Why young people need our intervention
As a teacher for over 15 years, I became aware of the increasing demand for further support provisions in schools, and noticed the gaps in the PSHE curriculum.
I noticed so many young people suffering in silence and shamed into oppressing their struggles.
My story below aims to highlight the impact of childhood adversity on learning. In particular, raising awareness of how trauma can lead to:
1- Disruptions in learning
2- Apathy and reduced motivation
3- The encoding of destructive thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.
A Night of inner turmoil
It is a cool, late night in the summer of 1994. The streets threaten a restlessness that has never been felt before, as we slice through the night air on high alert.
My mother and I sit side by side in her dishonourable green Skoda, as we attempt to manoeuvre around the dense emotions projected into awkward conversations. Something about Tony Blair’s newly elected presence in our economy or how funny we found the movie ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.
Parklife, by Blur is playing on the radio and the contrast between its light-hearted melody and my surfacing anguish release conflict in my mind. These emotions dominate my very being but I push them down into the pits of my stomach.
In an attempt to lighten the mood we continue this cycle, all the while holding back the pervading inner dialogue that screams: where is he and is he still alive?
My brother had run away from home again. He was 13 at the time. I was 15. Although older I was still a child in all rights but felt more woman than you could possibly imagine. I was more protector and nurturer than any 15 year-old should ever have to be to their parents. It was as if I had unearthed a powerful force inside me that was more earth goodness, more warrior protector, more mother gia and father source than I could every be as one person alone and used this power to channel my ancestral strength into healing.
It seemed so natural to take on the suffering of others I didn't even consider that I was still a child that had a life to life myself. I hadn’t even been given the chance to how into my adult self yet but I had happened upon the role in an instant.
I was too accustomed to absorbing my family pain to know the difference.
At the time I thought this was a choice, because I believed that without my family I might wither away and die. At the tender age of 15 I chose to carry the weight of my family’s suffering, because I was too afraid to live without them, not even considering the impact that being the family savour might have on my soul.
After several hours of searching, I felt my mind wander from thoughts of school and the exams I had the next day, back to my mother’s tear-stained face. Frantically, eyeing the road in search of any clue of him. In these moments time slowed to an unbearable pace. Each minute of silence threatened to endure for eternity and the overwhelming nature of it all sat heavy on my chest. Regardless, I was her comfort and I knew she needed me and so we both endured the pain quietly. Waiting for some sign that he might still exist.
Embracing our suffering was easier somehow as we knew we had each other. And I… like her vessel…permitted the sorrow to pour into me. As each tear fell down her face they became more vicious than the last and finally cascaded down to pierce my heart.
Misunderstandings and Ridicule with Little Miss Makeup
In class the next morning focus eluded me. My mind was foggy with exhaustion and I could feel my heart break each time I flashed back to my mothers’ tear-strained face. I just couldn’t think about work when there was so much pain in my heart and mind. Little Miss Makeup, my class teacher for the day and deputy headteacher, didn’t appear to have a clue about how much I was suffering and had the empathy of a succubus.
Miss Make up was a tiny teacher of about 4ft 10 in her late 50s with so many layers of makeup on her face that it clung to her wrinkles like cement, hence the nickname.
“Karen!” She screamed. “Are you stupid?” I looked around as my mind drifted somewhere in between the conscious and subconscious state, struggling to gain clarity on what was happening. “Why can’t you focus? I’m teaching the class about …and you’re not even listening. You will never amount to anything if you keep this up!” She said, pointing her wrinkly finger at me in a vindictive attack. She finally took a breath and then started again. “In fact, I can’t even be bothered with you…just get out and stand outside.”
The sheer humiliation brought on by her aggressive tirade overwhelmed me, but I managed to pull my semi-conscious mind back to reality and fought for control over the tears welling behind my eyes. Stepping out of the class, my head hung low in humiliation and I quickly turned my back to the door to conceal the tears from my classmates. My emotions resided somewhere between self-hatred and resentment for ‘Little Miss Makeup’.
How dare she! I thought! She didn’t have a clue about what I was going through and she obviously thought I was beneath her. My mind searched for clues as to how I could get back at her and save face but my lack of self- worth dominated my conscious mind. Images flitted between my father’s emotional and physical violence and mental health issues to my mother’s imposing and continuous criticism and transference of blame to my brother’s recent disappearance and a subconscious rage rose up inside me.
Not wanting to embarrass myself further, I found an inner state of knowing and began to focus on my breathing. Like a thermometer the fury began to subside and I venomously wiped the tears away from my face, pushed the sadness deep down inside and found my clown suit in preparation for my new role. I mustered up a mischievous grin that never failed to amuse the class and popped my head in front of the glass window to see if my friends were looking. Alarmingly, I was greeted with not only the board rubber ricocheting against the window but an angry Little Miss Makeup’s pacing towards the door and I ran. “GO TO THE HEADMASTER’S OFFICE NOW!!!!” She yelled at the top of her voice.
You see, I had become accustomed to being sent out of class and often missed lessons. Eventually I was too far behind to keep up and despite being set in all the top classes at the start of the year rapidly moved down to the lower sets where I found plenty of additional trouble awaiting my attention.
I never let anyone know the suffering that I was going through at home; I was too embarrassed. My mother always said, “We keep family business in the privacy of our home” and I knew that if I told anyone about the abuse, the suffering, and emotional turmoil, I would be disappointing her and breaking her heart. And that was the worst pain of all. Disappointing the person that I sought so desperately to please.
I was eventually labelled as “stupid” a term I became quite familiar with and believed for many years without protest. The final confirmation of this was when I left school with poor exam grades and limited options for my future.
Little did I know that the habit of taking my mother’s pain would eventually lead to a cataclysmic complexity of grief when she lost her life to cancer and I was unable to save her.
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Why chose us?
Our intervention resilience workshops aim to prevent this by providing relative fun and interactive medium to release trapped trauma.
My extensive research on the topic through my MA, DTLLS, Life Coaching, N.L.P and neuroscience and additional psychotherapeutic healing research, I have learned that…
Suffering is often silent: many young people don’t feel safe enough to open up to share due to the shame this might bring onto the family they love.
Children need to feel safe, understood and nurtured to open up and heal core trauma responses.
Learning can be disrupted due to a preoccupation with problems at home.
Releasing core issues and concerns can help re-focus on learning
Teachers often don’t have the time to keep up with the numerous psycho social demands children have.
Support groups can be created and nurtured with students themselves if a foundation is taught. Creating a generational cycle of positive thoughts, beliefs, habits and behaviours.
External interventional practices that are fun, practical and reflective are most effective.
Young people need positive role models as they often don’t have positive external influences at home.
These beliefs lead to repetitive thoughts, beliefs, habits and behaviours that can seriously damage future life outcomes.
We can solve these problems through interventions that include positive re-enforcements, reframing techniques, Mindfulness tools, N.L.P imagination exercises and therapeutic drama practices.