At the request of many parents, for help in teaching their children well-being techniques for emotional release, Marian’s written and published a picture rhyming storybook for children. This book is a mindful approach to neuroscience and psychology, incorporated into everyday activities that helps promote self-awareness and empowerment in children. This helps develop a greater sense of agency (ownership) in their actions and reactions to external events.
The idea is that this story is available for free to all parents, carers and support workers and as such Marian has made it available as a free audiovisual on YouTube
Understanding How The Story Works
When you read this story to a child you’re introducing them to a very simple technique. This technique will equip them with the necessary tools to navigate their way through life emotionally free from negative experiences and any challenges life may offer. This way they’re able to remain ‘mindful and present’ in the now.
Through the story, the child learns to:
- Recognise that their feelings are real and important and that they can change how they think and feel.
- Break the emotional loop by watching the process happening, feeling it happening, and then watching it go away.
- Reorganise their thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.
- Be mindful and focused on the present moment in time.
- Tap into a peaceful state regardless of any chaos going on around them.
Feelings are Real and Important
Through this story, children learn that their feelings are real and important and that they can change how they think and feel.
According to, Dr. Ornish, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, ‘When you take time for your feelings, you become less stressed, and you can think more clearly and creatively, making it easier to find constructive solutions.’
For many people, life can be hectic, with lots of fast-paced action creating chaos in their lives. Children are not immune to this. In fact, their sensory pathways are continuously taking in information, especially in today’s over-stimulating world. Their sensory networks hear, see, touch, smell and taste even when they’re not consciously paying attention to them. This happens at a phenomenal rate in the body. This creates an endless stream of information coming in and being processed below their level of awareness.
Science tells us we are sensory beings that ‘feel’ first then ‘think’. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Neuroanatomist, explains that ‘we absorb our environment in through our senses then the brain creates a collage of what the present moment looks, tastes, smells, feels and sounds like.’ All this information is signalled through the nervous system, and then we form our perceptions.
There are two well-known approaches to understanding the process of perception. These are referred to as ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ processing. When the character Billy draws out his symbol to represent ‘feelings to delete’, he’s effectively directing his subconscious mind to delete ‘these feelings’. This is a ‘top-down’ approach where psychology affects physiology; as Billy learns that he can indeed control and release his feelings through his thinking. The ‘bottom-up’ approach is when Billy steps onto his symbol, and his perception is at the sensory level. Billy feels so much calmer when he releases his feelings and emotions. When Billy lets go his feelings, his thoughts change, as he’s no longer locked into the sad feelings. Now Billy’s feelings are affecting his perception.
Dr Bruce Lipton, a developmental biochemist, says in his book, Biology of Belief, ‘As soon as you change your perception you rewrite the chemistry of your body.’
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst, believed that symbols and metaphors are the languages of the subconscious mind. It’s well known that the subconscious mind does whatever we tell it to do. It doesn’t know the difference between real or pretend.
By drawing out his symbol, Billy is learning how to communicate directly with his subconscious mind. He’s also learning that his subconscious mind does exactly what he tells it to do. By stepping onto his symbol, Billy is connecting in on a sensory level. ‘Top-down; bottom-up’.
Breaking the Emotional Loop
Through this story, children learn how to ‘step within’ to their true self and watch the emotional process happening, feel it happening and then watch it go away.
According to Dr. Bolte Taylor, ‘You can change the course of your reaction to stress in just 90-seconds.’ In her book, My Stroke Of Insight, Dr Bolte Taylor says: ‘When a person has a reaction to something in their environment there’s a chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop… It takes less than 90-seconds for those chemicals to totally flush out of the body. This means that for 90-seconds, you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.’
When you hold an emotion for longer than 90-seconds, you do so by choice. You have the choice to let it go or to stay in the emotional loop by rethinking the same thoughts that will trigger that same cycle all over again. This then becomes imprinted in the subconscious mind. This loop may go on for hours, days, weeks, and even years and, the longer it goes on, the deeper it becomes entrenched in the subconscious mind.
What a lot of people tend to do with feelings they don’t like is to block them. This way, they no longer experience the feelings, and they superficially believe that all is well. The reality is these emotional loops are still playing out in the subconscious mind, and the body is still responding to the stressful emotions (even though the event may have happened years ago).
Then, as adults they end up in therapy, trying to undo the emotional loops and deal with the dysfunctional thinking that resulted from living through perceived threat and fear, unable to process their emotions and unable to think straight.
When you allow yourselves to ‘step within’ and connect with your true self, you create space for that same emotional download that Dr. Bolte Taylor talks about. This means that you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away before you react or respond to external events, regardless of how stressful they may be.
Through this story, children learn how to focus their awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting their feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations as they break the emotional loop.
In the story, Billy learns how to be mindful.
The dictionary definition: ‘Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.’
