Creative Therapy for Anxiety07/06/2022
The relationship, the humour, and the Michelin Man
In my practice, two factors that are part of my practice framework are relationship building and humour.
Seeing a therapist is very unnatural for many people. But if the trust and relationship are positive, it creates an environment to be able to talk about challenges.
Our brain shifts when we laugh.
Have you ever been feeling down, and you hear a baby giggle? Your body changes, a smile spreads over your face, and you feel lighter and maybe even a little happier. You are able to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Many times, I see people with anxiety, the brain is locked in a negative pathway. My approach includes moving away from discussions on the negatives and I bring in some lightness, silliness, and humour.
When thinking about writing this blog a very special moment came to mind. I had been working with a teenage girl in a residential environment. We had built a very strong rapport, I worked with her almost daily. Life for Sista Gurl (not her real name) had been very traumatic, chaotic, and self-destructive. Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts were almost daily, changing in patterns of how she would end her life, cutting, overdosing, jumping in traffic and many more.
One morning I came onto shift and Sista Gurl was still in bed, which was unusual. I was informed the night before had been very challenging, she had attempted suicide and just returned from the hospital. I chirpily greeted her from the doorway, she was under her quilt, and she asked me to come in.
She announced, “I am going to kill myself today?”
After a brief chat and connecting with her, she told me she was going to stay in bed, and she was going to die from dehydration.
I paused and said “Ok, you know that takes a very long time and won’t you get bored in your room?”
I paused again and said helpfully, “You know we could make it a bit quicker and not so boring”.
She sat up, “How?”
I looked around her room and said, “Well you need to be hot; I reckon the best thing you could do is get up and put all your clothes on from your wardrobe and I will make a coffee and we can sit outside in the heat.”
She jumped out of bed with a face full of determination and started pulling her clothes out of her cupboard. I went to make the coffee.
I sat down in the kitchen sipping my coffee and explaining my madness to my colleague.
There was grunting, banging, and giggling coming from her room. I walked into the hallway, and suddenly she appeared from her room, looking like the Michelin man. Stumbling onto the ground, rolling around unable to get up and loudly laughing. We all had a great laugh, Sista Gurl looked up at me, and she said, “You’re an idiot, this will never work.”
I agreed and she rolled down the hall.
If she mentioned suicide to me again, I would look at her with a cheeky smile and ask her if she wanted my help and she would just belly laugh and tell me politely to go away.
I still laugh and smile every time I think of this situation.
The negative had no chance with silliness and laughter. This unconventional method would not have worked if we didn’t have a positive relationship. For me, this was also a lesson on working on the positive rather than the negative. She was more prone to go to the suicide pathway when she was being supported by people who hyper-focused on the negative.
So, if you’re not having a good day, put all your clothes on, be silly, and dance like everyone is watching you, spread the smile.