This post was originally published on the website of the wonderful Blurt Foundation last week. Jane was pleased to be asked to contribute to their blog, which offers people experiencing depression and anxiety the opportunity to tell their story and share experiences. The whole website offers factsheets and support in a friendly and accessible way. Do take a look. If you have anything to share Blurt would like to hear from you!
Have we learnt nothing? In one way lots has changed since I was a teenager 40 years ago, but I am disheartened that really, despite lots more research and information, we are re-creating the same old, same old – pressurising teenagers to be ‘who we want them to be’, with a constant stream of examinations – where they have to perform on a yearly basis, within narrow and repetitive fields. The proportion of young people aged 15-16 being diagnosed with a conduct disorder more than doubled between 1974 and 1999 – these figures are depressing.
How can we expect to grow our young into rounded and creative human beings when we are constantly squeezing them into our system? My own experience was as a teenager in the 70’s and the more pressure applied to me created a corresponding amount of anxiety, followed by me suppressing these anxious feelings – numbing out and feeling depressed. I was – mostly – a good natured young adult wishing to do my best. That ‘doing my best’ however created a miserable inner life for me, where I felt very deadened and detached – and of course angry about that!
During the last decade I have been interested by the culture of ‘como drinking’ realising that drinking may be this generations way of responding to the pressure we are putting them under. The cycle of our pressurising performing culture creating a default psychology of their need to let go – literally through alcohol by becoming paralytic. We create the pressure and this is the letting off of their steam – cause and effect – simple really…
Back in the 70’s I found a gem in meditation – I was lucky. I, seemingly out of nowhere, asked for a 16th birthday present of a course in meditation. I suffered the teasing from family and friends and sticking to my wish I completed the course, which helped me manage my anxiety and gave me some freedom in my life. I did no longer need to measure everything in order to manage my level of anxiety.
More importantly, and very exciting it was, I learnt there was something inside me. I was amazed to find I had an inner experience of myself, and in connecting to myself I felt softer and reassured that I did exist – literally I was a person too!
Was this an experience I could talk about – not really. However I had had a taste of what it was to be able to have an experience where I listened to myself, and that I existed and mattered. That was to be repeated when I went into counselling in my early 30’s and I thought bingo, I know this feeling and I like it. I was listened to in a way that supported me and the counsellor heard, and acknowledged, my experience and my feelings. This seems very simple and it’s what we need to be doing for our young people.
This brings me back to today – how are we creating this for our young people – supporting them to be themselves, to listen to their passion and be acknowledged and responded to.
Do we stop and think “Maybe it’s not them” – maybe it’s us creating an anxious environment for our young people. We may be creating a world that is ‘progressive’ but until we learn to be more people centred and respond on a human level to each person, and young person , as an individual we are not using the information we have to provide our young with the best possible start.
Let’s start listening and acknowledging our young people and allow them to express themselves as unique individuals, say who they are, and allow and listen to their feelings. That would be a good start to reducing anxiety and depression, and taking responsibility that we are part of the problem.
Jane is the founder of The Terrace which is Taunton’s leading therapy centre. If you’d like more information about their work, please visit their website here –> http://www.theterrace.co.uk