Making Your Self Whole

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. —The Gospel of Thomas

Kathryn, an academic, athletic and social success at her high school, went on to the University of Pennsylvania where she began to consider suicide.

She is not the only one. Always an issue with adolescents, there has been a dramatic spike in anxiety and depression since 2007, and a steady increase in suicide among 15-24 year-olds. Most colleges recognize and react to this epidemic with outreach efforts, expanded counseling center hours, and a designated phone line on campus. Theories as to the causes of this epidemic (helicopter parenting, digital devices, perfectionism, over-indulgence, etc.) have also proliferated.

The dramatic increase in anxiety, depression and suicide in adolescents may also be caused by a culture that emphasizes happiness and success based on ones position on a socio-academic pyramid. In our schools, this obsession generates a number of myths which result in (surprise, surprise) a few winners, many losers, a lot of mediocrity and desperation regardless of where you fall. Myths like:

None of these myths are borne out either by experience or research, and yet our behavior continues to be guided by them. The result is young people who are split off from themselves. If a child graduates from high school having spent most of their psychic energy trying to measure up, their deeper motivations are in the closet. They are left with an executive self alienated from its inner self.

Your True Self

But whatever the cause(s), our focus should be wholeness. We humans are Rube Goldbergs trying to make sense, and it’s not an easy task. And yet, our inner self is a wealth of information about relationships and knowledge we “forget.” You must get in the habit of listening to your inner voice, or “…what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Young children act as if they know this. Watch children under seven. From birth, children are not bifurcated into a good and a bad self, and they trust in that voice within them that guides them toward what they are making of themselves. They focus on creating, on making friends, on mattering, and understand how much they must learn. Their mistakes, their failures, their conflicts are simply felt as learning experiences. They know that failure is an option and bounce back. Churchill’sSuccess is failing again and again without losing enthusiasm” is built in.  (It wasn’t till I was eight that I realized that I was inferior: falling short of my parents’ expectations and deficient in school.) But if we adults play our cards right, our children will never lose it.

“Born again,” is not something that happens to us once in our lives. It is something we can choose every moment of our lives. When we feel stuck with a problem, frustrated with our performance, alienated, anxious, isolated or mad, we need to get in touch with the voice of our character, our genius, and bring our whole selves to the table.

self chasing self’s tail

This often feels like doing something unexpected or “silly” or weird. Sometimes it is like “coming out of the closet.” Sometimes, as with Kathryn, it IS “coming out of the closet.” Also, there are dozens of disciplines from “counting to ten,” to going for a long walk, to yoga, meditation and prayer,

Anxiety, depression and suicide are manifestations of the three main human dis-eases: loneliness, boredom and uselessness. The three antidotes are collaborating, creating and contributing. If you, or someone you love, feel down, or depressed or anxious, connect with someone, make something beautiful, or be useful. A steady diet of these three C’s will “bring forth that which is within you,” and save you—and your children.

 

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3 Responses to Making Your Self Whole

  1. Important and valuable post once again Rick!

  2. Helen Lovell-Wayne says:

    I have an recent experience on this topic. At the beginning of the school year I was called into a parent teacher conference. They told me my son was a really fun kid, and that was always smiling and cared about other people. However my son was behind the other students in math and reading. The teacher and her assistant were giving him lots of extra attention but he was still falling short. As a parent, I panicked. My 6 year old was on track to drop out of high school and spend the rest of his life doing menial work.

    I bought a book on teaching your kid to read and a math textbook. I knew if we worked through these activities together he would ace first grade, and be on track to attend Harvard. In addition the school gave him 2 worksheets a day for homework. My son hated the homework and the math textbook. He threw the book on the ground and started bawling the first day I pulled it out. I did not fare much better with reading.

    So I bought a dot-to-dot book, and went to the library. We checked out books he was interested in. I looked in the rear view mirror on the way back. He was looking at the text on the bottom of each page. I saw him grin through a few pages, and look nervous at another. When we got home I asked him to choose a book. I read one page and he read another. I purposely mispronounced and left out words. He corrected each one of my errors and read his pages with passion and made few mistakes.

    Each morning my son and I would read a library book, and when I got home from work he would do a dot-to-dot. Then he would play outside with real and imaginary friends. On the weekends we took him to parks, playgrounds, and other fun educational kid activities. Then my husband attended the next parent teacher conference.

    He was told that my son no longer needed to do homework, since was in the middle of his class in math and reading. In addition his reasoning abilities were higher then that of a third grader. However he was not a nice boy anymore. Instead he was aggressive and mean to the other kids. We had gained academic success at the price of my sons’ well being.

    I sat down with him a few days later and told him about my own academic struggles. Then I told him he had abilities that already surpassed me. I said that I would always love him and that I wanted him to be happy. He seemed reassured and now he smiles when he comes home. I watch him play with toy cars and rockets. He knows I will no longer force him to read boring things, or recite the numbers 1-200. I am no longer threat, I just want to help him play with enthusiasm.

    We have our next conference in a couple of weeks. I have a feeling it will be good both socially and academically. I learned that my son just wanted to be a kid. I should not have tried to teach him in such a dull manner. I am glad that I pulled back when I did, otherwise I might have lost him forever. As adults we need to cherish children and not force them to live up to some arbitrary standard. From now on I will work on his happiness first and academics second. As long as he follows his passion he will do well. At the present time he wants to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when he grows up. Who an I to object?

  3. Rick says:

    Helen, thank you for this great story. I know you are in good company. My guess is the vast majority of kids and parents suffer as you have. Nice job pulling out of a possible tailspin. I like you making deliberate mistakes and letting him correct you.
    Keep us in touch.

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