Thursday, March 18, 2010

Magical Thinking

I've started doing some extra work, some initial assessments and outpatient therapy with more children. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I am finding that this work is feeding me spiritually! Now I understand what Paul meant when he said "though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are growing day by day." As always, God knows just what I need and when I need it. Let me tell you this great story about a little boy I saw the other day.

This child is 8 years old and has a history of abuse and neglect. In our second session, he and I are playing, and I am watching for themes to begin to emerge in his play. Being the analytical adult I am, I am watching for themes of aggression, control, or anger. I am watching for re-enactments of abuse scenarios and perhaps bringing his perpetrator into our play. He surprises me, however, and points out that a little monster doll sitting in the corner is another child at school who has been bullying him. I walk my little princess doll over to Woody, the character he has chosen to represent himself, and say, "Hey, go over there and tell him to go away!" This child looks me in the eye terrified and says, "No, you do it." I realize that this child is not looking to exercise control or aggression. He just wants to feel protected by the adults in his life, so I tell him, "No problem. Let me take care of this." I walk my princess doll over to that monster and give him a thrashing of the MOST epic of proportions. He gets beat, kicked, punched, and utterly destroyed. All the while my client is laughing and jumping with glee. His joy is infectious and I begin laughing too. I tell that little monster, "There, take that! And if you ever mess with my friend again, I'll come back and do the same thing again! Now get out of here!" We take that monster and hide him behind a stack of books. I can tell that the mother, who is looking on, doesn't know whether to laugh with us or be horrified.

That was last week, so I was excited to see my little friend again this week. I ask his Mom how things have been and she says she's seeing improvement. I ask my client about the bully and he smiles and says, "Oh, we're friends now." This is the power of a child's magical thinking and the magic of play! It is so refreshing to me, watching the innocence with which children mold their little worlds. They don't need to read a book about bullies or go to the seminar. They don't need to call a meeting or talk it out-- not that there is anything at all wrong with those methods of change. But those are adult methods.

I'm being reminded of the child's methods of change, which require immense faith. Children make magical connections where none seem to exist in the real world. Sometimes this is to their detriment, such as making the erroneous connection that Dad left the home because they (the child) were not smart enough or assuming they are being abused because they are bad children. I am being reminded through these precious little kids, sometimes feeling good is as simple as just believing it to exist. Sometimes feeling powerful is thrashing a stuffed doll or, in my case, defeating a sink full of dishes. Somewhere along the way, we lose some of the magic of thinking, and I'm so grateful to be reminded I can still pick that skill up when I need it. If I want to feel peaceful today, it starts with a little play. When the little girl inside me is laughing with delight, just like my client the other day, you know it's going to be a great day.

Photo above found at:


  1. What a wonderful and magical post! Thank you for sharing made my day...good work!!!

  2. What a wonderful reminder. I work with kids every day and their sparkle and spontaneity are what keep me coming back, even in the midst of the power struggles and pain.

    So glad this little boy is in your life!

  3. Melissa, I am always delighted when you come to my blog and share your comments. I love the analogy of leaving the "naggy pet" behind. Thank you for the link.

    I can only tell you, that it is by God's grace that I am so open. I never was. Never could be. Never knew how to. It is through Him that helps me say and encourages me to tackle my pain. Yeah, I certainly do not want to go there..... but I know without a doubt that I have to in order to be set free.

    Thank you again for your encouraging words! Means a whole heck of a lot to me!!


  4. It was lovely to meet you today, Melissa. You have a fascinating blog. I look forward to getting to know you better. It seems like you are a gift to troubled children, and that is absolutely wonderful.