Restoring a Sense of Rhythm

Restoring a Sense of Rhythm

Restoring a Sense of Rhythm

“Rhythm is important to self-regulation. It is part of being human.”

As part of the Ranch’s ongoing cultural commitment to learning, several dozen of our therapeutic staff are engaged in a facilitated book study. The book, “What Happened To You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, is a conversation on the topic of trauma and brain development. Dr. Perry is a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and an acclaimed trauma expert, who coincidentally, was born and raised in North Dakota. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, we use trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive methodologies in all our work.

I am sitting in on the sessions, though I am not trained as a therapist. Those who know me would tell you that is a frightening idea, as impatience is not a trait that fits well with therapeutic work! However, after nearly 30 years working in children’s mental health and welfare, I have a pretty good handle on the principles and theories. And I will never quit learning.

But, back to rhythm…and a different way to think about it.

We’ve all seen it happen. A child, or an adult for that matter, begins to become uncomfortable or tense. Voices escalate; a small thing gets linked to bigger things; tears, fists, tantrums, and erratic movement spill out that all seem out of sync with the scope of the issues. That flurry of response is termed, “dysregulation.” It means that the person has temporarily lost the ability to control their reactions or behaviors. They aren’t able to “self-regulate.” In the book discussion today, this was described as being “out of rhythm.” 

I'd never heard it put that way before, but, it makes sense.

We begin our lives in the womb surrounded by the rhythms of our mothers’ bodies. The heartbeat and other autonomic processes of the body are reliable and steady. That sense of predictability and reliability, in a very physical sense, is embedded into our brains. Repetition and rhythm soothe us. Whether in a rocking chair, through music, poetry, dance, walking, running, ocean waves, meditation; all of those steady, predictable patterns help us center, regulate, get “in-rhythm.” However, for kids, like many at the Ranch who have lived their lives in unpredictable chaos, the natural capacity to regain rhythm has been crushed.

There is no way to keep all of life predictable and orderly. So, we help the kids at the Ranch to recognize the signs they are getting “out of rhythm.” We teach them tools that help them self-regulate. Maybe they learn to listen to a favorite song before a stressful meeting or test. Maybe they join a running group. Maybe they learn to play drums. Maybe they have a favorite prayer they repeat. When they find and use the tools/techniques that help restore that sense of rhythm, they can prepare to face the day, however it may unfold.  

Maybe this also explains the rather mysterious perpetuity of polka music…

In His love,

Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

If you are a Thrivent Financial member, you may have Thrivent Choice Dollars® available to direct. Your Choice Dollars® can be directed to multiple organizations each year. Please consider choosing Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch as one place you direct your Choice Dollars®. All Thrivent Choice Dollars® are used to fund our Spiritual Life Program, giving our children the opportunity to grow in their faith and learn about their loving Heavenly Father. To direct your Choice Dollars® to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, go to You can also direct your Choice Dollars® over the phone by calling 1-800-847-4836, and say "Thrivent Choice," after the prompt. The deadline is MARCH 31st, so direct your Choice Dollars® today!


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