Welcome to the world of little ones and their secret, poetic language. When a five-year-old adopted from China can express her lack of personal value non-verbally in play and name the feeling "the pile of none," it may be time for adults to tune into children's play and non-verbal communication on a deeper level.
The metaphorical language of very young children accurately reflects the story of their experiences and relationships, but it is too often dismissed by adults as merely child's play. Parenting plans, weighty court decisions and child investigations that disregard the non-verbal testimony of children can contribute to bending a child's development in the wrong direction damaging his or her life-long journey. Because of this miscommunication, children are often forced to spend time with the very people who hurt them and endure years of feeling invalidated, invisible, and powerless.
It is common knowledge that childhood stories shape adult lives. In transforming old, worn-out stories about one's identity, the individual may discover how much happiness may be embraced by re-claiming one's true identity. We the Children invites the reader to begin the process of becoming empowered by first transforming any story in which he or she is a victim into one in which the reader might emerge feeling fully empowered. Personal empowerment opens the imagination by converting negative messages about oneself learned in childhood into affirmations as to what is good about us now - ask yourself - what degree of freedom could be obtained?
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Read an Excerpt
We, the Children
The Hidden Language of Children
By Victoria McGuinness
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Victoria McGuinness
All rights reserved.
We, the Children
We, the children ... are as vulnerable as we are strong, as ignorant as we are wise, as powerful as we are powerless, as naughty as we are nice, and as angry as we are sweet. We, the children, are here to help save and serve the world but also need the world to serve and save us. We are you embracing and expressing all of what humanity has become. We are here to remind you that what is done to children is done to everyone, everywhere. Look around. We are reaping what you have sown, and we, the children, are not pleased. We have been described as the Indigo Children, the Psychic Ones; we have been over-diagnosed with disorders, at times governed by too much medication. We are suffocating from too much information, too many rules, not enough nature — absorbing too many violent images, including many reflecting a very fragile future no matter where we live. Because we are losing our innocence sooner, experiencing the end of childhood sooner than any previous generations, we need to connect with you as spiritual equals. We are the creative problem solvers, and you need our help; we are psychic, brilliant, sensitive, callous, defiant, and demanding. You have to earn our respect; it is no longer a given.
Entering into a child's world through play or other child-oriented actions is one way to communicate respect for the young child's plight on the planet and thereby gain more respect for adults in general.
Play therapy is easily very supportive of children and has a long history. Rousseau (1930-1962) wrote that learning about children by watching their play helps people understand them better. In the early 1900s, Anna Freud used small toys and sand trays to diagnose young children and help children reveal feelings from the inside out. Play is both ancient and universal, but for some reason, the tendency to discount play as meaningful prevails. Dismissing child's play as merely that — child's play and therefore trivial — continues as a form of prejudice against their language. Because children are denied a voice, there are times when their rights are severely denied, dismissed, and deemed unimportant.
This is a book about integrating early childhood communication, play therapy, systems, and the generally invisible dimensions of our beings. In the 1940s, Dr. Virginia Mae Axline, PhD, wrote Dibs in Search of Self, one of the first books that revealed the genius and power of play therapy. Dibs's wealthy parents had brought him to Virginia, a clinical psychologist, for therapy under the dark cloud of shame. At five years old, he wasn't talking or playing with his peers. Instead, Dibs hid for hours behind a couch or inside a closet. Believing their son to be "retarded" (in the vernacular of the day), his parents took him to play therapy with Virginia.
To make a long story short, the adults discover that Dibs was, in fact, a genius who had been reading volumes behind the couch or inside the closet to avoid his cold and rejecting mother and virtually absent father, a live-from-the-neck-up money-making machine. Imagine their surprise as the truth of who their child was humbled themby the truth of who their child was. It is important to note that back in 1947, Dr. Axline felt that children were hurried and rushed in life; they were out of sync with their naturally slower pace — they needed time to absorb and integrate experiences. Need I say more?
In 2015, children are simply unable to keep up with the information overload they are almost constantly exposed to. Talk about rushing development. Humans clearly appear to have evolved — but not this fast.
This is a book of true stories contained in the metaphors children have created, one as young as twenty-three months. Toys expand a child's vocabulary, allowing a full-body expression of feelings and experiences. The purpose is to master the internal and external reality, both positive and negative. When fantasy or make-believe is involved, this is generally easy to recognize.
People use fantasy to survive difficult situations or enhance pleasant ones. This is the truth of purpose most fantasy play expresses in the playroom. For example, "bad guys" can symbolize negative thoughts and feelings, maybe about other people or about the children themselves; either way, the content of this play contains real projections of each child's experiences as he or she works to master them. Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to engage in depth in emotional work that produces self-affirming behavior from the inside out.
Ultimately, this book isn't a scientific work but a work of the heart I generated after witnessing over two thousand soul journeys young children expressed in a therapeutic playroom. I prefer the term soul journeys to case studies. There, children's natural storytelling abilities are enhanced because they don't always need to use words to communicate.
