"It was maybe my most meaningful gig ever. Sharing ‘how we work’ with a troop of 9-year old Girl Scouts.
I asked so many questions.
What do they know about their thoughts, feelings, and why they do the things they do?
Where do feelings come from?
How do they know things? Not the things they learn in school, but things that can’t be taught? Where do they look for answers and wisdom? Where do new ideas come from?
They were eager to share.
They told me how feelings come from annoying little brothers, friends on the playground, pets and forgotten homework. Things, people and homework make them feel the way they do.
Feelings change when they do something to cheer themselves up, they said. When they watch Harry Potter, eat a cookie, or pet their dog, they cheer up. How else?
One girl told me about her anger issues, which she inherited from her aunt who has the same problem. A 40-year old mom’s voice came out this tiny 9-year old mouth. Oh yeah, and she’s an emotional eater too, also like her aunt.
The moms in the back of the room—the Girl Scouts’ teachers of ‘how we work’—nodded in agreement with everything the girls shared.
But something felt different in these girls compared to the adults I talk with every day.
It was almost as if they were telling me the “right” (wrong!) answers, but they weren’t so sure. They had evidence to back up what they said, but they weren’t as convinced as their parents and grandparents.
I sensed an openness. Some suspicion. We went there.
We talked about how thoughts show up within them, feel solid and real, and then “pop”. Like bubbles.
They loved talking about bubbles. “Oh yeah, like how a big bubble looks like a thing, but then you touch it and it’s gone!”
Exactly. And feelings come from bubbles too, not from brothers, homework, or pets. Feelings are bubbles. They feel so solid and then pop all by themselves.
Bubbles everywhere! they chanted. Life is like bubbles! We don’t have to take the bubbles so seriously. They don’t mean anything about us, really.
(I swear to God I saw one of the moms in the back of the room reverse age about 10 years. Really? she pulled me aside to ask afterward, or was this just a story for the kids’ sake? Really and truly it works that way?)
So what’s there beneath the bubbles? You know that feeling you feel when you’re cozy in your bed, about to fall asleep, not a lot of bubbles around?
They knew. That’s always there, I told them. That’s where solutions and new ideas come from. That peaceful feeling is always there; it’s just covered by bubbles sometimes.
One girl talked about how good she felt after she cried a lot. Did that have something to do with what I was saying?
They closed their eyes and put their hands on their hearts. We were quiet for a bit. See, it’s right there, always. So close, always!
“Is that why we’re not supposed to have so much technology, so we don’t forget about that?”
Something like that, I said. I told them they didn’t have to look to the bubbles for answers or solutions or new ideas. They could look to the quiet instead. The quiet is super smart. It’s like their magical superpower.
(That triggered a Harry Potter tangent, but I got us back).
And that was that.
On the way out, I told the girl with anger and emotional eating issues that she’s just feeling bubbles. It might seem scary, but it’s not so serious. She smirked as if to say “I had a feeling that was the case”.
I heard one of the girls ask my daughter Willow, “Do you guys talk about bubbles at your house?” Willow said yes. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she looked kind of proud.
Her friend said, “That’s cool. I’m going to tell my mom about bubbles when I get home.”
Yup. That was pretty much my most favourite, meaningful gig ever."
Dr. Amy Johnson is coach, social psychologist and author.