Children’s imaginations are much more fertile than adults, as children haven’t put the mental blocks and limitations in place that adults may have.
Einstein is famously quoted as saying: ‘Imagination is far greater than knowledge.’ Dr. Bolte Taylor encourages parents to teach children to ‘tend to the gardens of their minds’.
The subconscious mind does exactly what we tell it to do and it doesn’t know the difference between real and pretend. Encourage your child to use their rich imagination to influence and create a healthy reality, one that’s emotionally free!
Reorganising Thoughts, Attitudes, and Feelings
Through this story children learn to reorganise their thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. As a result, the child develops a greater sense of ‘agency’ (ownership), where they learn to take responsibility for their behaviours and reactions.
‘A large part of what we call teaching is that the teacher should be able to use education to reorganise a child’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.’ Benjamin Bloom, educational theorist.
I encourage parents to use this story to help open a child up to talking freely about their emotions and feelings. It helps if a child understands that they’re in charge of how they feel and think.
By questioning the child on the story, it helps the child reflect on and reorganise their thoughts, attitudes and feelings in relation to what they’ve learnt. Not only does this story help develop a healthy level of self-awareness in the child, but it also equips them with the necessary tools to release what no longer serves them and create the thoughts, attitudes and feelings that will help them achieve their goals and dreams. Very empowering!
Sometimes children get so caught up in the emotions that they’re unable to talk about the experience. Once the child learns to safely release their feelings and emotions it frees them up to talk openly about their experiences. One young boy I worked with felt so good about himself when he learned to release his feelings that he was able to open up and tell his mum that he was being bullied at school.
Neuroscientist, Dr. Alan Watkins said in the Ted Talk, Why You Feel What You Feel, ‘Wouldn’t it be great that if a child is being bullied that they’re unaware they’re being bullied because they feel so strong within themselves?’ Can you imagine a world where children were untouched by bullies?
This story offers the opportunity to help a child develop a vocabulary for their feelings and emotions. They also learn some new words, such as define, slumped, or relieved. And introduces new topics for discussion, such as boundaries, focus and intention, or true self. Also, the child learns new phrases such as ‘feelings to delete’, or ‘true self you’ll greet’.
Through this story the child learns the importance of listening to their feelings and talking through their concerns with adults.
Encourage the child to talk about their feelings by asking them questions based on the story as this helps a child develop a language for their emotions. This works especially well when the adult and child work together to explore what caused a character to act or feel as they did. Consider questions such as:
‘Why do you think Billy was feeling sad?’ ‘Do you ever feel sad?’
‘What sort of things do you think Billy was thinking through?’ ‘Do you ever need to think things through?’ ‘If so, what sort of things?’
‘How do you normally feel and react when you’re upset?’
‘How did Billy’s teacher help Billy?’ ‘How do you think Billy’s story might help you?’
‘What happened to your feelings when you stood on your intention symbol? Where do you think your feelings go when you release them?’
‘How does it feel in your body when you let go your negative feelings?’
‘When would be a good time for you to release your feelings?’
‘How does Billy feel now that he let go of his feelings?’
‘How do you feel now?’
Then open the conversation up to talk about any particular experience. You could even open the discussion up to include questions such as:
‘Do you ever worry about anyone?’ ‘If so, who?’ ‘Why do you worry about them?’
‘How do you feel when you worry about others?’
‘Shall we release those feelings too?’
Sometimes a child has many layers to their emotional release, once one feeling goes the next feeling comes to the surface. Encourage the child to strip back the layers one by one. Lead by example, let the child see you stepping onto your symbol and releasing your feelings too.
Through this story the child learns how to tap into a sense of peace within themselves, regardless of any chaos going on around them.
‘To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.’ Dr. Bolte Taylor.
When we’re faced with any danger – real or perceived – the Amygdala in our brain switches off our thinking brain and our reptilian brain kicks in. This puts us on full alert, and we react through fight, flight, freeze or faint. This reptilian brain has been programmed with the emotional responses of the generations that have gone before us. How they responded to stress is encoded in our genes, and they’re the patterns we are primed to revert to when facing danger. However, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Cognitive Neuroscientist, tells us we can change, ‘As soon as we see a negative pattern all we have to do is overwrite it.’ Doing so simply breaks the pattern. You can easily teach your child how to find that ‘peaceful’ place within. As soon as you let go of the feelings, there’s nothing to hold the associated thoughts. Your mind becomes clear as you free yourself emotionally from any event or experience.
Putting It Into Practice
Through this story the child learns the importance of developing a daily habit of releasing their feelings. Suggesting that you encourage the child to use ‘teeth brushing time’ to release their feelings too!
Dr. Joe Dispenza, Neuroscientist, encourages learning through ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’. He also reminds us ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’. I encourage parents to read this story to their children as often as possible. Help your child draw out their symbol several times. Encourage daily use.
