I wrote this for my other blog but I believe this applies here too.
I get news of conferences for education. One of them pointed out an issue that children and those with PTSD struggle.
The Size of the Problem
|Problems happen all the time – perhaps you dropped your ice cream cone on the floor or you locked your keys in the car. When a problem happens, is it a small or big problem? How do you know how to react to it? For many students with social learning challenges, they may find it difficult to answer those questions.
A problem is something that happens that was not part of the plan AND makes people feel uncomfortable. When problems occur, we may often experience feelings such as sadness, stress, or frustration, and these feelings can impact our reactions – what we show on the outside. It is expected that our reactions match the size of the problem. For example: crying would be expected if one of your grandparents passed away (a big problem), but might not be expected if you spilled juice (a small problem).
|When someone’s reaction matches the size of the problem, people are more understanding of the behavior. When someone’s reaction is bigger than the size of the problem, people may feel uncomfortable by the behavior. The four key concepts below can help individuals learn to self-regulate as they work through their problems:
- Problems come in different sizes
- Your feelings about the problem can come in different sizes
- Your feelings can impact the size of your reaction
- It is expected to match the size of the reaction to the size of the problem
A big reaction to a small problem.
It is important to note that we should not tell students what to feel – rather, it is okay to feel what they feel, but they must be aware of their behavior and how it influences others. In order to help others feel comfortable, students must make sure their reactions match the size of the problem.
This becomes an issue in two ways. There are situations that start out as small events that have massive reactions. Known as triggers, these events can provoke out of proportion responses. PTSD also creates another type of response to a problem. That is under-reacting. Someone told me about a misbehaving child. I thought the behaviors weren’t all that bad because I had seen much worse. The other person reacted very strongly about my lack of response. I also noticed that after cancer, strep throat was no big deal. Some people think I don’t care when it reality, compared to what I experienced I judged the situation to be not that big a problem as the person suffering thought it was. These two extreme reactions of either over or under reacting can create problems in relationships. I work at remembering when a person is expressing their distress over some horrible experience, I remind myself that for them it is the worse thing to happen to them.
A way to combat triggers is to excuse myself from a situation and slow down my knee jerk reaction in private. Grounding is another tool to use when confronted with an overwhelming situation. For under-reacting, I practice being aware of the other person’s point of view. When possible, I often retreat, give myself time to brace myself for thinking over my reaction. If that is not an option I actively try to imagine how the other person is feeling by their body language, words, tones, and other visual behaviors that. Part of the human experience is responding to different forms of trauma to our selves and those we care about. How we respond to those challenges, that indicates who we are. I believe that I learn more about another person in times of stress than I ever do when life is going along calmly.