There’s a common therapeutic technique I learned when I worked with child trauma victims called grounding. When a person is experiencing acute psychological distress, like the onset of a panic attack, or unwanted flashbacks, you ask them to name everything blue in the room, or to focus on the feeling of their feet on the ground, or some other redirection towards their physical environment to help them remain in the present moment and counteract the panic response.
One of these techniques is called the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, and although there are variations, its usually something like asking the person to name 5 things they can see, 4 things they can feel, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste. It draws the person to pay attention to external stimuli. I found myself thinking about it during the Gathering this week as Rev. Lance Marshall introduced his sermon series “Finally Something Real” using Phlippians 4:8
“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.”
Focus your thoughts on what is true, on what is holy, on what is just, on what is lovely, on what is worthy of praise. In times that can feel so uncertain, so anxiety-producing, so bleak, maybe practicing a bit of therapeutic, and spiritual, grounding can help us be mindful of the reality of the world around us, yes, but also the reality of God’s presence in it.
In Family Sunday School this week, I introduce a “game” based on the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique that also asks for the participants to name people who love them, things they know to be true, and encourages them to help ground each other in the reality of both their world, and the truth of God’s love and action right in the middle of it. I hope it provides some comfort (and healthy coping techniques) this week, and know that if you or someone in your family is having trouble processing all this anxiety all at once, that’s totally ok, and the church can connect you with incredible telehealth resources through our counseling center, and even our own Rev. Phyllis Barren, LPC.
Director of Youth Ministries
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4.26.20 Family Sunday School Guide