Many of us were taught the "Golden Rule": Treat others the way you want to be treated. It's quaint as useful as a general tool and, oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if the world operated according to this philosophy? When deciding where to leave the grocery cart in the parking lot, this is a helpful guide to making a pro-social choice. Interpersonally, it doesn't hold up as well.
I've heard versions of Golden Rule-thinking come up in all my counseling experiences. At school, students would often try to resolve peer problems by doing the thing they didn't like right back to the person who did it first. "How do you like it?" is thought to be a real powerful lesson. However, no one ever looked at the ground sheepishly and replied, "You're right, that was a rotten thing to do. I'm sorry, I'll never do it again." That's the desired reaction, but it NEVER happens! Except maybe on the "Brady Bunch", sigh.
Partners often say to each other, "I would never do that to you" in an effort to get the other to admit they did a jerky thing and will never do it again. But that strategy often falls flat. The human ego and survival instinct seem to prevent us from reflecting on ourselves in this way, especially during a moment of tension. This technique also rests on the assumption that we all share preferences and that we respond similarly to stimuli.
I call relationships comprised of partners with different neurological styles "neurodiverse relationships". One partner may function neurotypically and the other may fall on the autistic spectrum or have ADHD or another psychological condition, or both partners may function at different places on the neurological spectrum. These styles determine how people prefer to communicate, how they experience and show emotion, and how they respond to touch and sensation, among other traits.
People with different neurotypes have different preferences and beliefs about what is "normal" and "good". A healthy individual embraces their own style of functioning and doesn't tell themself that they "should" be another way because the other way is better. The concept of "neurotypical" is on its way to becoming obsolete. With greater access to information and insight into other people's experiences, we see that the cis-het-White-male standard for functioning is not the one valid way to be.
We can apply this knowledge in helping couples understand one another better and provide the other with a satisfying interpersonal experience more consistently. We need to break away from thinking another person will/should like what I like because the Golden Rule says so. As a society, we've come to embrace the Love Languages and know that different people have different ways of giving and receiving love. We can extend this thinking to communication, personal space, home maintenance, gift-giving, and all other aspects of shared living.
Partners can help themselves by asking about and attending to their partners' personal preferences and needs. Assuming they want the same things is a fallacy that does not create the harmonious existence most couples crave. Viewing all preferences as valid and finding ways to compromise so that both partners get some of what they want is the most functional path toward fulfilling interdependence.
I was originally taught, and through experience now believe, that dreams come to us in the service of health and wholeness. They come from the deepest and most mysterious places of our own minds to help us sort through all the material and experiences we absorb each day. I believe dreams are colorful or dramatic reflections of where we are mentally and emotionally at the time of the dream, helping us clarify and process our thoughts and emotions.
I do not think prophetic dreams are very common, although I do not discount them outright. I think humans are very curious about the future and crave the security of knowing what lies ahead, so the tendency to think that our dreams may predict future events can be very strong. I also don't think the people who appear in our dreams always represent themselves. Some people think if they have a dream about kissing someone, they have some sort of moral obligation to obtain their consent. Let that go, your dream is your own private world.
Dreams tend to speak in a symbolic language that involves the different realms of our mind that we don’t typically acknowledge or give voice to: our subconscious, the perceptions we tend to discount or ignore; and our unconscious, that which we don’t even realize lurks beneath. Given this context, please know that NO ONE can tell you what your dream means. Only your own intuition and "gut sense" can identify the metaphors and analogies that rightfully describe the content of your dream experience.
Countless books have been written on the meaning of dreams, dream analysis and interpretation, and methods for generating and recording dreams. I won’t go into those details here. This article is intended to provide you with a simple and effective method for understanding a dream you remember upon waking. I believe that if a dream fades away, it doesn’t have an important message to be worked out. Dreams with strong emotional content or startling and memorable images that stick with you into the daytime tend to have information that could benefit your growth and development. Scary dreams are intended to frighten you into paying attention to something important!
