me kay cooke

Little Devil in the Classroom

What a devil of a job I had a few years ago, dealing with a young lad who thought he was a “bad kid”.

Adrian was one of the first kids in class 5 to catch my attention. He displayed unruly behaviour, shouting out and generally disagreeing with everyone, and anything. Physically he was loose toned and head down off to his left shoulder. His physiology was one of poor control yet quite tense. Verbally he was quick and articulate for his age though his vocabulary was negative and reactive. Emotionally he seemed upset defensive/offensive and unable to deal with unfairness. Energetically he seemed to be hurting.

Throughout the day he was uncooperative and vocal with a prevailing attitude of ‘I can’t do this, that or anything’. ‘I don’t like this, that or anything’. I asked him to be one of the demonstration subjects for a confidence/power game (One Point) and whilst he came up to the front, he polarity responded throughout and used literal interpretation as a means of obstruction i.e. “thank you Adrian, you can sit down now” so he simply sat down on the very spot he had been standing. He then preempted any (anticipated) disapproval with a challenge of “well you said sit down”. I suspected this was a learnt behavioural stance rather than true literal interpretation, which of course some children do have.

The final session activity of the day in class 5, was to have the 9 year olds imagine first, and then draw a picture of what they thought their brains might look like inside – metaphoric, creative, expressive and a celebration of uniqueness. Children love this drawing activity and this class soon got busy with colours, shapes, patterns, compartments, words, and other illustrations.As a general observation, girls generally draw lots of hearts and ‘love’ compartments and boys draw pulleys and levers.

Adrian drew a spiky brain (around top – outer) and then sat back in his chair, crossed his arms, and announced “I can’t do this”.

Curious as to his sense of ‘this is not possible’ I sat alongside him for a while, chatting about his ‘brain’ under the mantle of being a brain specialist. Building rapport, I stayed within his reality at first, building to enquiry using hypnotic language, pacing and leading. “What, until now, has stopped you drawing your brain?” I gently asked.

“I have the devil inside me” he replied.

Note: at this stage many parents, teachers, adults or friends would tell him not to be silly or that he was wrong. “Coooool” I said and he looked at me with suspicion “so where on the paper will you draw that?” I wanted to validate his belief in his belief without applying any meaning to the words he’d spoken.

Suddenly, he jolted forward into drawing mode, released from whatever thoughts had been holding him stuck, and busily detailing a red devil-like figure carrying a pitch fork surrounded by black cloud, rain and lightening. For the first time all day, he was totally clear and focused on this task.

Once finished, he sat back and gave me that look of ‘told you so …’ I then explained to Adrian some basic brain science in that all brains had opposite/balancing bits in them, and I wondered what this particular opposite/balancing part might be.

His little face lit up, “a golden angel” he said, “with golden sunshine beaming down” and I gently tapped (anchored through touch) his left shoulder in his moment of delight to discover something that had previously escaped his awareness. Freely, he drew his ‘balancer’ with great focus, care and attention.

Together we admired the new picture right in front of him showing two equal sized compartment of balance inside his brain, and he was now free to draw a full and complete drawing, just like the other children were busy doing.

For this who understand the process of stacking kinaesthetic anchoring, I gently touched his left (nearest to me) shoulder in exactly the same spot, each time he laughed, realised something new (insight) or spoke positively.

I explained to Adrian how we all had our own personalised version of these opposites inside our minds, but have a choice about how much attention to give each. I shifted my language into dissociated past tense when referring to ‘that little red guy’ (devil) and into associated present/future for this ‘golden angel’. He seemed calmer, less tense and asked if he could show his drawing to the class – first time all day he offered positive contribution.

So when the class was assembled on the mat, I asked Aiden to be my first ‘sharer’ at the front of the class and gently released the stacked anchors on his left shoulder as he began to quietly and methodically describe imagined workings of his mind. The children and teachers listened intently as he described the devil and the angel as opposite parts.

I asked the class to “put your hand up if you have ever experienced something just like that little red guy (pointing to devil) inside your mind” (leading with my hand in air) and almost all the class put their hands in the air, a total belief busting moment for Adrian. His faced flushed and he beamed a smile. I suspect that until that moment, he believed that he was a little devil, a menace, and had adapted and identity to fit the belief.

The class teacher and I also shared our experience of feeling that little red guy inside our heads sometimes too – even as grownups. Then we chatted as a class about the idea of an angel or some other balancer inside our heads – again the class  shared their experience of something similar.

I asked the class who could ride a bike (most) and who could ride a bike when they were 2 (none). So how did they get good at it …? And they replied loudly – ‘practise’. So I asked Adrian which of the little guys (behaviours) he might consider practising most and he beamed ‘the angel’.

I explained to the class that it’s quite ‘normal’ to feel pop up ideas of naughtiness and that’s OK – you have a new choice now – decide which behaviour you want to ‘practise’ through balancing. I gently fired the shoulder anchors that had been established earlier as he discussed his new choices.

Adrian was now, upright, symmetrical, smiling and appeared much stronger and happier and I asked him if I could come back in two weeks to check out how well he will have done by then (temporal language). He was happy with this. We waved the magic wand around Adrian and he pressed the sound buttons that said ‘easy’.

At the end of the day when I said goodbye to the children they all came up and gave me a hug – as did Aiden, only his hug lasted an eternity and I think he was getting used to feeling connected and good about himself.

I have more than total belief in the power that the tiniest of changes we can affect each day and today was about belief busting for one little boy.

Of course in this situation, I didn’t get to influence the system he lives in, home, school, family, friends, teachers and others. But I did get to challenge a limiting belief that was until that day, holding him back. I like to think that a little more resilience is now available to Adrian.

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