One of the youngest children to regain developmental mastery over this stage of her life was the daughter of divorcing medical doctors; she was twenty-three months old. Maya's mother had brought her to therapy to see why she wouldn't eat or sleep at day care. Maya's mother had a busy medical practice, and Maya was losing weight as her mother lost sleep. They had reached a critical point in life.
Within just a few sessions, Maya set up a table and chairs in the dollhouse and chose a gray-haired doll to represent the adult, whom she showed pacing around the children in the chairs. Then she tossed the older woman out the playhouse window. Maya repeated this play over and over in that session, so I asked her mother who was in charge of giving the children their snacks and supervising nap-time. Her mother told me it was an older woman.
"Does she have gray hair?" I asked. She did. I said, "Well, Maya doesn't like her."
Much to the mother's surprise, Maya was less upset about the divorce than about the day care woman she didn't like. After a suggestion that someone else should serve the meals and supervise napping, Maya ate and slept, and her mother recovered from her exhaustion.
This is a book about knowing versus perception; this knowing is a marriage of intellect and heart. Ultimately, intellect is the triumph of the ego, and in these days of ego dominance, the longings and needs of our collective spiritual hearts are being silenced. The human ego needs nurturance and connection to blossom into balance and health possessing positive human traits; a damaged or maladaptive ego leads to selfishness or violence and other negative human traits. Children contain the natural push to heal; adults need reminders. This is a book of reminders of what it means to be human — and of what we know viscerally without external proof. We contain both the darkness and the light of humanity. As children, we may not have a choice, but as adults we do and the darkness cannot exist in the light. But we are both. We've made a mistake to try and eradicate our darker natures and increase their strength by denying this half of ourselves. Integration of the duality leads to kindness and compassion; accepting we are both is the key.
Although I'm a fan of scientific research and applaud myself when science validates my ideas, beliefs influence even the most objective of researchers and scientists — most importantly, their unconscious beliefs. The parts of our lives that aren't working or aren't satisfying reflect the inner power of the unconscious to influence our lives by disrupting the illusion of control we have over our own feelings and behaviors. The symbols of our physical lives represent the deeper meanings and influences of our inner worlds. The power of the unconscious is unstoppable. So many adults who lost their parents to death when they were children find their own children experiencing the same loss in their childhood. We are seemingly powerless over the projection of what lies deep inside us, that which seeks to manifest outwardly. Do you ever feel as if you married your mother or father? That's the unconscious in action.
Remembering the language of childhood — the intensity and depth of children's feelings, the impact of the imprint of learning and brain formation motivated by innate curiosity, and the magical world of nature — provides a bridge between what is passing and what is coming. Now, in the twenty-first century, more than ever, remembering what it's like to be someone's beloved child or someone's inconvenience, to be an extension of a parent, to provide a whipping post, or to relive any other childhood experience is an important part of assisting in global healing or a better kind of global warming. The world we have bequeathed to our children requires that we bridge the generational gap with love. The power of all children's stories is to bridge a vital connection between adults and children as the world shifts on its axis, both literally and metaphorically. If we were truly created because God loves stories, then we haven't disappointed the power that is, call that life-force God, Allah, Buddha or Jesus – call it energy.
Although We, the Children isn't research heavy, there is plenty of concrete research to support its message, particularly on the subject of the value and power of play therapy. I cannot resist the urge to say that the reference section at the end of this book is as complete as I could get it to be. I suppose one of the effects of my childhood is to be a curmudgeon in certain areas. Because I decided to rewrite the research and statistics sections of the book instead of asking for permission to use copyrighted material (even if posted on the Internet), the lack of supporting evidence for the assertions in this book may be apparent. Being an avid reader myself, I enjoy a direct message from the author, so I took this risk of being less intellectual and more feelings based.
The concept that using our intellect is all we need helps to support the illusion that we have control over a vast and unknowable universe. But Mother Nature often reminds us that this belief just isn't so, often in the shape of a screaming toddler.
Research and statistics have an essential place in our world, but frankly, they can be used to prove or disprove just about anything, and all data is flawed. Intellect and technology have done as much harm to humans as they have helped, taking time better spent nourishing our hearts and souls. When children play about this kind of loss, they almost always choose a robber as a character. Children know when they are being robbed of something they need: a relationship or a certain type of nurturing or experience. Have we robbed them of a place to live? Have we robbed them of a human connection? Are we all being programmed to allow our phones, rather than our inner knowing, to control us? I can tell you the answer is not out there somewhere.
Watching the news, we see only the form of a person; people are black, white, gay, straight, trans, male, female, and so on. We are blind to seeing the content of a person's character or soul, and adults need to open their spiritual eyes and teach the facts of our shared humanness to children.