As you remember your dream, identify the strong images, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, colors, or numbers that you experienced in your dream. Focus on those elements that really stand out in your memory. The smaller details are probably less important. Write them down as soon as possible before they begin to naturally fade with the daylight.
Click this link for the form you will use to reveal the meaning of your dream!
In the first column of the dream sheet (Dream Element), list the elements you remember in any order. Leave some room between each element for the writing you will do in the other columns.
In the second column, you will reflect on what the element means to you personally. For example, if you dream of chocolate chip cookies, write down any significant thoughts or experiences with chocolate chip cookies. Keep it short and simple. You might put "delicious, Grandma made them" or “not my favorite“. Do this for each of the elements listed in the first column.
In the third column, you will look into the symbolic meaning of each dream element. For this you will use a symbolic dream dictionary. It is important to use a dictionary that offers a variety of possible symbolic meanings, rather than superficial interpretations. Books or websites that make connections such as “dreaming of a tree means you will soon get a new job“ are unhelpful to this process. Dreams are not fortune cookies, they are complicated puzzles that speak a mystical and deeply personal language.
Look up your dream image in one or more dictionaries until you find a definition that appeals to you. The definition/s you choose might make sense in the context of a current or past event in your life. Or it might just feel appropriate or "right" according to your intuition. If there are several definitions you are drawn to, list them all.
The last column is the most fun. This is where you get to combine and synthesize the second and third columns. Use your imagination here. Let the thoughts come to you, see how the two descriptions blend together. It might not make obvious, but often once all the elements have been interpreted, the fourth column can be constructed into a sort of story. Even if it doesn't come out completely clear, you will likely gain some insight into your current challenges, thoughts, or emotions.
A few tips. If a person you know shows up in your dream, write their name and role, such as "John, brother" and look up the meaning for both. You can search online for "John name meaning" (I found "graced by God"). Sometimes dreams speak in puns. So if Harry Styles makes an appearance, you might consider the word "hairy" and see if that fits. As you remember your dream, check in with all of your senses to ensure you capture all the pertinent details.
Please leave a comment if you use this method and find it helpful. Happy dreaming!
The time is right to look within and explore the terrain of our hearts and minds, while inspecting the bridges that link us to others. Spending more time with certain people and less with others is causing many of us to reconsider the topography of our lives before Covid and to make decisions as to how the map will look when we eventually re-emerge.
Although many of our vacation plans are temporarily on hold, discovery and excitement are still available. Being homebound can inspire us to dive to the depths of our lifelong patterns, challenges, and mysteries. Journaling, interpreting dreams, and talking with a deep and active listener can open doors that lead to previously undiscovered rooms, passageways, and foreign lands.
Many people find themselves with a multitude of opportunities to heighten their communication skills through dealing with intimates much more directly than was previously possible or necessary. Learning about ourselves and each other, as well as developing skills to speak and listen with an open heart, can bring our relationships to places we didn't realize were on the map.
Some difficult journeys feel safer with an experienced guide. Even when we strike out into unfamiliar territory alone, it can be nice to encounter another adventurer along the path to share stories, ask questions, and gain insight or advice to make the trip more successful and pleasant. However approached, the journey itself is worth the effort and something will be learned, regardless of the destination.
I love Lady Gaga for her crusade to educate the masses about the variety of normal sexual and gender orientations and expressions, as well as any personality quirk that might seem to make one person stand apart from the next. Everything in her personal presentation and body of work, including her latest release “Born this Way”, not only preaches but demonstrates the virtue of individuality, acceptance of self and others, and the beauty of expressing one’s true inner self, in whatever form it may take. I see the way she affects the “tweens” with whom I work and I praise her for it. And although the premise of her new song is inspirational and certainly in keeping with the idea of homosexuality as a natural state, I want more.
