Taking Space

Posted on March 14,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I recently had cause to review my conflict intervention skills. Although the old IASSIST framework has gone the way of the dodo in favor of “Emotional First Aid”, the basic principals are the same. Space and time are the crux of almost any intervention with a child whose behaviors are screaming that they’ve left baseline.

We all use taking space as a go to strategy. Personally, I walk away from my troubled, overwrought brain and take a long shower. Other people I know go for a run (insanity!) or do yoga. When we fight with our spouse, our friends, or our coworkers we know enough to get some distance and let ourselves regain some perspective.

Simultaneously (well, across the same span of days) to this skill review, one of my clients stormed into the office and threw herself down in the chair opposite me before I had even registered the name of this gale force. She launched into a tale of drama and woe, of how maligned she had been by the captains of her sport. “Look!” she ranted, pulling out her iPhone. She proceeded to read aloud the texting fight that had begun in the late hours of the previous day and continued up through the present moment. In fact, the phone lit up and chirped while we were talking in the officer no less than 3 times, all from or about the evil captain.

It occurred to me that the one thing that really needed to happen might not be possible: she needed space from the argument (they both did), but between the constant texting, tweeting, and instagraming of the argument by both parties and by the other teammates, it was literally impossible. I asked her if she thought it would be a good idea to turn her phone off, even just for an hour. She looked at me blankly, and then said, “What good would that do? I can turn mine off. But not the ones of every kid who will come up to me and say ‘Did you see what she said?” And then I would panic even more.”

I continue to be amazed, and sad, by this. I cannot imagine what this constant state of anxiety and anger is doing to the brains of these young students. I know that constant high levels of cortisol (fear) literally impedes a person’s ability to form memories. What is all of this social media and technology doing to our students? Will they ever be able to turn off and tune out?Calvin&Hobbes