By P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht,
I hoped those two sessions would stop Davy’s nightmares. I guess it takes more.
Davy had a nightmare about Larry again. It seemed so unfair to Claire that after such a great session with Dr. Berman, he should have a nightmare. Still, she knew what to do when it happened in the middle of the night. First, she hugged him for a few minutes. She then looked down into his eyes and asked him if the black scary thing was gone. He shook his head with tears going down his face.
Claire then read him one of his favorite stories, “Good night moon.” She read it very slowly twice through, letting him say the last line of each page. By that point, he wasn’t clutching her any more. He was sitting next to her. At the end, he looked up and said, “Mommy, I feel better but still scared.”
“Okay Davy, we haven’t practiced yet but let’s get out the fish!” Claire said this in a very dramatic, funny voice, which at least briefly made Davy smile. She took his hand and led him to her room and over to the dresser where the fish bowl was resting. She looked at him and said, “the first step is to remind yourself it is okay to be scared but you help yourself become calm instead. Okay, lets close our eyes for a second and say out loud that big black things are scary, but we can help ourselves to calm instead.”
Davy said out loud, “I’m scared but I can become calm.” Claire whispers to Davy, “Are we calm yet?”
Davy opens his eyes and looks seriously at his mom and shakes his head no. She nods back and whispers, “close your eyes again.” Once Davy’s eyes are closed Claire says, “in the second step, we take four deep breathes so our chests feel ready to explode”. Claire makes really big noises getting her breaths and letting them out, then she says, “are you taking deep breathes Davy?” “I’m not sure mommy.” (1-minute pause) “Okay Davy, this is a hard step. Let’s open our eyes and you can watch me taking big monster breaths.” Claire puts Davy’s right hand on her chest and says, “feel these small breaths,” she takes a few short breaths. (1-minute pause) “Could you feel those?” (Davy nods) “Here is a bigger kind of breath.” Claire takes a big breath and then lets it out. “Could you feel the difference?” (Davy nods) “Okay, now here come the monster breaths I want you to take. I will noise drawing as much air into my body as I can. Then, I will slowly let the breaths out making the noise last as long as possible. Did you feel how monstrously big those last breaths were?” (Davy nods)
“It’s your turn now Davy. I am going to put my hand on your chest. First, take a small breath.” “Could you feel it mommy?” “Yes, I could Davy. Now, try to push my hand up taking a big breath.” Davy started out taking a breath but then started coughing. “That’s okay, try again,” Claire said soothingly. Davy took another big breath. “That was great Davy, you were really pushing.” (1-minute pause) “Davy, do you think you can do the big monster breaths?” Davy stares back at her for a moment and then nods. “Okay, go Davy go.” Davy can’t make much noise pulling air into his lungs, but he makes such funny noises letting the air out that Claire starts laughing.
“Davy, your monster breaths made me feel so happy and relaxed. How do you feel?” Davy cocks his head to one side and says, “I think I am relaxed now mommy. Could you read Good Night Moon one more time before I go to sleep?” “Of course, my Davy.”
When someone is really scared like Davy, it isn’t surprising they need a lot of help letting go of the fear. There are many forms of relaxation; different people find different forms of relaxation helpful. Some use deep breathing like Claire is teaching Davy. Some use tensing and relaxing muscles, desensitization, hypnosis, yoga and so forth.
If you think a fear of something is interfering in you leading the life you want, consider trying one or more of these strategies to help you. WebMD (https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#1) discusses 10 different relaxation strategies: remember, if you are really terrified it may take more than one technique.
Knowing that other children have witnessed violence too could also help children like Davy. A book that helps children understand this is called, “A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma