These exercises help our staff understand the feeling of the human danger response, and then to imagine what it might feel like to be stuck in that response and to feel that way all the time.
Near Car Accident
Ask participants to remember a time they were in a near-car accident or otherwise faced sudden danger.
1. What happened in their bodies?
2. If they were sleepy, were they still?
3. If they were admiring the scenery, were they still looking at it? What were they now paying attention to?
4. If they were chatting with a friend, were they still doing so?
5. What happened afterwards- how did they return to normal? Look for a response that involves connecting with others, like I called someone and told them what happened. We calm down after danger by using connection.
6. How would it feel to be stuck in the danger response?
7. In what ways do we observe that our children have difficulty with relaxation? (sleep, play)
Discussion of what it feels like not to sleep- ask participants if they have ever had a few nights of insomnia. What did they act like? (Irritable, hyper-reactive). Emphasize the importance of the fact that our clients have difficulty sleeping.
Danger in the Building
Ask people to imagine that an administrator has just come in to the class and said that there is an angry father with a gun in another part of the building. They don’t think he is coming to this part, so we should continue the class.
As fascinating as class is will they be able to learn?
What will they be paying attention to?
What if you said since no one was paying attention we will all play a game. Would they enjoy it?
Mention how much children and families learn from play- and what happens when you cannot play?
Trip to the City
(courtesy of Kevin Creeden)
Imagine you are in New York City at 3 in the afternoon with your friends. You are looking around, admiring the shop windows, looking at the architecture, laughing and talk.
Now imagine you are in the city at 3 in the morning, alone. Are you still looking at the shop windows? Do you notice the architecture? What are you paying attention to?
For our kids, it is always 3 am in a scary place.
The Negative Bias of Our Danger Response
The human danger response is designed to over react negatively. That is, it is designed to assume things are dangerous until proven otherwise. Why? Because that is the safer way.
Suppose you are on a hike and see a long thin black thing in the trail ahead.
If you assume it is a snake and stop, look closely, and it turns out to be a stick, no harm done.
If you assume it is a stick and keep going and it turns out to be a snake you could be in big trouble.
When you have experienced a lot of danger, this negative tendency is accentuated, because in your experience the world is a very dangerous place.
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