July 20, 2022
The Awareness Of Definitions
By Barry Rudesill
For those of you who didn’t know, I spent last week talking at a Middle School week of Summer Camp. I always tell adult-type people that I LOVE working with Middle and High School students because of the questions they ask.
When I hang out with adults, they tend to ask me “academic” questions; when I hang out with teens, they tend to ask me “real life” questions. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely LOVE discussing and debating academic ideas! However, if I had to choose between answering “Does anger activate the amygdala in the same way that fear does?” and “Can you give me a reason to not commit suicide?” I know which one I prefer!
For this past week, the theme of the Camp was “Not Alone”. (What a great topic!) To prepare for this, I actually dusted off the Scenic Overlook called “Self-Image” and modified it for my audience. For those of you unfamiliar with the class, we talk about three levels of definitions: Family Circles, Social Circles, and World Circles, and how each one tries to tell us who we are – both good and bad!
We spent our sessions talking about what “healthy” and “not-so-healthy” circles look like. Then, after each class, I asked them to examine the circle we had just discussed and try to determine if the people in that level had given them a positive self-image...or a negative one!
And, oh the discussions we had based on that simple idea!
You see, if our parents had their own issues, we could learn those negative behaviors from them. It may not even be a conscious choice to pick them up; instead, it’s simply “the way I’m wired”! I’ve seen anger expressed that way all of my life, so of course I’m going to express my anger in the same way. I’ve seen fear cripple my parent since I was old enough to notice, so of course I’m going to experience fear in the same way. In both of these examples, I learned my responses by living it!
And that’s just the first circle! What do I pick up from my siblings, peers, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, media, or society? If everyone spends all their time telling me who I am, then how do I ever figure out who I am? How do I learn to reject the definitions that have been handed to me by others; especially if I’m not even aware of them?
Well, actually that’s the first part of this equation: become aware of them!
How do you do this? Take a moment, find a quiet place, and we start to evaluate our family, friends, and the influences of society. Do they build you up? Make you feel better about yourself? Or, do you find that they’re tearing you apart?
If this feels too overwhelming – and I understand that it can be – why not start to evaluate individuals? Pick someone you love and who loves you and decide if they’re healthy or not. (I’m hoping this will be easy because you get to pick who this person is.) Then, do another person. And another.
This was what I recommended to my teens. Why? Because if I try to evaluate my “Family”, what do I do when Dad is healthy, Mom is not-so-healthy, and there are both “good” and “bad” people in my Extended Family? If I try to look at them as a group, what do I put down? Instead, if I look at them separately, it becomes easier to put people on a chart of “health to not-so-healthy”.
If you’ve never done this before, the results can be quite interesting...to say the least!
If you DO try this at home, please be willing to seek professional help if you run into anything that feels too overwhelming to deal with! It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it’s actually a sign of strength!
If you want to experience a part of what we covered, I’m attaching a “full-size” picture of the three main workbook pages on our Facebook site. (There’s a smaller one attached to this blog, but it isn’t high enough resolution to work with.)
Download it, print it, and dig into your own life. You may become aware of some areas in your life where you’ve been defined and need to put in some work! If so, please know that we, at The Trek, are here for you!
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your journey!
- The Trek