Maybe everything we needed to know we did learn in kindergarten…
When trauma comes into our lives, we turn into children, most likely a five-year-old. We tell ourselves, “it’s okay”, we call our Mom or Dad, and sing our favorite songs to get our minds off whatever has us twisted.
First, we go into shock and freeze. We stand still, blink when our vision goes blurry, and figure out what hurts. Then we react accordingly, and usually irrationally. Many of us go hide in a corner until our thoughts make sense again. We spit out words that we normally wouldn’t like, “Oh my god!” or “Why me?” then we go look for help, like we were taught in kindergarten.
If you are scared, lost, or hurt, look for an adult you trust.
So naturally, we find one. We tell them what happened, even the scariest of details, or we point to what hurts. Sometimes it’s our hearts that hurt. They always have told us that “telling the story helps get it out of your head”. Although I believed that as a kid, nowadays as a 28-year-old, that’s harder to do sometimes.
But as kids we recite the experience, the trauma replays in our minds, and the adult gives us a hug, a glass of milk and sends us back to play – even if the thing we are scared of still exists. The adult essentially listens, reassures that we are strong, and sends us back into the world that remains a haunting place filled with traumatic events.
Your friends will have your back.
They approach so smoothly and at the exact right time we need them. We identify who our truest friends are. They ask “what’s wrong?” and comfort us. We learn what friendship is, what kind of people we need to be ourselves, and how to be happy in kindergarten. They also learn how to bring us to a smile in a bad time. No kindergartener is fake; quite the opposite. Five-year-olds are building their public foundation on who they are outside of their mother’s eyesight. It’s the first independent move of one’s life.
Get your mind off of the trauma.
“Why don’t you lie down and take a nap? You’ll feel better after you rest.” You know what? They are right. Naps give us time to digest what happened, get ahold of reality, and awake to a new start. It’s a chance to refresh.
“Get your mind off of it.” This usually means I turn on Disney Channel so that nothing scary or relative to the traumatic event comes on the screen. It’s bright colored, usually cheesy, and will make me think about happier things. The same effect happens when I sing my go-to happy songs. This works for me. Every time. Just like it did in kindergarten.
After experiencing trauma as an adult, I always resort to these coping mechanisms. I always call my mom, I always reach out to a friend who wants to help and means it, and I always refresh somehow, usually through quiet time with a book or a nap. It’s a three-step process, really. Kindergarten should really be renamed as “How do deal with adult situations: a beginner’s manual.”