Research on all aspects of humanity has historically been performed on male subjects with the results generalized to both genders. We now know this is often not helpful to women and can be quite misleading and actually dangerous in some cases. Although information on homosexuality has historically been gleaned from the lives of men, it is now known that sexual orientation in women often develops quite differently. In a nutshell, gay theory espouses that people’s sexual orientation is hardwired from the start and there is, at some point, a grand “coming out” which reveals what was there all along. Fascinating research by Dr. Lisa Diamond and others shows that the process is actually much different for a high percentage of women. Rather than present a literature review on the academic findings on this topic, I prefer to present examples of normal realization and expression of female sexuality, based on composites of real women I have known. These three styles are modeled after women who are interpersonally successful, productive, and content with their lives.
Style #1: “The Classic”
Jeanette’s first crush was on her first grade teacher. She knew her tingly feelings were more than just appreciation for the way Mrs. Summers recounted the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Jeanette went on to develop intense feelings for her girlfriends, and by the time she was 7 or 8 it was clear that something about her was different from the stories she read in class and saw on TV. She struggled with her feelings throughout school, even having some suicidal thinking in her teens as her experience of isolation and inadequacy became overwhelming. She had her first girlfriend in high school and finally put a name to her experience, as she realized the love she felt was overwhelmingly real. She then began to identify as a lesbian and has never looked back.
Style #2: “Late bloomer”
Helen always had boyfriends in her growing-up years. The truth is, her family and culture did not actually present her with alternate versions of “normal”, so she just followed the norm for girls and didn’t think to consider other options. She married relatively young and had a couple of kids. Life had its challenges and her relationship with her husband was often strained. Her husband’s mood and addiction problems further complicated the marriage and preceded their eventual divorce. As Helen entered her 50s with a hefty dose of life experience, greater self-confidence, and a desire to finally live for herself, she approached the next phase of her life with a different mentality. Perhaps related to her new perspective, Helen began noticing different types of people crossing her path. Some were women for whom she inexplicably (but somehow not surprisingly) noticed feelings of attraction. She eventually found herself in a relationship with a woman, and it felt very natural and right. Some people thought she had been fooling herself all those previous years, but she feels that this stage came about naturally when the time was right. She now fully accepts herself and feels at home in her current life situation.
Style #3: “Don’t call me bisexual”
Maria was always a free thinker. She didn’t typically fit in with the mainstream crowd and she often felt misunderstood and overlooked. As a young person she had crushes on boys, but certain qualities in girls also caught her eye. Her appearance was pretty standardly feminine and she was not perceived by others or herself as “gay”, but she certainly didn’t identify with the typical dreams and expectations of the straight world. Over time, she developed greater interest in and comfort with the idea of being sexually and romantically involved with women, but she continued to have attractions to men, as well. Maria has had relationships with both men and women, but is always committed and monogamous within the context of any relationship. She may be drawn more intensely to one or the other at any given time, but she believes that when she meets “the one”, that person may be of either gender and she will gladly commit herself to that relationship for the long run.
These three styles are common among non-heterosexual women, but they are not the only “normal” ways for women to experience and share their sexuality. Truly, one important piece of learning to be taken from this new perspective is that our definition of “normal” needs to expand to include a wider range of options for women. Research is showing that although some men follow similar alternative routes to blossoming in their sexuality, it is still most common for males to follow the “classic style” upon which the common understanding of homosexuality has been built. Dr. Lisa Diamond has coined the phrase “sexual fluidity” to describe a woman’s normal tendency to shift in sexual identity throughout the life span. This leads to the conclusion that just because someone wasn’t “born this way” doesn’t mean she isn’t exactly who she is meant to be, right now.
This article can also be seen on: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/female-sexual-development-lesbian-bisexual/
I’ve got two clients right now. Granted, the most I can fit into my part-time private practice is six per week, but right now I’m averaging less than 1 per week. Very low. According to colleagues who work in private practice and mental health agencies, it seems that the early months of the year tend to be slow for new referrals across many branches of the field. I had the double-whammy of terminating with several clients before the holiday season, which brought my client count crashing down. For those who rely on a steady stream of clients in order to pay the bills, times like these can be very stressful and concerning. And they don’t just happen according to set calendar dates. Things can be moving along swimmingly and then suddenly the client load shifts inexplicably and you find yourself with more free time than you might prefer. The following are some reframes and positive thinking about this trying, but common, situation.