When asked, ‘When would be a good time to fit this into your day?’ Billy’s reply was, ‘When I brush my teeth.’ When you complete any task on a daily basis, you’re wiring and firing new neural networks in the brain. The result is you develop new life long habits and patterns. I don’t know of any adults (or many) who don’t brush their teeth at least twice a day, regardless of the events happening in their lives. That’s because it’s a habit that was instilled in childhood by the parents, irrespective of the child’s arguments or tantrums.
I read somewhere: ‘Doing something daily for 28 days develops a habit. Doing something for 90 days develops a lifestyle.’
It’s worth keeping a copy of your child’s symbol in their bedroom, in the kitchen, the lounge, the car, the child’s school bag. If used in schools, encourage the child to keep a copy in their school tray.
This story helps equip parents, teachers and caregivers with the necessary tools to help support emotional wellbeing in children, helping develop within them a lifelong habit of processing their emotions. Very empowering!
Besides teaching this technique to adults, I’ve also researched this technique with children ranging from ages 5 to 12 and up into teenage years. I’ve completed over 100 hours of research on this and similar techniques with children in two junior schools and with my own private clients. The feedback has been fantastic. One mum said her son uses his symbol to clear out the emotions of his school day when they’re in the car on their way home from school. Another mum said her son uses his symbol to help release the stress of having to deal with the emotional burden of having an autistic brother.
My research findings have identified that parents who supported their children in their wellbeing regularly at home had greater success with their children forming the habit of processing their emotions with greater ease.
‘When I step onto my symbol I feel all my negative feelings being drained out of me and I watch them go down into the ground. I see them as they’re pouring out. I sometimes do this without mum having to remind me.’ Lewis, age 10.
When asked about the title of the story, Kate, age 6, replied, ‘I think the title of the story should be changed to ‘Billy’s Now Very Happy and I Am Too’, because that’s how the story makes me feel.’
This is a free eBook, available to all for personal use, non-profit, or free educational use.
If you found this book to be of use, then please share with others.
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If you find the theories behind this book to be of particular interest, then you may be interested in my up and coming book, Everyday Intentions, A Daily Dose of Good Vibrations.
I’m also writing an entire workbook and related children’s stories linked to the wellbeing school curriculum. The title of which is Let Me Share With You A Magical Thing.
There are so many people who made it possible for this book to exist.
I’ve been very blessed to research my stories with two junior schools, both of which are very progressive in promoting the emotional wellbeing and mental health of all their pupils. Working with the children gave me an excellent insight into how imaginative children really are. Their creative input and honest feedback were invaluable in the development of this story.
I extend a huge ‘thank you’ to The Grange Community Junior School, in Farnborough. With particular thanks to the headteacher, the special education needs coordinator, the children and the teaching assistant staff. Thank you for welcoming me into your school and supporting my research.
I also extend an equally huge ‘thank you’ to St. John’s Junior School, Woking. With particular thanks to the headteacher, the home school link worker, the special educational needs coordinator, and to the children and teachers. I thank you for welcoming me into your school and supporting the development of this story.
A huge thanks also to the children I worked within my own private practice. And a special thanks to their mums and dads for supporting my research. Your input and support have also been invaluable.
Through my previous career in social care, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a large number of other professionals through a diverse range of support agencies, and I’m very grateful for their support and feedback in researching the techniques presented in this story.
Thanks to Anastasiia Hryvtsova for bringing the characters to life through her wonderful illustrations and for ensuring the story was presented as creatively and imaginatively as possible. www.upwork.com/fl/anhryvtsova
Thanks also to Lorraine Ansell for her beautiful narration of the story. www.lorrainevoiceart.com A free copy of the audiovisual is also available on my website www.marianryan.co.uk
Thanks to Stan Vdovitski for his technical skills and ability to bring my story alive in both picture and sound, a wonderful audiovisual creation. www.yarpeaudio.pro
A huge thanks to Geraldine Dowle, who helped ensure the language of the story was age-appropriate.
Thank you to my wonderful husband, John, whose ability to ‘scan’ helped me find the right ‘rhythm and rhyme’ for the story. He encouraged me every step of the journey.
Thanks also, to my dear friend Grant Gillespie for his copyediting skills and also for encouraging me in my writing.
A grateful thanks to my family, friends and fellow therapists who support my work and whose brains I’ve ‘picked’ from time to time, Agata, Cat, Charmaine, Elaine, Lisa, Lou, Phil, Sandra, and Sue.
I’d also like to extend a very big thank you to the scientists whose work I refer to in this book. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Ornish, and Dr. Alan Watkins. Their true art is in making science relatable.
And last, but not least, thanks to you, the reader, for introducing this book to children.
May we help create a peaceful and safe world for children of all ages.