1415 Oakland Blvd., Suite 100 | Walnut Creek, CA 94596

If You REALLY Knew Me…

When you think back to your high school experience, are you flooded with fond memories? Maybe you flash on some exciting sporting events, romantic prom nights, enjoyable theatrical plays, or innovative science projects.

However, when people come to see me for stress management issues, childhood and high school events that still hold a charge of emotional pain often come up for healing during our work together.

When it feels appropriate, my clients and I watch inspiring bits of documentaries or educational DVDs together. An Emmy Award winning documentary I’ve watched with numerous clients, “Teen Files: Surviving High School,” is a 15-minute excerpt highlighting a program that helps teens face cliques and bullies that divide their campuses.

This program has a goal to create
“a world where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated.”

At one point, the documentary shows kids sitting in small circles with people who are not in their cliques. They are coached to take turns saying to one another…

“If you really knew me, you’d know…”

Several teens share that they’d lost a loved one to drugs. Others share challenges they have with their parents. As the students reveal personal things about themselves, protective inner walls begin to come down.

Compassion and connectedness are thus
given breathing room to grow.

Another important exercise shown in “Teen Files” is when the students are asked to stand behind a piece of masking tape that runs along the floor in the gymnasium where the event was filmed. Fifty people, including teens, teachers, and administrators all stand behind the line. The Challenge DayTM founders, Rich and Yvonne St. John-Dutra, facilitate and ask everyone, “Please cross the line if you’ve ever felt hurt or judged because of the color of your skin.”

They continue with numerous requests for line crossing due to being teased or hurt because someone thought they were too big or fat, teased for wearing glasses, braces, or a hearing aid. At one point in the exercise not one person is behind the line of not having experienced hurt or humiliation by the actions of another human being.

Therefore, every person who has crossed the line is acknowledging the painful judgments and prejudices they’ve experienced. With exquisite vulnerability in her voice, Yvonne then asks students…

“Where did we learn to judge people’s bodies?
Where did we learn to be so mean?”

Oprah Winfrey is an advocate of this important organization and its transformational work. She said, “I believe this is the very idea of Dr. King’s dream fulfilled. It is the dream of giving HOPE a chance, giving PEACE a chance, giving LOVE a chance.”

In my private practice, I’ve watched this DVD with my clients who have teens and with clients who have an “inner teen” who could use some healing. For instance, Paula came in to see me because she was having some physical symptoms that her doctor diagnosed as being stress related. She was having intestinal challenges and difficulty sleeping soundly. She’d easily go to sleep, but awaken at 3 a.m. with a busy mind and unable to get back to sleep.

During our initial “get acquainted” session, it became clear that Paula’s communication style was aggressive. Many of her sentences had a commanding tone that put a lot of people off (both at work and at home). For example, she’d start sentences with, “You should…” “You need to…” “You always…”

Whenever clients sign-up for my Assertiveness Training, I educate them about passive, aggressive, or assertive styles of communication. I use cards and role-playing to help people quickly UPGRADE their communication skills. The work usually includes some playfulness and laughter as we explore the foibles of being human together.

Most clients like hearing that when they learn to communicate assertively,
the likelihood of gaining RESPECT increases dramatically.
And, getting more needs met in positive ways
is also often an outcome of assertiveness.

Paula fortunately was a bright woman who quickly understood the benefits of an assertive, as opposed to an aggressive, communication style. She immediately began using the communication tools that we had worked on together.

Then, through hypnotherapy, in a deeply relaxed state, we explored the physical discomfort in Paula’s lower abdomen. When she connected back to the first time she experienced this abdominal discomfort, she remembered a painful high school scene that happened during her freshman year.

A group of three girls humiliated her in front of a boy she had a crush on.
Paula remembered how she wanted to run and hide
and began dreading school each day.

After that event, painful stomach aches and intestinal challenges often enabled Paula to stay home from school. She was relieved when her parents let her stay home. However, due to numerous absences, Paula’s grades plummeted and caused her an additional kind of stress. This painful bullying by one group of girls in her high school continued on and off for a couple of years.

By the time Paula was a high school senior, she was athletic and muscular. Her personality shifted with her physical changes and she began picking on shy, younger girls. Paula’s sarcasm and quick wit were often expressed—at the expense of others. Her communication style went from passive to aggressive during this time period.

Through our hypnotherapy work, Paula was able to take her power back from the high school bullies. She felt the tightness in her abdomen beginning to dissipate, but then felt great sorrow in her chest area for the way she was treated.

After experiencing some grief, Paula courageously looked at herself in the mirror and owned how she had hurt other girls by passing on the bullying she’d received. I encouraged her to take some deep breaths as she processed the various emotions.

Through using her new tools, Paula’s communication style shifted dramatically in positive ways—her frustration levels decreased while her connectedness increased. As a result, the quality of Paula’s relationships improved, as did her sleep.

Shall we each look for inspiring ways to
help transform judgments into understanding?
By doing so, we will take Challenge Day’s suggestion to…


To find out more about Challenge Day, log on to: www.challengeday.org.

Challenge DayTM and Be The ChangeSM are registered trademarks of Challenge Associates.
Name and client details in article, changed for confidentiality.
© Trina Swerdlow

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