1. This may be a sign that it’s time for a vacation. Therapists tend to be “other-focused” and often forget to give themselves the rest and relaxation they need to be available and attentive to those who seek their help. A low time can signify a great opportunity to relax and recharge. Rather than going toward guilt and fear, you may choose to see this time as a gift for all the hard work you’ve been doing. Shift active clients to the same days and get out of town for the rest of the week to a place that inspires, invigorates, or replenishes your soul. If leaving town is not possible, give yourself permission to loaf, rest, and be completely unproductive for a few days. For those unfamiliar to loafing, here are some ideas: sit on the couch and dive into a reality TV marathon; read one of those novels that’s been sitting on the shelf too long; cook up a double batch of your family’s secret lasagna recipe. It’s even okay to gain a couple pounds in the process! You know what you need to refresh yourself—we all have different ways of stoking our own inner fire. Giving yourself a few days of wild abandon from “shoulds” and routines is a constructive and healthy way to take advantage of the low season and allow it to uplift you.
2. Sleep! Don’t be afraid to catch up on your sleep. There is nothing lazy, time-wasting or irresponsible about it. It is a documented fact that adequate sleep is healing, creativity-boosting, and necessary for peak functioning. The low season is a good time to re-establish a healthy sleep schedule and make it a habit. Sometimes this requires a detoxification from pharmaceuticals, an adjustment of late-night TV or social habits, or a shift in diet. Reconnecting with high-quality sleep will boost your energy, slow the aging process and center your faculties to put you on solid ground for the next chapter of your life.
3. When we rest and revive, we often find our brains tuning in more strongly to our natural creativity. You might notice new ideas hatching for your work, business, or personal life. Perhaps there is an area of your life that has been unintentionally neglected. You may find new inspiration for some of your other interests and life roles, such as spouse, friend, parent, entrepreneur, chef, horticulturalist… you get the picture. Your work as a clinician is important, but your life as a whole is your purpose on earth. When time, energy, and mental/emotional resources are freed up, new ventures often naturally emerge to fill the space. I use a concept called “the fourth option”, which came about in my work with a particular client. We use our minds very productively to brainstorm solutions to life’s challenges, but the list of options we create is naturally limited by our human capacity to perceive and to know. For some reason, it seems that we tend to think in threes and come up with a list of three answers to our own questions. I like to suggest that people acknowledge and hold space open for a mysterious “fourth option” to arise, as if from nowhere. When we open our minds and remind ourselves that we don’t know the “whys and wherefores” of every circumstance, we open the door to unique opportunities and previously unanticipated possibilities. And, believe it or not, they do appear!
4. Sometimes a low season leads to putting pressure on ourselves to expand our marketing and find ways to conjure new clients out of thin air. If your amount of referrals has always been less than you would prefer, perhaps it’s a good time to refresh your advertising strategy. However, if you are typically satisfied with your number of new clients, then the low season is not a result of a poor marketing plan and you might choose to relieve yourself of that pressure during a downturn. Instead, you might open yourself to other opportunities that allow you to share your skills in different ways. There are countless endeavors requiring people with expertise, a few of which are speaking engagements, writing gigs, expert witness services, legal mediation, and certainly a slew of volunteer opportunities in various fields. It might be a great time to step outside the office (either physically or mentally) and shower the world with your gifts in other ways.
We’ve heard the axiom, in many different ways, that when one door closes, a window of opportunity opens. Look back on your life and make note of all the times this philosophy has come to pass. I anticipate that you will identify many. A low season in therapeutic practice is a chance to loosen up and allow new adventures to come your way. Resist the impulse to tighten up and fret about all the “what ifs” that spring instantly to mind. It can be hard to trust that the bills will somehow be paid, but as you live your life as a whole being and expand your energy into the other areas of your human experience, you are cooperating with Life and aligning yourself with true prosperity.
