Alex and the Scary Things: A Story to Help Children Who Have Experienced Something Scary by Melissa Moses at AbeBooks.co.uk - ISBN 13: 9781849057936 - Jessica Kingsley Publishers - 2015 - Hardcover
Important: for book token details, read to the end!
I came across this book when I was looking for an age-appropriate resource for a distressed 8-year old girl. It was love at first sight for both of us. I have fond memories of playing the 5-4-3-2-1 game with her, when we each took turns to name “5 things I can see, 4 things I can feel, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, …” and (often the unexpected one: “one good thing about myself”!
While this game is a slight modification of the mindfulness 54321 exercise, Somatic Experiencing™ practitioners will recognize it as an invitation to orientate to the environment through the senses – sight, touch, smell and sound – which can be a way to bring ourselves into the ‘here and now’, back in connection with a relatively safe outside world, back in connection with ourselves in the world, becoming curious again. The fifth, instead of taste, offers the child a playful invitation to affirm who they are, again hopefully in the safe presence of a caring Other.
The eponymous character, Alex, is a young alligator who inhabits a diverse and colourful world of young animals of all species. Gender is unspecified. I have chosen she/her for brevity. The teacher, Ms Murphy, is a pink flamingo! Alex loves her favourite stuffed toy, Al (also an alligator of course). Alex has had some scary experiences. We are never told about them. That is as it should be. Trauma is “in the biology, not the biography” – a basis of Somatic Experiencing™.
Alex describes some emotional states or behaviours that show up from time to time. We might recognise them as manifestations of nervous system states that appear with unresolved trauma. Alex has names for them: sometimes he is ‘Spacey’ (clearly a dissociated state), ‘Destroyer’ (the explosive anger that comes from interrupted fight responses), ‘Puddles’ (the unconsolable tears, a child’s call for safety and holding), ‘Jumbles’ (disorientated) and ‘Scribbles’ (when words aren’t there to tell the story). Alex goes on to share with her readers what she does to help herself when she no longer wants to be Spacey, or Destroyer,…
‘Alex and the Scary Things’ brings up in child-friendly language some lovely ideas, not only orientation - the 5-4-3-2-1 game - but also breathing and movement exercises, as well as the usefulness of art media, especially when words fail us. The illustrator is an artist and trained expressive therapist. The author is a clinical psychologist. Both are visibly experienced in how trauma affects nervous systems, young and old, and they show a lot of heart for the children they work with.
This book is a gift for all of us Somatic Experiencing™ practitioners who work with or spend time with children, and a gift for parents and teachers too! Children will love it!
Joëlle Gartner SEP
Jessica Kingsley, publishers of this book, have kindly offered all readers of this blog a 20% discount if they order this book online with Jessica Kingsley, at jkp.com. The discount code is Tairseach.