Reflection 4: Helping kids to become aware of themselves

I have been thinking about how much transformation our civilization is going through and how much has changed we have witnessed over the last sixty years, from the fall of many ideological, institutional power and socio-economic systems to the current death of our civilization.

Communism, capitalism, socialism etc, all have fallen under the weight of the oppressive hands. These events have demonstrated that ideology often does not translate into workable systems. In all cases, greed, the need for power and control have renders these systems unbearable for its people since human’s needs have been entirely disregarded from the equation. The west has created a system with white males at the top of the pyramid, has allowed to create a constant battle between genders, races and cultures that has blinded us to the real power plays in our lives, corporate or institutional control of our values and actions.

Many scientists know this version of our world is ending. Ten years ago a French sociologist was noticing that many of the markers indicative of the end of previous civilizations were showing up in US society. I agree with Lester Brown, the times we are witnessing are equivalent to those of Copernicus.

As he writes:
“We are facing a situation in economics today similar to that in astronomy when Copernicus arrived on the scene, a time when it was believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Just as Copernicus had to formulate a new astronomical worldview after several decades of celestial observations and mathematical calculations, we too must formulate a new economic worldview based on several decades of environmental observations and analyses.”

What a wonderful opportunity to reinvent our ways. We could do this collectively via networks and create a new type of systems that reflects people’s values and interests, no longer who ever is in power’s way. Yet, how many of us spend most of our energy trying to make the world remain the same out of fear of change. Yet, change is one of the underlying constants of the world and what allows us to evolve.

Perhaps part of the fear is that to evolve we have to be aware of ourselves? For Dr Jean Benedict Raffa it is key to a solution, as she explains:

“ In our time we are becoming increasingly polarized around divisive issues of faith, gender and politics. The blame for this state of affairs does not lie with any one group, but with our own dualistic thinking. As long as we persist in assigning labels of ”good” and “bad” to every pair of opposites, whether male/female, I/you, human/divine, my religion/your religion, or our nation/their nation, we will perpetuate the problem.

The time has come to realize this way of thinking no longer serves humanity’s best interests. Fortunately, there is an alternative. It is typified by a committed effort to understand ourselves, forge authentic relationships with others, and try to live with compassion every moment of every day. This way of living is symbolized by the mandorla, the shape formed by the merging of two separate circles. This almond-shaped space represents the kind of integrated psychological thinking and spiritual living we’ve always associated with our wisest and most enlightened Spirit Persons.”

This other quote from an interview of Dr Jean Benedict Raffa talking about her book the sacred devide, summarized the transformation we need to go through beautifully:

“Karl Jung said that when you beginning to bring two personalities together and make contact, it is like when two chemical substances come together. If there is a reaction between them both sides are transformed. The mendorla consciousness is the kind of consciousness that we, as the human race, are beginning to move into. Moving out of this straight ego, me, consciousness, we are moving into this consciousness where I am accepting you, I am accepting my masculine side, your accepting me , your accepting your feminine side.
The major two elements of this process of uniting have to do with personal self discovery, understanding yourself psychologically. (…)
The second one is accepting the disowned feminine that many, if not most cultures in our world today, had disowned and repressed. I really believe that the merging of the masculine and feminine is one of the really key issues that is going to soften the one-sidedness and create more understanding in ourselves and between other people.


It is a new way of thinking that is already emerging.

Opening up my mind frees me from all the burden of guilt, self doubt, self criticism and sense of perfectionism. It makes me open to otherness which is very freeing and very healing and we learn compassion that way. “

But how many of us know who we actually are? How many of us can stand still with our thoughts and listen to ourselves without the noise of busy consumer/working/competitive/addictive life or feelings of guilt or inadequacies immediately surfacing.

I have come to realize that the rhythm of life of our children during the school year leaves no time for down time. If a child is to be active, social and doing enriching activities, his/her entire day is scripted and scheduled. Kids are busy and learning to always be busy and in this process never get a chance to get to know their own thoughts, or have time to become comfortable with themselves.

Yet, it is know that quiet time and boredom are the moments children can become aware and experience themselves and become creative and/or imaginative. I personally think that the ability to be still, alone with one’s thoughts, is essential to develop deep reflective abilities and learning to hear both the feminine and masculine. But these days, so many of us never do. We are more and more living scenarios, where all social and economic cues have been predefined. Fashion, technological change, culture, education and news are amongst some of the systems put in place to keep us wanting more, feeling never good enough, incomplete, dissatisfied and judged for being inadequately dressed, behaved, spoken, technologically in vogue, etc and resulting in high levels of stress, dysfunction, anxieties etc.

Coming back to the city after 7 months away just drives this point home for me. News is catastrophic or propaganda based. I can’t believe documentaries are being made where reporters tell the audience to think twice before criticizing banks. The amount of needless purchasing temptation is unbearable. But more importantly the level of stress is incredibly high and constant.

I took the kids to visit some of their friends at their old daycare. The wave of anxieties in the room were interesting to experience. I realized how much the space itself is an issue for highly sensitive persons. Looking around no one was acting out but I could tell the pressure was rising in the room. And I can see how close quarters are a problem as the pressure bounce around the room instead of living with a breeze of air. But stress is not just inside buildings. Everything seems to be a danger in the city. Everything and everyone is highly scheduled, working from a given scenario that leaves little room, if any, for spontaneity, creative thinking or for spur of the moment meet ups with other kids. The chemicals that surround us make it impossible for the body to communicate properly.

