I’ve been asked to give a talk this week to CASA volunteers. These folks forge meaningful relationships with children going to the court systems who’ve usually suffered from trauma of one sort or another.
What I’m hoping I can convey to these volunteers is the importance they have to these kids and the importance created by offering a reliable, dependable relationship.
We Are Naturally Drawn to Relationships
Each of us, and each of these kids, are born relationship-seeking. Our natural inclination is to make internal contact within ourselves, becoming aware of what we feel and what we need.
From there, we reach out into the world with those feelings and relational needs in the hope of getting a caring response. When kids experience trauma, large or small, they lose the motivation to seek a relationship as a safe place to bring their feelings and needs.
The 5 Basic Emotions We Use When Reaching Out
Those five emotions we use when reaching out to others for relationship. Here’s each one, along with the caring response to each:
The proper way to handle sadness is compassion.
2. Fear & 3. Anxiety
The appropriate responses to both fear and anxiety include reassurance and creating security.
Taking someone seriously and helping them correct their behavior are caring ways to respond to anger.
When someone is excited, we must share in their excitement with an equal amount of joy and vitality.
Meeting Our 5 Needs Through Relationship
There are eight relational needs, but I will only discuss five of them here. Those are:
We feel secure when we feel accepted for who we are, just as we are.
This comes by having our experiences of life validated.
We must be able to say, “This is me” and have a relationship where we feel seen for who we are.
4. To Make an Impact
We feel we have made a difference when others show us they are impacted by us.
5. To Have Another Person Initiate
When others reach out to us, this relational need is met.
As these needs arise organically within ourselves, we reach out to the world around us. When we find them met, the world becomes a safe place in which we can experience and express ourselves.
What Happens When Our Needs Aren’t Met
When the response we get is inconsistent, we find ourselves having to figure out what to do with our own needs and feelings.
Suddenly, we’re left alone, and that’s a very painful thing.
We compensate by finding adaptive methods to self-soothe, and we start believing that relationships won’t be there for us. As we turn away from relationships to self-soothing, we begin to feel no one is there for us.
So, the CASA volunteers are working to be there again and again. They offer an attuned response and invite the children back into the world of relationship.
These volunteers are important people who allow these kids to believe that the world (and the people in it) can actually be a cure for their isolation instead of adding to it.
That’s my hope for all of us.