Sprite and Black Dog

 

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sprite and black dog jo freitag 2009

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eeyore puddleglum and black dog i love eeyore said sprite cuddling her new soft toy the pessimistic donkey from a.a milne s winnie the pooh stories fortunately he looks more like the original e h sheppard illustrations than the disney version he just needs lots of hugs and he will be fine ­ like donkey in shrek puddleglum in the narnia story annoys me because he chooses to see the worst possible outcome every time even when it is not at all logical but black dog really frightens me sometimes the hairs on the back of my neck stood up the automatic association i made especially after the mention of eeyore and puddleglum was the black dog of depression http www.blackdoginstitute.org.au and the next automatic association was james webb s iconic article existential depression in gifted individuals http www.sengifted.org/articles_counseling/webb_existentialdepressioningifte dindividuals.shtml hoping that my associations were not correct and trying to sound matter of fact i asked when have you seen black dog

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the many faces of black dog i see black dog quite often sprite confided sometimes he is like eeyore and he just needs more love and hugs to feel happy again sometimes he is like puddleglum and you can see he is just not thinking about things the right way are there any ways to help him think the right way yes there are ­ i will see what i can find i said but you said sometimes black dog frightens you when is that i asked well sprite took a deep breath and her voice quavered sometimes he is sitting down beside the memory elephant looking all wistful as if he wishes things could have been different in the past and sometimes he is wandering around limping and looking as if he doesn t know where he fits in i think he wonders if he came from another planet and has just been dumped here i know how he feels

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he often looks sad and bedraggled when the sky is grey and it is cold and rainy in winter ­ someone told me that was called seasonal affective disorder other times he is like a guard dog ­ all alert and solid ­ and he is stopping me from doing things because he says things will go wrong if i do them and he makes me afraid to even try and some of the things would really be fun to do and then sometimes he gets all hyperactive and wants to play but then he turns into a bully and teases me about things i can t do he pulls on my bandage like the coppertone ad dog and makes my leg hurt even more and makes me feel really anxious maybe if i knew how to joke and play it would be fine

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and sometimes he looks as if he is about to leap at me and attack me i don t know when he will do it and i don t know what makes him do it and i don t know whether i would be strong enough to stop him if he did leap on me that is when he scares me the most

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taking a s.i.p approach to the half empty glass suppose the glass vase on the table contained a powerful potion for overcoming the bad things black dog sometimes does to you i said yes said sprite would you drink it i would want to know that it really was what you said and that it wasn t poison or something that s good i am glad you are thinking wisely about it let s just say you know it is safe to drink ok how full do you think the glass is about half full said sprite ok ­ i know i set her up for that answer what do you think puddleglum would say sprite is a clever cookie she could see where this conversation was going already he would say it is half empty and he wouldn t want to drink it because if he did there wouldn t be any left if he needed it another time what is wrong with thinking like that well if he did drink it all someone might come and refill it and anyway a little bit might be enough ­ like cough medicine ­ you only take 7.5ml of that exactly i said so you would be happy to take a sip and even poor old pessimistic puddleglum could probably be persuaded to take just a sip

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yes well that is what we are going to do to tame black dog we are going to take a three-pronged s.i.p approach s is for spiritual i is for intellectual p is for physical and practical so you want me to take a sip from the glass vase on the table no not really that had flowers in it that was just an example i ll tell you all about our sip plan in a moment

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the first sip ­ s for spiritual and social the first step in our s.i.p program for overcoming the negative influence of the black dog of depression on spite as i am a christian was to talk to our pastor and his wife and ask their advice i also asked several friends to pray that we would be led to solutions to sprite s depression and that we would all grow stronger and closer to the lord a couple of them are already mentors for her i was impressed with the degree of insight sprite had already demonstrated about the possible causes and possible solutions one of these was lack of self esteem and being awkward in social situations we looked for a vibrant church youth group which held social events and outings as well as bible studies which would welcome and encourage her.

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the second sip ­ i for intellectual part 1 the email from sally-anne mccormack arrived at a perfect time just as sprite had been asking whether there were any ways to help the puddleglummish black dog think the right way and i had promised to find out sally-anne s newsletter arrived the psychologist sally-anne mccormack has a program called stomp out the ants and her book of the same name will be available in december i said to sprite her website is at http www.sally-annemccormack.com.au this is what it says about stomp out the ants stomp out the ants programs provide the students with a `feelings vocabulary teach some ways of replacing automatic negative thoughts with more positive thoughts show them to look for evidence when making assumptions about situations etc this is done using a variety of different methods which may include worksheets conversations role playing debates writing reading and other means there are often homework activities such as filling in a mood diary for the period of the program to be able to track the changes in thoughts and feelings over this time it also helps the student to focus on their own particular difficulties so they can address them the author of this program sally-anne mccormack is a registered psychologist an experienced teacher and a parent of 4 children and adolescents her interests include the prevention and treatment of depression dealing with all educational issues eg assessment giftedness counselling behaviour management etc and a variety of other issues that are relevant for children and adolescents she has private practices in the eastern suburbs blackburn and burwood east and is available for private sessions look said sprite sally-anne mccormack has a frog like my frog friend

