Head in the Clouds
Fantasy and imagination are vital to our everyday lives; novels, TV dramas, theatre, music and art all take us out of our own existence and into disasters, love stories, adventures. We work out what we feel and think about our own situations, even rehearse what we might do in similar circumstances.
Memories are a way of building our identity and sense of self. They are often not factual, as we will always be interpreting events through the lens of what we know and feel at the time alongside our interpretations of other people’s motives. I have vivid memories, crafted over the years from family stories, linked sometimes to photographs. Every time I tell the story it becomes stronger as a memory. The truth is in there somewhere!
Children blur the lines so brilliantly at Forest School, spotting dragons, hearing dinosaurs and bears. They act out super hero play, regularly die gruesome deaths, trap dangerous adversaries, negotiate freedom and resolve conflicts. They face the tough stuff of life in their play when they are given time and freedom to express themselves.
Play is the road to mastery of our thoughts and emotions. Fantasy and imagination let us explore the world, use trial and error to find out how life works and learn to solve problems.
Play therapists, like our wonderful friends at Clear Sky, make use of this brilliant brain function; with skilful practitioners children are guided, tapping into memories and reframing them to recreate new neural pathways. They are able to ‘retrain’ their body’s physical responses, learning ways of calming themselves when anxious, learning and believing that they do have agency in situations.
Coaches and therapists recognise the power of interior monologues, they know that what we focus on we think, and then believe to be true.
“The brain is actually reshaped by our experiences. That means that every discussion, argument, joke or hug we share with someone else literally alters our brain and that of the other person”- The Whole-Brain Child by Dr Dan Siegel
How wonderful then that at Forest School children and young people learn that they are hugely capable, they know what scared can feel like and are able to practise and reenact behaviours that will keep them safe as they face life’s ups and downs?