Yellow is a Feeling

Jim had learning disabilities and lived in a Residential Home with five other men. He was in his early fifties and was referred to me with anxiety and depression in the hope that I could discover what was causing his unhappiness.  Jim had a very limited vocabulary of single words.  A word he used continuously was Tuesday and to Jim everyday was Tuesday.

His care-staff were concerned because he was exhibiting what they termed ‘bizarre behaviour’. They told me that when no one was watching, Jim would slip out into the back garden, ‘pull the heads off weeds’ and put them into a plastic carrier bag. He would then thrust his head into the bag to seemingly examine them more closely.

I decided to observe this behaviour first hand, in an attempt to gain some understanding of what was going on. Observation revealed that the weeds Jim was specifically selecting were yellow dandelions.  When he felt  he had gathered enough dandelion heads, he put his head into the bag and kept it there for about ten seconds.

As I was gathering clues in an attempt to offer Jim some help and healing, I played him a variety of  music on a CD player from pop to classical in an attempt to discover his musical choice. We must never assume preference because this will of course vary from person to person. Our musical choices trigger memory and will gently and painlessly help us to let go of the past and lift our mood when words cannot. Unfortunately, unless it is brought to their attention, care-staff often make assumptions about the musical preference of residents and play their own musical taste and tune into popular radio stations without a thought for those who are forced to listen, not through choice.

To everyone’s surprise, Jim responded very positively to the music of Vivaldi. When I played Vivaldi’s music, he sat very still, focussing on the CD player and would conduct the music using his right index finger as a baton. As Jim listened, his anxious expression changed to one of rapture. He would reach for the CD cover as the music was playing and looked intently at the illustrations of ancient Venetian buildings in Vivaldi’s birthplace.

Listen to  Jim’s favourite piece Vivaldi’s Spring

Dandelion 2Why was Jim so transfixed on the word Tuesday? His care-staff were unable enlighten me or offer any information which would help me understand why Tuesdays were so significant for him. We therefore began to think of ways, to make Tuesdays a special day for Jim. I changed my visiting day to Tuesday and the staff took Jim on special Tuesday excursions and treats either before or after my visit. Gradually a positive structure was put in place, helping Jim to remember the other days of the week and to separate them from Tuesdays. His care-staff devised a regular routine so that each day was marked by a practical enjoyable activity in which Jim was involved .

As he became less anxious, Jim’s spontaneous speech and vocabulary increased.  He became more interested in the conversation of those around him and attempted to repeat key phrases.   Gradually, with praise and gentle encouragement the old fear patterns associated with speaking melted away and without prompting, he began use longer phrases and sentences to make his choices known.

As a reward for his progress, I suggested that Jim’s room, which was blue, be repainted in a colour of his choosing.  He had never been given this opportunity before and was taken to the appropriate paint store to make his choice. It was no surprise to hear that the colour he pointed to was a beautiful dandelion yellow. When his room was re painted, he stopped gathering dandelion heads in a plastic carrier bag and his care-staff discovered, through the practical activities they were devising, that Jim had a genuine interest in gardening.

Through simple solutions, Jim’s quality of life improved enormously. His week now included regular trips to the Garden Centre to purchase fresh flowers for the house and plants for his own patch of garden. As an added bonus he planted and grew pots of sunflowers on the windowsill of his bedroom.

Yellow, on the rainbow spectrum corresponds to the colour of the solar plexus chakra in health.  The solar plexus  is the junction box of the nervous system and links to the gall bladder, pancreas, stomach, liver and upper bowel, which are affected by our anxiety and emotional rsponses. That’s why we get ulcers if we worry.   Sunshine yellow is the colour associated with hope and when we are feeling miserable, yellow flowers are uplifting and yellow daffodils and primroses appear with the promise of spring. Jim intuitively knew that this was the colour that would help him to feel better and perhaps that is why he went outside in search of dandelions. I believe that the music of Vivaldi triggered a positive past life memory of strength in Italy for him, which involved music. Each time he heard Vivaldi’s music he would be reminded of happier times. I can picture him now, gazing at the CD cover whilst keeping time with his index finger.

Dandelions-Butterfly

Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.  Jennifer’s Research with adults with learning disabilities is documented at Academia.edu  . Case study examles are documented here here

Email: jennifer@livingmemoryresearch.net