In closing, I will ask you to remember the standard wisdom that resonates with so many therapists: we get exactly what we need and we need what we get. Think of the client who walks in the door with the same question you’ve been bandying about all week. Or the problem at work that so closely parallels the struggle you are grappling with in your own family. The low season is merely an indicator that there is currently something else calling for your time and attention. Do what you can to greet it joyfully and open-heartedly and watch with delightful anticipation what transpires.
This article can also be seen on: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/therapist-few-clients-self-care/
The term "bullying" is bandied about very freely in our society. Recently, many celebrities have felt compelled to "speak out" against bullying, as a result of some recent events that garnered significant media attention. It is generally assumed that we all know what bullying is, but as a US citizenry, we actually have no clear concensus on the actions and factors that constitute true cases of "bullying".
True bullying is, in fact, a very serious event which needs to be handled forcefully and immediately by adults in authority. Children cannot handle bullying on their own—they need adults to intervene. The most important step in protecting children against bullying is teaching them to effectively identify and report it. If adults cannot reliably and clearly explain exactly what "bullying" is, how can we expect children to know? And how can they secure the protection they need if they don't know the correct words to put to their experiences? I continually notice that children are very confused when it comes to knowing the difference between "teasing" and "bullying", and most of the "anti-bullying" programs of the last decade do more to muddy the issue than to help. As adults, we have a responsibility to clearly understand the issue before leading children astray through emotional vilifying and uninformed proselytizing.
The specific actions that someone engaging in bullying does may vary widely. A useful definition of bullying focuses less on the specific actions of the perpetrator and more on qualities related to the interaction between the perpetrator and the target.
1. The cruel behaviors are repetitive, perpetrated by a specific person or group against another specific person or group. It is not a one-time incident and it is not accidental.
2. The perpetrating person or group has more power than the target. This may be physical, intellectual, or social power.
3. The target person or group feels scared, powerless, and may want to avoid going to school to avoid the perpetrator(s).
Adults need to be able to identify what bullying is and isn't so that they can empower children to handle situations effectively. A child who learns how to deal with teasing and bugging on his own will learn a valuable life skill that he will take into adulthood and continue to use regularly. A child who receives immediate, pointed, and powerful assistance with a case of true bullying will feel protected, valuable, and safe.
An aside: As a society, we are quick to demonize those nasty "bullies" and coddle the "poor victims". However, we fail to realize that bullying exists in all levels of society and we actually reward and support it in many ways. Children don't come up with this stuff on their own—it is partially hardwired by our survival instinct and partially passed down by parents, communities, and the mass media. The power differential applies to adult relationships, as well—it often appears economically, politically, and socially. We are often afraid to go to work, to certain gatherings, or even to the polls to avoid the powerless feeling we get from experiencing bullying. When we as adults understand true bullying and learn to identify it, maybe we can let go of the victim mentality and stop supporting bullying with our votes, dollars, and admiration. Then we will be effective role models for our children and the best anti-bullying campaign will have begun.
This is someone else's writing. I like it so much I'm posting it here for your reference.
Love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image… otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. –Author Unknown
There is probably not a culture on earth that values the ideal of long-term love and marriage as much as Americans. While more than 90 percent of young adults aspire to marriage, fewer and fewer are choosing it because as a country and a culture we have the highest rate of romantic breakups in the world. Although we generally think about our relationships in very personal terms, it may do us well to consider the cultural values that provide their context. Media and advertising shower us with both a plethora of choices and the inherent message that we are entitled to the best; always with the goal of achieving and improving our happiness. Consequently, and perhaps even inadvertently, many of us are continuously in a self appraisal of our emotional wellbeing and personal life, driven by the erroneous idea that there is always another choice available that would make us happier.
