Sometimes we just need a good story:

“When I am having a hard time or a really stressful time, I get to go to my mentor and forget about all my problems, or even talk it through with them. Most of the time we play games or exchange surprise treats for each other. It honestly feels like I have a best friend outside of school who can come visit. Even if it’s just an hour it feels like a whole day with my mentor. So I appreciate my mentor for being there for me and listening to my problems, and being a fun, loveable, and understanding person.”
– FHS Senior

Last week we talked about connection through empathy using one simple sound or phrase as our “go to” response while listening to understand.

This week we learn that connection calms.

Dr. Daniel Siegel (clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and director of the Mindsight Institute) puts it this way: “Connection …moves them out of a reactive state and into a state where they can be more receptive…moves them toward a place where they can hear us, learn and even make their own whole brain decisions… When the emotional gauge gets turned up, connection is the modulator that keeps the feelings from getting too high…What connection does essentially, is to integrate the brain.”

He goes on to create a visual picture of how this integration looks and feels by describing someone in a canoe floating down a river. Perhaps life is not perfect, but the river is reasonably calm and the pilot of the canoe is feeling secure in the water, moving along, and ready to adapt to changing conditions. As long as the canoe stays balanced in the center, all is well.

However, Seigel reminds us that sometimes there are rapids that make life feel out of control and chaotic. At those times the pilot of the canoe may feel anxious or angry; the smallest obstacles feel overwhelming. Also, he says that sometimes we may go up against the solid bank of rigidity on the shore. At these times we fight our situation by being stuck in expecting the world to be the way we think it should be, and we want to control the stream instead of flowing within it. In either scenario, we lose the ability of healthy flexibility and our emotions get in the way.

Maybe your student feels this way at times—we all do! In these situations, connection with another person (like a mentor!) can help us regain the calm we need to keep afloat. The care and perspective of another can guide us back to the center of the river. When we are balanced, calm, and integrated, we are able to learn and make better decisions.

Adapted from No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D, c. 2014

Connection Calms

Which relationships in your life could benefit from applying these principles?