes have to take a break from watching my own children get frustrated with a K’nex model or art project. I want you to know this because sometimes parents will watch me with their kids in my office and they’ll tell me they feel guilty. But it’s much harder with your own children! The dynamics are so different!
(You know what’s really hard for me? Stickers! The stickers that kids are supposed to put on the plastic cars or dollhouse furniture. I feel very stressed watching my kids trying to get them on right!)
So when it comes to my own children, I’ll make an excuse (“I’m just going to get a drink of water”) or find something else to do (“I’ll just be over here sorting the mail so holler if you need anything”). I sometimes have to steel myself for the tears I know are coming because there is value in frustration and learning to manage it even though what I’d really like to do is head it off and avoid it (and sometimes that’s appropriate — you know your child best!). But as frustration tolerance improves so will our children’s abilities as architects of their own experiences.
I’ve retooled my parenting classes and given them a brand new title: Parenting for Attunement. The class has the same great focus on helping every parent become the best parent they can be in the context of their own unique values and their own unique families but it is more focused, clearer and easier to bring home.
I’m launching this year’s first round at the All Life Center in their gorgeous second floor community room. I’ll be able to serve a lot more people, which also brings the cost down.
The class will be held Saturday June 7th and Saturday June 14th from 2pm to 4pm (refreshments will be served). You can get two registrations for just $125. I’m selling registrations by the couple so that you can bring your partner or bring your friend (that way you have someone to talk about the class with later, which can be a great thing when it comes to implementing the tools in your real life). You can go here to register or contact me if you want to learn more about what the class offers.