This entitlement to the happiness belief system has silently infiltrated our expectations and practices within our relationships. More and more we expect our relationships to meet and even predict our emotional needs, which, because we are ever more vigilantly watching them, is an impossible task. Even worse it is fueled by focusing on and trusting the least stable aspects of our day to day personality, which are as momentary and changeable as are the ups and downs of living together.
Human relationships, romantic and otherwise, are rife with disappointment, alienation and even experiences of emotional betrayal. As we increasingly measure our relationships by their capacity to meet our needs, the missteps and hurts that accompany all long- term relationships are mistakenly interpreted as grounds for termination. In our minds, they take on the magnitude of tragedy and even abuse. Combined with our fantasy about the unlimited choices available, many of us hold the idea that there must be someone better for us out there (a la, Chemistry.com). The net result is that we often throw away perfectly good relationships that may well need work, only to find ourselves in the very same relationship, now called by some other name.
I always tell people who want to get into a relationship to think about 2 or 3 qualities that they want a relationship to bring to their life, and to consider what they are willing to give up in exchange. Some people scoff at me, believing that because they can envision their perfect mate, they will find him. I am here to say that the widely sold soul mate fantasy does not exist. We are all a unique mix of imperfect qualities and attributes that make us simultaneously lovable and annoying. Embracing the possibility of a successful long-term relationship refocuses the quest for the ideal partner back onto us.
The only person you can ever really hope to change is yourself. By refocusing your attention on your own capacity to partner and connect, you automatically change the nature of the relationship itself. A loving relationship is the safest place for you to redefine and improve the kind of partner that you can be. Approaching your relationship as the active and continuous improvement process of communicating and negotiating is a bold rewriting of the script.
Wendy Strgar, owner of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.
This blog title refers to the popularly-dispensed concept of the Law of Attraction (LOA)— the idea that humans attract through their own power the people and experiences that fill their life. I have actively studied and worked with this concept in my own life for over ten years and I am now ready to definitively conclude that it is bunk.
The bunkness comes in a propensity we have as humans to think our minds are the most powerful thing in existence. Our brain matter is in fact an extremely advanced tool that mystifies scientists and is practically beyond the realm of any knowable entity on Earth. This is a fact. But nothing in the manifest realm could exist and function without the energetic spark that is beyond all matter, form, and earthly manifestation. Therefore, anything that is produced or affected by the human mind is actually sourced and influenced by something completely outside of itself. This "something" is known by many names: God (and all other names used by the multitude of religions), Supreme Being, Ultimate Source, Cosmic Power...you get my drift.
Humans go off-course when they believe that they have, in fact, made an event occur or attracted something into their life through their mental, emotional, and spiritual power. I truly believe that what we focus our energy on expands—indubitably. And that we can align our energy with the cosmic force that brings experiences and events into being—absolutely. But it is not our own power that brings the possibility of those events into being.
How many times have you been frustrated in your efforts? How many times have you really wanted something but were completely unable to bring it about? Can you remember a time when something unforeseen and amazing came to you when you least expected it? How about when a situation went bad and ultimately led to something much better? If we were in complete control of our earthly existence, karmic flow, and cosmic destiny, none of these things would or could occur.
Now, there are times when we feel a drive deep in our being to do or seek something. It is very important to us and we can't help thinking about it day and night. In my belief system, this is a sign that the Universe has something in store for us which is preparing to manifest. We can work with this driving impulse and cooperate with the energies which are lining up to bring forth something new, or we can allow earthly barriers and our emotional nature to block the path: we can let fear stop us from taking necessary steps to see our passion come to fruition; we can give up when our ego accepts messages from others that we are not good enough; we can be immobilized by anger when we don't achieve what we seek according to our own timetable.
The life experiences meant for us will come into being without any mental or energetic call from us. The call comes from beyond. That is the twist that confuses the "LOA" folks. The spark of intuition and genius that we notice in our own hearts and minds was not created by our small human mind, but rather intuited by us through the auspices of the spiritual source of life. When we cooperate with the source and nurture the idea into being, we are manifesting that which is meant for us to have. We can only manifest that which is already in the cosmic plan for our life!