Increasingly, the same argument is used to support two totally divergent points of view. For example, the saying "God doesn't make mistakes" justifies both that gay and trans people are sinners and that they are just being who they are. The age-old justification for violent religious wars is that "God is on our side," which somehow justifies murder in the name of God; oddly, everyone believes he or she is the chosen, so maybe we all are.
Simply put, the children's stories are a departure from pure intellectualism from the neck up only because experiencing and knowing are different. This is a personal and universal truth. Many adults who are strongly biased against their own children's preferences or expressions overcome this bias only by discovering the content of their own children's true inner natures. It is by knowing a person's inner being that we can eradicate prejudice and hate, but as the world spins, we don't seem to have time for this. New data, flawed or not, supports the notion that visualization and imagination create reality. Science is still catching up with the idea that showing kids how to envision how things can be, or how they want them to be, will increase their chances of achieving their goals such as surviving or thriving in spite of their parent's divorce.
Divorce used to be a shocking event, but beliefs change over time. Social constructs we've held near and sacred, such as marriage, are still dear and sacred; they're just expressed in a different form.
It took scientist fifty years to prove that breast milk is better for babies than formula. To seek evidence is necessary, I suppose, but feeding your baby a manufactured formula, unless medically necessary, is an example of a thought system propelled by the ego in the world, and clearly it's becoming more impossible to decide what is good to eat, think, drink, and so on, because the evidence keeps changing. Advancing from superstition and mythologies to what we can see and touch as reality, humanity sought truth through science. Now the pendulum has swung too far into a so-called rational thought system that isn't really rational at all, thanks to evidence from the depleted state of our earth and the horrors of racial relations. Just about anyone with eyes can see that in spite of the efforts of many, who keep trying to heal the separations created by age, color, preferences, and so on, we are in worse shape than ever. There are just too many humans on earth for us to be violent or aggressive; it's like a wildfire that catches and burns. When the pendulum swings back, the human heart might just be sliced in half.
The body or ego and the spirit of the human soul don't share the same thought system and are, in fact, quite opposite. The rise in popularity of systems of yoga, mindfulness and other practices to integrate the mind and body may be pointing to our need to reconcile duality; body and soul, mind and brain, ego and spirit.
Children seem to come straight from heaven (or occasionally from hell). Either way, it takes time for children to be domesticated and programmed into the thought system of the world. As human beings, we seem to enter the world in a state of grace and wisdom. Our communication is clear. We cry when in distress, we smile when pleased.
These days, however, the pre-K children are as controlling as past generations were in middle school or high school. Programming for social competition appears to be happening to children at much younger ages and faster than their minds and bodies can keep up with. Kids are exposed to information overload. The bombarding of our children with information adds unprecedented challenges to normal development, and these days, it's like trying to stop a speeding bullet. Mindfulness is the key that unlocks the door of prevention. The children are the culmination of humankind; they need calm aware adults at their side to guide them.
I wonder if Erick Erickson's psychosocial stages of development (1950, 1963) will have to be revised to suit the new ones. Children are certainly doing things sooner and faster and rather competently. The stages of healthy human development must occur in order to preserve our species; the planet will survive but will we?
Infancy: Able to communicate needs expertly — The true task of Infancy is to establish an inner climate of trust instead of mistrust fostering a sense of hope about being human and cared for. Erickson viewed hope as a basic human virtue developed in Infancy or the first fourteen or fifteen months of life. Adults need to securely attach to their infant because millennial generation is becoming known for its lack of trust.
Toddler: Can operate Xbox, the Wii, your phone, etc. So how distracting are these additional tasks? Since this is a time to build a brain that is autonomous and active engaged in life with a strong but flexible will or ego?
These are simply questions to consider the main one being how does a constant interface with technology shape a child's sense of self, relationship and the social construction of their world? How does this interface change the directions of a wonderfully plastic and adaptable brain?
The threat to be aware of is the feeling of competition children feel when one of their peers nets five million from a U-tube video or an idea that takes off. Geez! Should I just go get a job?
Excerpted from We, the Children by Victoria McGuinness. Copyright © 2015 Victoria McGuinness. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 We, the Children, 1,
Chapter 2 A Crash Course in Experiential Play Therapy; Norton's Model and Beyond, 18,
Chapter 3 The Children's Stories, 25,
Chapter 4 Child Sexual Abuse, 52,
Chapter 5 See, Hear, and Speak No Evil, 58,
Chapter 6 The Broken Truth, 75,
Chapter 7 The Price of Assumptions, 78,
Chapter 8 More Therapists' Thoughts, 84,
Chapter 9 Todd's Story of Military Deployment and Two More Views, 94,
Chapter 10 LGBTQ Children and All Garden Varieties, 98,
Chapter 11 What Siblings Know, 110,
Chapter 12 The Play of Death, 113,
Chapter 13 The Children's Bill of Rights, 126,