Workshop Notes for Have You Hugged Your Alien?May 2, 2020
I am so excited to share my book with you. Hopefully, you have read my book or watched my Youtube reading. I wrote the book as part of a series of workshops for children. I offer my workshops in elementary school classrooms, after-school programs and public libraries to teach children about healthy emotional expression.
I thought it might be helpful for you to read through my workshop notes. This makes it easier to implement the strategies at school and at home.
I start by reading my book. I explain that all emotions are normal. They make us human. My goal is NOT to eliminate anger but to look at the choices we make when we experience anger.
Step 2-Alien Sculptures
Families sculpt their own clay alien to represent that part of themselves that feels foreign to them when they are frustrated, angry, stressed, hurt or overwhelmed. Once most of the participants are done with their alien sculpture, I talk about how we can deal with difficult emotions.
Everyone gets upset-children, adults, even parents and teachers.
All emotions are normal. They offer useful information.
Unpleasant emotions stir up our Reptilian brain (primitive brain charged with our survival).
Triggering the Reptilian brain shuts down our Higher Functioning brain (which helps us make wise decisions).
The intense response we have to an unpleasant experience only lasts 90 seconds (for more information on this, read My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor)
How can we make wise choices if our Higher Functioning Brain is turned off for 90 seconds? We need to help our body release the excess energy that floods our body during those 90 seconds until we are able to think and make wise decisions.
Domestic animals know that they can’t attack family members or they will get in big trouble. However, they get upset too. What do animals do when they get angry? Animals use their breath, movement and/or voice to release energy when they are upset.
Some examples include: Dogs yawn (breath) and stretch (movement) or bark (voice). Cats hiss (breath), curl their backs and jump sideways (movement) or meow (voice). Snakes hiss (breath), coil their body and leap forward or slither away (movement). Horses exhale forcefully (breath), stomp their feet, kick (movement) or neigh (voice). Lions roar (voice) and stretch their bodies forward, tossing their mane (movement).
How can we use our voice, breath and movement to calm ourselves during the 90 seconds of intense emotions?
We need to consider where we are (outdoors or in class/home/car). Suggestions include:
Running around the school yard until tired
Tensing and releasing muscles
Wiggling it out (while standing or bending from the hips, arms dangling toward the ground)
Trying to yawn (fake yawning triggers real yawning which relaxes the body)
Forceful exhales (harder to inhale when upset)
Yelling, “I feel so angry right now!”
Asking for space
Telling someone that you do not like what they are doing, asking them to stop
Wiggling in seat
Tensing and releasing muscles
Pushing feet into the ground
Pushing hands against the table
Saying, “I am really angry right now, give me some time and space to calm down”.
Deep, belly breathing
Step 5-The Story
Although our bodies have generally released the physical aspect of an unpleasant emotion within 90 seconds, we often prolong it by creating a story about it and repeating this story in our mind over and over again. Animals do not do this. Once the energy of an emotion has dissipated, animals return to their usual activities.
We often have a few stories that we hold onto:
Why do I always get left out?
Nobody likes me.
No one helps me, I have to do everything myself.
Why do I always get blamed?
Everything always happens to me.
These stories press the reset button on our reptilian brain, initiating another 90 second physical response. It is helpful to be aware of our stories. Awareness helps us recognize when we are prolonging our suffering with an outdated story.
Participants are asked to identify one of their stories. Adults can write it down on a photocopied image of a flying saucer. Young children can simply think about their story while they colour their flying saucer. Then, caregivers can play a “What if?” game with the story to see if it is true or false. What if you are wrong and people actually love you very much? Is it possible that others get in trouble too sometimes?
Adults and older children can write evidence all around the flying saucer which prove the story is false. You will notice that most stories contain absolutes (always, never, everything, nobody). Asking yourself if this is true and writing as many facts as possible that disprove it or prove the opposite, takes the story’s power away. The next time you are upset and the story pops into your mind, you can recognize it as false and recall all the facts that disproved it. This helps you get calm faster.
Breathe, close your eyes and imagine your story (or stories) boarding the flying saucer. With each breath, as you exhale, blow the flying saucer away, pushing it further and further, watching it shrink until you no longer see it. Then use your imagination to look inside your body. Find any remaining areas of tension (dark spots, something stuck, tight areas) working your way up from your toes, to your knees, hips, belly, lower back, chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, throat, jaw, eyes, forehead and head. Each time you feel a dark, full or tight spot, breathe through it. Take one last breath to feel the air moving through your body from your nose down into your feet and into the floor where any leftover gunk can be absorbed into the ground.
Some parents feel they need two flying saucers, one for home and one for work. Children may need one for school and one for home as well. I hope the book and workshop notes are helpful. I would love to hear from you or see your art if you created your aliens. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (613) 863-7685.
For your very own flying saucer outline, visit the link below
Yours in Gratitude,