Our life follows a certain trajectory based on many levels of karmic influence and spiritual destiny. Lots of opportunities and experiences are available to us and, as human beings, we often have choices of which road to follow. It is my belief, arrived at through spiritual study and personal practice, that we experience "course corrections" when we make a choice that takes us away from our spiritual destiny. Yes, we have free will and the power to make choices that affect our daily lives; but our long-range, cosmic destiny flows forward regardless of the short-term decisions we make for ourselves. We've got large lessons to learn that we cannot begin to fathom in this human incarnation. We cannot possibly choose the experiences on our own that lead us down the path our Great Soul is fated to follow.
There is a saying: "The winds of fate are always blowing; all you have to do is lift your sail". By meditating, reflecting, and spending time alone and inside ourself, we can develop a sensitivity to the cosmic impulses which indicate the direction of our soul inspiration. We can cooperate with those impulses and work to manage the human barriers we erect which postpone the manifestation of our greatest good. By knowing that we are in the good hands of the Cosmos, we can use our energy and human power to get the most out of this lifetime and prepare for the next.
Going to the movies used to be the safest unsupervised outing a parent could agree on with their preteen or teenage child. These days many movie complexes are located inside malls, with security guards and the reassuring presence of a Macy’s and a Wetzel’s Pretzels. Malls have become the new downtown centers of many modern cities, which provide the closest approximation of the nostalgic, store-lined main streets of the somewhat distant past. For parents who want to allow their kids to develop that crucial sense of independence while still providing as much safety as possible, a trip to the mall with friends to cruise the food court and see a movie seems like a good option. As much as this setting may provide parents with a reasonably sufficient sense of security, I wonder how many parents consider the content of what their children are imbibing in their absence.
Certainly parents are concerned about preventing drug and alcohol use, but what about the terror that intoxicates children as part of today’s typical moviegoing experience? Rating systems be darned— horror movies have become such a widespread staple in the moviegoing demographic’s diet, many parents fail to recognize the impact the terrifying sights and sounds have on their children. The brain’s chemical response to terror and its effect on a person’s physical and psychological wellbeing has been identified and supported by research. The effect is even more intense on children, as their brains are in a delicate state of development. We know that shocks to their psychological system have an intense impact on their ability to concentrate, to feel secure and calm, and to interact effectively in the social world.
We have abstinence and safer sex programs for our teenagers, alcohol and drug abuse interventions, and even gaming addiction awareness, why is there no concern about the domestic terror rolling out daily in our seemingly safest harbors? Is our society so bereft of meaningful rites of passage to mark the advent of adulthood that learning to accept and embrace fear, anxiety, and horror has become the required training to be an adult American? Parents of youngsters may do well by their children to reconsider the activities they allow for “entertainment” and remember that our children’s mental safety is equally important as their physical safety.
One of my favorite stories...
A farmer who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, his horse ran away beyond the fields and across the border. His neighbors rushed to his side and cried, "How horrible! What a tragedy!", but he simply stated, "It's too soon to tell". Several weeks later, the horse returned. But it wasn't alone—it was accompanied by a splendid stallion! Well this caused the neighbors to exclaim with joy at his great fortune. The farmer just replied, "It's too soon to tell". His response was confounding to the neighbors, who scratched their heads and returned to their labor.
The farmer's household was richer with such a fine horse. His son took to the task of training the horse for work in the fields. One day he was thrown by the stallion and his hip was broken. This appeared to be a catastrophe to the neighbors, who knew the farmer relied on his son to harvest the crops. The farmer took in the situation and thought to himself, "It's too soon to tell". Soon after, nomad warriors stormed the nearby border and all able-bodied men from the farmer's village took up weapons and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because of the son's injury did the father and son survive to take care of each other.
The tides of life rise and fall—there is blessing or disaster to be found in every event. Emotional equanimity allows peace to flow in the midst of the most challenging of times.