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the second sip ­ i for intellectual part 2 sprite and i spent the afternoon playing with artrage http www.artrage.com and jing http www.jingproject.com experimenting with shades layers and different artists materials to investigate what we needed to do to find a silver lining for a grey cloud this was one of the exercises in my teaching unit blue skies rainbows and silver linings ­ symbols of hope and optimism http giftedresources.org/jo/lessonplans.htm

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i showed sprite a reference to an explanation of the cause of the appearance or not of a cloud s silver lining when we view thick irregular and scattered clouds such as those of the cumulus family between us and the sun the edges often shine brightly this is called the cloud s silver lining which under certain conditions near sunrise or sunset can become a golden lining the cloud s edges are much thinner than its main body thus they are more efficient at scattering light forward toward our eyes when the contrast is great the edges appear brilliant and metallic in appearance in contrast to the silver lining when we are between the sun and cloud the cloud s central portion reflects more light than the edges which now appear relatively dark so it depends where we view it from whether a cloud has a silver lining i said i told her about my secondary school english teacher margaret reeves who used to say i love days like this ­ there are so many shades of grey in the sky i did not appreciate the sentiment at the time but the thought has stayed with me and helped me to enjoy winter days now i went get us some hot chocolate and scones when i came back i found sprite delivering a lecture to puddleglum and the bedraggled sad seasonally affected black dog about atmospheric optics and perspective using our art works as visual aids.

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the second sip ­ i for intellectual part 3 what can we do to help black dog when he feels like an alien who has been dumped here asked sprite i knew the answer to this one i remembered our own five year old reading over my shoulder as i read an academic journal article about whether you should tell a child they are gifted the article concluded that in most cases you should tell the child because they probably felt as if they were different anyway and needed an explanation alien black dog needs to know that he is not alone ­ there are others like him and he needs to understand some of the characteristics of gifted people which though they seem very strange to people in the general population are `normal for gifted as lesley sword would say there are some excellent handout note articles on lesley sword s gifted and creative services australia website http giftedservices.com.au/handouts/index.html intensity and sensitivity introversion and overexcitabilities are all common for gifted people i said and there are also some excellent books for students such as the gifted kids survival guide by judy galbraith and james deslisle i ll see what i can find in the gifted resources library

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shielding the thoughts it looked like a scene from the movie `signs sprite was sitting reading to cute version just needs -more -hugs black dog and they were both wearing silver foil hats what on earth are you doing i asked well said sprite if black dog and i are not aliens we need to shield our thoughts from them and then our positive thoughts won t get hijacked and turned into negative thoughts i have a much better method of shielding your thoughts i said it is another s for spiritual s.i.p it is by thinking about things which are good and positive and lovely you can find it in the book of philippians in the bible 6 be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to god 7 and the peace of god which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through christ jesus meditate on these things 8 finally brethren whatever things are true whatever things are noble whatever things are just whatever things are pure whatever things are lovely whatever things are of good report if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things 9 the things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me these do and the god of peace will be with you philippians 4:6-9 new king james version

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the third sip ­ p for physical and practical part 1 p for physical and practical and perfectionism clearly some of the causes of sprite s depression were anxiety about the future and therefore an aversion to taking any risks and her perfectionism which sometimes prevented her from starting any activity which she did not think she could complete perfectly this was what had caused her apprehension about the guard duty black dog i found some very helpful articles about perfectionism carol peters describes dr linda silverman s attitude to perfectionism in an article which can be read at http thescotts.topcities.com/perfectionism.html perfectionism is an inevitable part of the experience of being gifted silverman believes that perfectionism needs to be appreciated as a two-edged sword that has the potential for propelling an individual toward unparalleled greatness or plummeting one into despair the secret to harnessing its energy is to appreciate its positive force learn how to set priorities and to avoid imposing one s own high standards on others dr silverman says perfectionism is an integral part of giftedness because 1 the sine qua non of intelligence is the capacity for abstract reasoning and perfectionism is an abstract concept an affinity for perfectionism is as natural to the gifted as a love of mathematics or literature 2 perfectionism is a function of asynchrony gifted children set standards according to their mental age rather than their chronological age 3 many gifted children have older playmates so they tend to set standards appropriate for their older friends 4 many gifted children have enough forethought to enable them to be successful in their first attempts at mastering any skill they come to expect success and fear failure since they have had little experience with it dr linda silverman s article can be purchased from the gifted development center at http www.gifteddevelopment.net/xcart/home.php?cat=252&sort=orderby&sort_d irection=0&page=2 there is a useful a powerpoint presentation by kevin kendall at http www.lexedu.org/gifted/0809/problemswithorganizationprocrastinationandperfectionism.ppt#1 and shaun hately discusses the connection between perfectionism and depression in perfectionism and the highly gifted child which can be read on hoagies website at http www.hoagiesgifted.org/perfectionhg.htm

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