July 25, 2019

"In just over 48 hours, there are 41 clinicians and their family members arriving at a hotel on the North Shore of Oahu for a play therapy conference.  I am hosting a 5-day play therapy retreat with play therapy experts Clair Mellenthin and Lisa Dion. This is the first time that they will be presenting together, and the first time that I have ever hosted an event like this.

And I am really excited.  And also a little scared. (Scratch that...totally scared!) 

So, this is for all of the people who have a big vision, but feel like they are not ready to do it quite yet.  

Here is My Experience Planning This Event

When you are working on something really big and scary for the first time that you just really want to do:

Start before you are ready.  
Do it afraid.
And find the right partners. 

1) Start before you are ready.

When I moved to Hawaii in September 2017, I had so many colleagues tell me that they wanted to come visit.  And I kept saying to them, “I have a plan for you. Let me get settled.” They would ask questions, but I just kept it at that.  Anytime someone said, “oh, Hawaii -that must be nice.” Or “I’d love to come out ONE day” I just kept telling them, “I have a plan for you.” 

I wasn’t even on the island yet, but I was planning for this conference.  I didn’t know what, when or how, but I knew that I wanted to bring people out and I talked about it for a long time as a real thing even though it was just a loose idea.

I talked to several of my colleagues about coming out and they were all interested.  But it was Clair Mellenthin, who said “Let’s do it.” And then we spent an hour on day talking about my vision - which at the time was a little crazy. 

(I wanted to do play therapy training on a tour bus on our way to sightsee at Pearl Harbor.  We can have people bring their families and we can see the island and get our training all at one time.) 

Clair helped me to solidify that vision into something that was a little more realistic and professional, but it really started with a conversation and a dream building vision.  

(And sadly, there’s no tour bus, but that’s okay). 

But, truthfully, I had no idea how to host a five day retreat.  I wasn’t “ready” at all.  

And, yet, we got started making some plans and taking things one step at a time. 

2)  Do it afraid.

The truth is that you are never truly ready.  If you are doing something that you have never done before,  you can not be fully prepared. And the unknown is scary. There was a point in time that I almost cancelled the whole event.  I remember clearly having a day with Clair and Lisa where I was in full panic mode.

"What if no one shows up and we’re stuck with 10k of hotel expenses?"  

"What if there is a hurricane?"

What if?  What if?  What if?

These fears were followed almost immediately by those awful shame gremlins..

“Who do you think you are to try to pull this off?”

You’re not a big corporation or company? You don’t have to knowledge or resources to do this?”

“I can’t believe Clair and Lisa agreed to do this.  You’re going to make them look so foolish.”

And even now as we have less than 48 hours to go, I feel the fear. 

"What if someone doesn’t make it here on time?"

"What if they get hurt on an excursion during their free time?"

"What if it rains the whole week? What if people are disappointed?”

As I write this, I take a deep breath and try to lean into the fun and curiosity of the unknown.  

"What if one of the participants becomes a new partner or friend?"  

"What if there are breakthrough moments that are so powerful that it becomes ingrained in my brain forever?"

"What if this is brilliant and wonderful?"   

And because there are so many things that I have zero control over and because when you do something for the very first time, you never know what you are forgetting or missing, you just have to do it afraid.  

3)  Find the right partners.

What makes me less afraid is trusting my partners.  Clair Mellenthin and Lisa Dion are world-class trainers and presenters.  They literally fly around the world to do this stuff. Australia, Singapore, Croatia, London, and everywhere in between.

They have each hosted retreat-style events in the past and will again in the future.  This is not their first rodeo.  

So, I know that they have the skills to make it work.  Whatever “it” is that needs to be problem solved, WE, as a team, have enough skills to figure it out. 

As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figure-outable.”  

And when you trust your team, it really feels true.  

So, it feels like there are always a few people out there hoping that you will fail.  People who are scrutinizing and criticizing your every move waiting for you to mess up.  And, whether those people are real or just a projection of my own inner fears, I am surrendering those fears to you at this moment and acknowledging that this week will not be perfect.

I can almost guarantee that there will be a problem that needs figuring out.  

But, with a pure heart and the best of intentions, I know this:

In the next week, I will deliver to the 40 clinicians that have been brave enough to go on this journey with me, five days of intellectual and emotional connections, some time to rest, reflect and dream and some awesome photos with amazing stories to tell about them. 

What do you have on your mind that you are afraid to try?  I wonder what might happen if you found a partner and got started on it today, before you are ready, and just did it afraid?  

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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