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.
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’s “Success 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.
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.