One of the more glamorous aspects of my current position as a school counselor is being a member of a team of individuals trained to handle crisis situations involving students who have lost control of their behavior. During one such event last week I was the recipient of a well-timed and expertly aimed shower of spittle. In my face.
In the moment all I could do was take care of the job I was there to do; and then a bit later I was able to wipe my face clean and continue. (My cohorts also needed clean-up after the event ended. I had not being singled out for special treatment.)
As you might imagine, that was a memorable event – one that has been the topic of a few conversations and ponderings the last few days. Our Crisis Prevention and Intervention training teaches us to stay rationally detached from any outpouring of colorful comments (and/or precipitation) that might come our way while dealing with an AOP – Acting Out Person. This particular kiddo is one I have grown quite fond of in a short period of time. He’s only seven yet he has experienced more challenges in that time than most of us will ever even imagine. It was not difficult to stay detached in this situation. It was not about me.
Having said that, if the same situation had happened earlier in my career the outcome may not have been as positive. When I first began teaching I had no idea I would encounter students in such dire straits. I was as naive and sheltered as they come! Given the same scenario I would have at best cried through the whole thing, and it’s quite possible I would have voiced my disapproval at the behavior and demanded retribution. I could have lost my composure and focus during the episode and become more of a hindrance than a help.
This incident is a nice metaphor for the idea of shame-resilience – a term coined and defined by Brené Brown, researcher and author from The University of Houston. Brené Brown defines shame as that intensely painful feeling that we are somehow flawed and unworthy of love and belonging. Shame fuels those gremlins inside our head that say “You’re not good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, rich enough…” and “Who do you think you are?” Her research shows 1) We all have it; 2) We don’t want to talk about it; and 3) The less we talk about it the more power it has over us. When our shame is triggered (perhaps by being spat upon or having our boss insult our character or having our perfectionism illusion discovered or our parenting style questioned…) our rational thinking can become short circuited by the “fight or flight” mechanism. Because we’re not thinking clearly and are flooded by adrenaline and cortisol, we can find ourselves doing or saying things that we would not do or say otherwise. Unfortunately, these irrational outbursts can lead to more shame and exacerbate the situation. Not fun.
The good news is that we can become resilient to these shame storms. Just as my experience, training and team trust-building led to my being able to participate in the Spit Happens scenario without feeling attacked, resilience allows us to identify what’s really happening, move more quickly through a storm, reach out for help, take steps to lessen our reaction time and intensity, and come out on the other side feeling more courageous, compassionate and connected to those we love.
I am passionate about helping others become more resilient. Not just for the sake of resilience, but for the amazing payoffs of courage, compassion and connection that come when we begin to live from a place of worthiness instead of fear. This work saves marriages. Supports parents. Creates leaders. Encourages kiddos and teens. It leads to news ways of thinking and acting and most importantly – being. It creates the perfect environment for Wholehearted Living.
Who couldn’t use a little more courage, compassion and connection? If you’re ready to get your brave on, contact me! I would love to connect with you and hold up a lamp to light your way.
With my Whole Heart,