Sunshine & Anchors

I never cease to be amazed when I particiapte in therapy with my girls. Such hard work they do. All of the hard work adds up to insights that lead to breakthrough moments. These moments are sometimes weeks and months in the making; like a recent breakthrough session with Savanna. She had been waking up angry to the point of getting verbally and physically aggressive towards me. While at therapy she couldn’t think of why and often downplayed the extent of her massive feelings. She claimed all was well. 

Over time, we were able to narrow down that this was particularly bad on Mondays and didn’t occur to as great of an extent on the weekends. Eventually, Savanna was able to identify she didn’t want to go to school because she was feeling really “mad”. 

Of course her therapist and I knew there was was something deeper. Often our feelings look and feel one way on the outside, but below the surface – there’s usually something bigger. Honestly, we had both imagined it was something going on with a boy who was making her feel uncomfortable or that she was struggling with separating from me as she had shared such sentiments a few weeks before. 

We use the iceburg analogy a lot with all 3 of the girls. But this time, Savanna and her therapist took it a step further to help her recognize how her coping skills could come into play with all these big and hard feelings. They added in sunshine and anchors and over the course of a week were able to get below the surface and identify that Savanna was really feeling embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, and scared/worried about her friends not wanting to play with her. 

I think this is a great tool that all of us can benefit from. So the next time you or your child find yourself feeling consumed by big feelings, try drawing a simple picture. Include yourself in a boat approaching iceburgs, sunshine, and an anchor. Then go through and label the parts. 

Picture yourself in the boat approaching the iceburgs which are made up of mounds of big feelings. This is where your sunshine comes in. The sunshine is what helps to melt the iceburgs away so they aren’t so scary and unmanageable. Knowing and accessing your sunshine can help turn chaos into calm. These are your comforts. Perhaps a warm bath, a cup of tea, working out, or getting some fresh air. Once some of the ice has been melted, try and identify what is below the surface. After you identify the underlying feeling and/or problem, try to begin working through it.  

There will be times when the sunshine is not enough, though. It is in these times that we must rely on our anchors. Anchors are what help ground us when the feelings beneath our iceburg invade and overcome us. When the fear that looks like anger is so big that our sunshine can’t help melt it. Some anchors might be your faith, good friends, time with family, or therapy.

My bet is that, like me (and Savanna), you’ll leave the exercise feeling a little better, much more in control, and with insight into the thoughts and feelings below the surface. It is only when we identify these deeper thoughts and feelings that we can begin to work through them. Remember you can always grab onto your anchor(s) if things become unmanageable during the process. 

  

About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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3 Responses to Sunshine & Anchors

  1. Love this activity. I think it’s something we all need to do. We need to remind ourselves of our anchors and sunshine when storms roll in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. luverley says:

    This will really help me allot. I don’t understand feelings and emotions. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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