“I Heard That!”
The price for not using Verbal First Aid can be high. One paramedic arrived at the home of a hypoglycemic patient that had called EMS many times before. He was unconscious as his wife complained about his “rotten, lazy” attitude, assuming he heard nothing. Mistakenly, one of the medics joined in with the wife, calling him “a pain.” When he awoke, he screamed, “I heard that! I’m going to kill you!”
Movies in the Mind
The benefits for using it well are equally dramatic. My 8-year-old niece, Sarah, started looked drained in the middle of a family dinner. She had a stuffy nose and felt feverish. We had no Tylenol on hand. So, we went into a quiet room where she laid herself down with her head on my knees. First I distracted her from her nose. (How does it feel here? I pointed to her nose, then her elbow, then her knees, all the parts I knew would be okay.) Then, I explained to her about the “cold boogers” and how she could kick them out with an army of good guys, like in Lord of the Rings. As I encouraged her to see it “like a movie,” I told her she “could fall asleep and it would be a magic sleep like how dreams are magic and anything can happen in dream time-and any time can be a good dream time, even now-she would wake up and the good guys will have done their magic and the cold boogers will have lost.” I told her she never even had to know what was happening, because it could happen all by itself, like she left a movie playing on the VCR but went up to bed and forgot about it. She closed her eyes and slept as I stroked her hair for about 10 minutes. She woke up hungry and within a little while was playing with her cousins. By morning, she was fine. Of course, if you have the Tylenol, you should give it if it’s indicated. But if you don’t, it’s nice to know you have another tool on hand.
My friend John and I were sitting on a balcony. He went to light up a cigarette. He offered me one, I said, “Nah.” He wondered, “Didn’t you smoke?” I said that I had but it was a very interesting story how I stopped. I had his attention. I told him how someone came to me to quit smoking and we did two sessions on amnesia. Well, that night, I’d gone out to get cigarettes. I got distracted and came home without the smokes. I figured…forget it till tomorrow. I wasn’t going back out. The next night, the same. And every night thereafter. I never quit. I just kept forgetting. Four months later, he came over to my house to a party. He said, “I haven’t smoked since you told me that story on the balcony. I just keep forgetting.” We were thinking of starting a forget-to-smoke group, but no one would remember the meetings.