Written by Terry Potente, LCSW
Recently my husband and I took our grand kids aged 9 and 4 to the Academy of Sciences for a lovely day in the rain forest As we were about to leave, grandfather and granddaughter left to get the car and the 4 year old took off to see the penguins He is in a wonderful stage of adventure, going off and coming back to check in to his secure base. He is always in sight after hiding a second or two. But this time, the check in was interrupted. I had no idea where the penguins resided, having never been to that part of the museum. And by the time I found the penguins, the 4 yer old had slipped away to some other exhibit. For the first time, we had lost each other! Round and round I searched. No 4 year old in an orange shirt. I was hoping he was just around the corner, but not this time.
Now, I am not prone to drama and wild thoughts about abduction. He would make too much noise for sure if anyone tried to hijack him in the crowd . However it was a challenge to not panic and to stay focused. Finally I decided it was time to enlist aid and headed toward the security guard that magically appeared, in an orange vest. Just as I headed toward her, there was a flash of an orange shirt. There he was coming toward me. We saw each other at the same moment. What a deep breath of relief! We hugged and his words tumbled out: "I'm so glad I found you, I was just about ready to cry." Many hugs and soothing followed, really for each of us. It was a moment of very secure connection. And of course we talked about it and what to do to be safe.
This was a little trauma. A kind of upset that happens to everyone. Responses to little traumas vary with age and culture. As a child I may have heard much criticism and blame for getting lost, inconveniencing the grownups, being thoughtless or selfish. Or maybe even a: "don't be such a big baby." It took a long time to find the caring in that approach. Often the adults felt shame and self blame when things went wrong and projected it outward on kids. This is a microcosm of what can happen in big Trauma too. Shock, panic, insecure connection, shame and blame.
Therapy is really the process of reestablishing a secure connection. If there are unresolved little traumas or big Traumas, the connection can be restored in the healing of the therapeutic relationship, without shame or blame. When the secure connection is strong, we can explore and discover anew.
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