We went to the pool and my son immediately developed a terrible reaction to the water… Yet, immersion in water is necessary to detox the body… Within a week of being back, our sensitivities are back, our faces swollen and bodies starting to go back to a protective stance and of course, so are our minds. How can we get to know ourselves, when our bodies are under such constant strain.

I had this strange experience today. While away, I spent an hour every day drifting down a river, simply listening, watching and sensing. The sounds were all natural, no humans or machines, so were the sights and experiences. These moments have been incredibly beneficial to me, learning to appease my mind and fully be in the moment. Aware of all movement, animals, and elements surrounding and touching me, being part of the landscape and drinking from it as a source of music. Back in the city, I sat in my garden trying to recreate this deeply active stillness, what I heard were conversations, cars, planes. The animals were reduced to being background noises as were the sensations of the elements. No wonder we have lost our sense of empathy, we can not be aware in the city of nature nor of its music.

Sustainability does not relate to just resources, but to people too. We need to create sustainable lives and respecting our resources and ourselves to stop our inability to cope.

In the article: “Orchid” Children: A New Way Of Looking At Genetics And Our Brains, Anna North writes:

“In an Atlantic essay called “The Science of Success,” David Dobbs writes about two types of children: “orchids” and “dandelions.” Dandelion children tend to do pretty well no matter what environment they grow up in. Orchid children, meanwhile, may develop behavior or mood problems in abusive or neglectful homes — but in loving ones, they may thrive even more than dandelions.”

I do think these orchids children are highly sensitive children who have a dominant feminine side that needs a strong connection to the earth and the body to thrive and that becomes so wounded by our current toxic way that it slowly kills itself through depression, addictions, etc.

In the article: For kids, high sensitivity to stress isn’t necessarily bad“, it is explained that researchers now know that children who are highly sensitive to stress tend to be at higher risk for health and behavioral problems compared with their less delicate peers. Yet, a new study finds that sensitivity in of itself may not necessarily be what primes children for struggles.

According to new research published in the journal Child Development, while highly sensitive children who are raised in challenging, high-stress settings are indeed more likely to have health complications and behavioral troubles as they grow up, emotionally sensitive kids who are raised in supportive, nurturing, low-stress environments tend to thrive and excel. The findings, researchers say, indicate that being extraordinarily reactive to stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing for children, and far from being a stand-alone factor in kids’ development, is in fact strongly influenced by home environment.

This paragraph also makes me wonder, what is a loving home? Or more importantly, what is a healthy loving home and environment? Most parents genuinely love their children. But is that love the kind their child need? In a civilization that has gone through a century of world conflicts, many have lived through terrible traumas, and for most, the masculine side of our personality is the only one allowed to grow, all of these realities have altered our ability to love or be loved.

As psychologist and psychiatrist know, we love the way we were loved or unloved. We begin to model our way of loving according to the dominant behaviors we have learned from our parents, teachers and peers. These behaviors can be respectful and kind, or violent and degrading. In both cases, when a young adult begins to experience intimacy and love, he/she unconsciously reproduces and emulates the experiences that he/she has received from the people he loved the most, parents or whom ever took their place as the most intimate partner in childhood and teen years. In other words, love can be very unhealthy.

Another problem is that we take these notions of love into the workplace and schools, constantly letting our notions of the world rule our relationships to others. This creates not only a very stressful world for all involved but also a type of emotional lives that is not sustainable. Stress depresses the body, toxicity in the environment eventually poisons the body.

What do we need to do to reverse the adverse effects of a century of normalized trauma?

In my familial experience, sustainable balanced living means a lot of quiet, non scheduled time to be able to think, explore, be and discover ourselves. This makes it difficult for my kids socially, as most kids are always busy. But I am noticing that they are learning to be with themselves and feel quite at peace when they are. I hope this is the beginning of a journey of inner discovery for them. Where they learn to listen to themselves and their needs without feeling judged by the rest of society. why can’t we create these moments in educational and work processes?

From personal experience with de-schooling my kids, the following points are emerging. As a parent who wanted to teach my own kids I had to “re-tweak” myself.

I had to:

  • Become aware of who I am and become able to become aware of who they are.
  • Learn to explain my needs and goals to them and help them discover theirs and accept them without judgment.
  • Show them respect and actively listen to them.
  • Stop being authoritarian and become authoritative.
  • Have talks about what interests them but also me.
  • Learn together to communicate in healthy ways. Develop strategies together to deal with anger or anxiety instead of punishing them for feeling and expressing things strongly.
  • Value honesty to create empathy in me and for them to trust me.
  • Let them use media to learn to self regulate and many other skills. Just leave the violent stuff out.
  • Being in the moment with them to become close.
  • Show them that I care by spending quality time with them.
  • But most importantly, create a stress and anxiety free learning space.

These elements are the beginnings of developing a sensory, emotional and empathic intelligence in me. It seems to me that these three types of intelligences have been disregarded in too many aspects of teaching. While early childhood educator have this knowledge, most of the rest of us, educators of teenagers and adults, do not know how to approach empathy, emotional richness and sensory needs….

Now, if only I could do the same in our classrooms and workplaces. Just as H. Rheingold discusses the need for digital literacy for 21st century living, we need to develop emotional, sensory and empathic literacies if we are to help the new generation deal with some of the negative impacts that pollution creates in their lives: toxic emotions, toxic bodies, toxic people and toxic media environments.

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