I was having breakfast with a friend this morning. She wanted to try out this new restaurant that opened up nearby. It’s interesting how difficult it can be to open and maintain a restaurant. They can be incredibly rewarding, if you open up in the right location, and have the kind of food and environment that people like. There are a lot of variables that go into it. I remember reading a survey a while back, asking people what was the most important thing about a dining experience. I think the quality of the actual food came in third or fourth behind ambiance, and the general feeling of the place. Even McDonalds’ mission statement stresses “experience” over anything else. Experience can be a tricky thing to define. It can be really subjective, many people experiencing the same thing as different. Some people might not really enjoy something, but others can really like this. It’s like when you see this, you can really think to yourself how much you can enjoy this.
My friend was telling me about how she came up with an interesting way to help her toddler overcome nightmares. He is three, and is starting to have scary dreams. She was telling me how her physician told her that some children have more bad dreams than good dreams, so it’s important to develop good strategies to help overcomeÂ fears. She had read a few books on child development, and being an ex kindergarten teacher, she was pretty well equipped to handle these kinds of things, so of course I was interested in what she did.
She said that whenever her son would wake up from a nightmare, she would ask him to describe it. She noticed that the more he described his dreams, the scarier they got. The monsters became meaner, with bigger teeth and hungrier looks in their eyes. Sometimes he would even imagine that they had blood dripping from them. So my friend decided to try something. She gently helped her child change some of the things that he’d experienced in the dream, without really changing the actual content. She changed the meaning behind the content.
For example, instead of having teeth that were dripping blood, the monster suddenly had teeth that were dripping chocolate sauce. Instead of having hungry looks in his eyes, the monsters eyes were red from laughing at a funny cartoon. And instead of having a mean look on his face, it became a look of consternation as he was trying to quietly fart without drawing attention to himself.
I asked her if this worked, and she said that it didn’t take long for her kid to begin to do this on his own. He would wake up, and as he started to recall his dream, he could change the pictures around so it wouldn’t be as scary. She said the trick was to take whatever pictures you come up with, and play with changing around certain aspects of them. You can use it for things other that scary dreams. You can use it on memories, or imaginations of the future, as well.
For example, if you have a particular memory you’d like to change, you can still remember the actual memory the same way, but change the meaning of the content. Like if you remember somebody yelling at you, you might have remembered that it was because you did something wrong, which would in turn cause you to feel not so good. But if you remember them as yelling at you because they were in a bad mood because they themselves got yelled at, it’s not so bad.
She went on to say that you could also play around with changing the actual content. For example, you can take a memory of a teacher yelling at you in front of the class in third grade, and shrink the teacher down in your mind to where she is only three inches tall, and her voice sounds like Mickey Mouse would if he had inhaled some helium. Then when you remember the class laughing in the background, you can remember them as laughing at her, and not you.
I thought that that little three year old is pretty lucky to have a mom that would become so interested in making sure that you can do these things to make your fears go away. I’ll be interested in seeing how much he can turn into a more resourceful person with so many skills to help others.