The Times of Israel published my new article “Syrian Father Who Went Viral Teaching His Daughter to Laugh at Falling Rockets”
Boom! Peels of belly laughter roll from a little girl in her father’s arms. Boom!
Now zoom out on the scene to place the radiant moment of joy in its heartbreaking context:
Abdullah Al-Mohammad teaches his 3-year-old daughter Salwa to laugh at the sound of every shell that falls and explodes nearby.
As a Syrian trying to survive war and with no place to run, what is left for him to do? In order to reduce or eliminate the trauma of rockets falling, he teaches little Salwa that the sound of falling rockets is funny and that the noise of the shelling is merely a game. Life is beautiful (almost).
Abdullah’s poignant video went viral on social media and made him an instant Internet hero, earning him more than two million likes and positive comments, including proposals to adopt the method to help the children in Gaza.
In the chaotic reality of war-torn Syria, this father’s desperate tactics are an understandable attempt to provide his child with psychological protection against the onslaughts of traumatizing bombardment. He hasn’t the time or luxury to research the optimal educational intervention to take when shells fall in the yard. Clearly, there is no good solution or best practice model to calm the terror, only first aid.
What form of teaching would be most helpful for such tragic situations?
The education needs to be directed toward every member of society, parents and children alike, and must be designed to target the root cause of problems in order to provide a lasting cure.
Every member of society needs to understand, according to their level of maturity, that if we want to stop the wars once and for all, we need to try and connect to each other according to the unifying laws of nature.
While teaching children to laugh at threats and danger might help them get through immediate frightening situations more comfortably, it holds no long-term benefit because such learning can cause psychoneurotic maladjustments and misperceptions of reality. Such an out-of-place connection between peril and reaction sets up an incorrect relationship in the brain between threat and response. Thus, at times when vigilance is warranted, the amount of concern and caution is inappropriately reduced leaving them vulnerable to harm.
Medically and scientifically, crying and laughing cause the same shock response in the nervous system. So, while the emotion associated with laughter might feel more pleasant, the effect on the body is no healthier than that of crying.
Both crying and laughing are a reaction of excitement that exceeds the extent of a person’s ability to absorb at a given moment. Therefore, we do need to calm reactions to fears, and only afterward clearly explain the situation and why it is happening.
Step by step over time, children need to understand that wars and destruction take place because society has received no education to develop positive relations, and that there is no concern in society to learn how to positively connect above each person’s innate divisive drives.
They need to know that in order to stop the wars once and for all, we need to try and connect to each other correctly, and in accordance with the unifying laws of nature.
If children understood this principle, they would not laugh, and not even smirk. On the contrary, they would tell us straight to our faces, in their naïve style: Parents, fix your thoughts and behaviors, and improve your relationships with each other!