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.