Decoding is a critical first step to respectfully connecting with a person who is experiencing negative emotions and expressing those emotions in sometimes harmful or self-harming behaviors. Three critical steps to decoding someone’s behavior are: To observe the behavior, To ask what the person might be feeling, and To acknowledge their feeling. A recent example of decoding I used was with a young man I’d not met before whom I was asked to interview. I introduced myself and asked him if he would mind if I spoke with him. He sat in the chair, crossed his arms and had a scowl on his face (not a happy camper). My decoding went like this: 1. Observe: Tommy, I noticed you have your arms crossed and your jaws clenched, 2. Ask: Are you angry? He responded with a yes. (If he would have said no, I simply would have asked; What are you feeling?) 3. Acknowledge: I can see you’re angry. (An empathic response that provides connection) I then asked him what caused him to be angry and he said was angry because he was supposed to be at another activity he was looking forward to. We then went on and had a … Continue reading
Have you ever noticed how ‘other people’ (not you of course) do things and say things that quite obviously makes things worse for themselves instead of better. They appear to have a genuine lack of awareness that these behaviors are counter-productive and self-defeating.
The short clip below involving a dog protecting his bone is a perfect representation of the blindness of self-defeating behavior and the self-inflicted pain it can cause. Like the dog protecting its bone, our children are protecting themselves in ways that without any understanding to others looking on appears to be counter-productive and self-harming.
In our work with youth we understand that behavior has meaning and purpose and is needs based. We view their sometimes outrageous behaviors as their best attempt to meet one of the basic needs for safety, belonging, achievement, power, purpose or adventure. With this understanding in mind, we incorporate therapeutic interventions so that the youth in our care gain insight into their self-defeating patterns of behavior and think about and incorporate healthy ways to express their emotions to get their needs met. Some of the interventions we utilize at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch include Life Space Crisis Intervention and The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics.
Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy and Maia Szalavitz, an award-winning health and science journalist are the authors of this pivotal work about trauma and the developing brain. The book is collection of stories of some of many the children and families Dr. Perry has worked with during the span of his career as a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. Why we love this book: 1. Each chapter is a distinct case history and is written in an engaging narrative format. 2. The stories explore many crucial concepts related to neurodevelopment including the stress response system (freeze, fight, or flight), associations and attachment. 3. With each case study, Dr. Perry breaks down complex concepts into small, understandable pieces making this book a great learning and teaching tool. Why You Should Read This Book: Statistics clearly illustrate if you work with children you will likely encounter more than a few that have been exposed to trauma, violence, chaos and neglect. The Boy That Was Raised as a Dog illustrates how the different types of trauma effect emotions, behavior and a child’s ability to learn, and create and maintain relationships. Throughout the text Dr. Perry offers clear … Continue reading