Everyday in some way or another, I get the chance to pretend to fly around the world with my co-pilot also known as my 10 year old client.
We dive into the sky together and learn and practice how to be co-pilots. We navigate sharing our ideas and expressing ourselves to each other when we need to express how we feel-physically, emotionally, and mentally in that moment.
This week is when this game really came to life. I arrived at their house as usual and got there a bit before the family did. I have come to the realization, it’s better for my client when he has some time to get settled at home before seeing me at their house or even inside of it if their nanny is home as well. After I arrived, I waited and gave a heads up to the family to know I will be waiting in my car for that reason as well. They agreed and when they came, I gave them time to get settled.
It turned out that he was playing a game in his families new mini van. He was climbing all over it and had an entire game by himself and was possibly playing this with his family before. I saw his dad and I waved and said hello and his dad gave him the heads up also that I was near and asked him if he wanted to tell me about his game.
He quickly dove into the whole story and seemed excited to share his game with me. He told me that he was looking to see what is wrong with the engine of the airplane and that he had to check it and that the airplane was miles and miles up in the sky.
I quickly put my bag down and joined his play by walking up to the car and began to attune to his body movements and noticing where he is as far as regulation while also listening to his words and being fully engaged and showing that in my face.
This is not always easy to do, but as a Dance/Movement therapist, I am able to access this other non-verbal expression and to mirror them, observe it, and depending on the person, one would either join the movement and copy what they are doing exactly or one might take on the energy of the person and either do the same or the opposite as they are. There is some great information about this in the Kestenburg Movement Profile! Check it out!
Throughout our game of airplane, we would go back and forth pretending and also then talking about our ideas for the game. This helps to give him perspective and to move from one part of the game to the next in a fluid way.
Once I noticed he was ready for me to join him, I asked if I can ride the airplane with him. He said yes and that I was his co-pilot. He told me we were Trying to fix the engine and that we won’t be rescued for 10 days and then had to wonder what we would do until we got rescued. We found food to eat in the airplane, we discovered a person who was flying through the air and who he named, “Molly.” And then made some calls to the airport using our pretend walkie talkies and asked for them to come rescue us.
Therapist: Do we have any passengers?
Therapist: Oh good, because they might be worried about when they need to land
Child: (Smiled) Actually yes. There are passengers. Can you say the words for them and be worried?
Therapist: Sure but where did the passengers come from?
Child: One was flying in the sky and he came onto our airplane with a parachute
Therapist: (Moves own shoulders to show relief) Oh good glad he is safe. Okay let’s play.
Throughout our “flight”, we would go in and out of playing pretend and also talking about the game itself. This seems to help him get from point A to point B and so on. I’m learning that he sometimes needs support of new ideas to expand his thinking and understanding and to make connections in the game so that it makes sense and that it has a beginning, middle, and end. He tends to have a hard time getting to the end of the game and perhaps, one way to look at this, (but not the only way!) is that he 1. can’t come up with other ways of resolving the conflict and 2. endings are difficult for all of us.
I would support him through the play to get to the rescuing part and ask how will we be rescued. He found a scooter in the mini van and we pretended that was the airplane to rescue us and take us and Ollie back to the airport and then home.
It was such a fun game that he asked to play it again the next day. Throughout our time together, We explore how to be together and how to handle conflicts or different ideas we might have. This is the work of floor-time Therapy combined with dance/Movement Therapy!
Can’t wait to take another flight with my co-pilot and explore being stuck on an airplane or being stuck in relationship together or stuck in our emotions and learning how to move through it together to have a safe journey home!