Everyone knows that for many kids, academic and performance stress has reached inhumane proportions. In this Atlantic article, http://theatln.tc/1NY7nlK Hanna Rosin researches a rash of teen suicides in Palo Alto. Success in school often does not correlate with wellness or happiness. If kids are so programmed that they do not have agency, self-possession, honored instinct, imaginative play and spontaneous thought, mental health suffers. Cultural values run amok is partially to blame for children committing suicide.
The idea that pushing ensures a child’s position among the elite or moneyed, is a dangerous fantasy. The world changes fast and what we value in one generation can be devalued in another. Even if one reaches pinnacles, despair takes hold when inner resources have not been developed. Robust inner life is crucial for health, both mental and physical. By knowing who we are and being true to it, embracing flaws and truly connecting to others, the everyday is livable. People need to tell their stories via creative action or conversation, and be heard. This has a huge impact on health.
A rich inner life seeds solace, creativity, character and productivity. It poises one to meet challenges, but requires ample down time. Over integration of parental views, external pressures and myths about success can lead to anxiety, depression and even rage. Sometimes suicides are not a true desire to die, but rather to stop an oppressive “introject” or a harsh, demanding inner voice. To create an escape when one feels there is no choice. There is a choice.
We have to have the courage to say no to the sleep deprivation, performance pressure, over scheduling, status anxiety and fear of failure. Get off the prestige bus, stop seeking bestowal from an outside institution, and create your own life. Live with the fact that others are surpassing you or your child, for now, if that is the case. If your child happens to be truly gifted and can excel with natural ease, great. It is about organicity. Awareness of true passions, strengths and limitations is empowering.