No clocks. No mirrors. No physical contact. No technology. No future information.
Take it up a notch – leave your family, your home, your friends and all the dynamics and routines that define you. Someone gives you clothes, a 75 lb pack and a journal.
Start your day by taking a 5-10 mile hike with the first hour in silence in woods that are more expansive and remote than you have ever seen. Set up your own campsite. Try not to freak out from exhaustion and frustration.
Now try to make fire. FIRE, like a caveman. Find sticks, find a rock, and after about 45 minutes mayyyyybe you get a spark. Maybe, you just have to suck up your frustration, accept that it didn’t work out today and set your mind to try again tomorrow.
Make dinner, eat it, clean it up. Try to sleep - through rain slides, bumpy ground, hilled sleeping angles, fleets of mosquitos that feed on your every pore.
Wake up, if you slept at all. Make breakfast, clean up and organize. Strap that huge pack on your back and there ya go – Into the Woods. Now…do this again and again every day…until someone ELSE tells you, you can stop.
SOUNDS LIKE I COULD USE THIS. I would last 2 days. That’s right, 2.
Oh wait, just a few more things – walk with 6-8 other people your age who also struggle from similar issues - stopping to wait while someone who has a hard time pulls it together. Receive a letter from your parents stating exactly why you have been sent there and read it aloud. Listen to feedback from your peers. Be open with your therapist. Reflect in your journal and start the journey of helping yourself.
This sounds like punishment right? WRONG. The gift of a lifetime.
Imagine teaching your child self-sufficiency. Imagine putting your kid in a position where they couldn’t look to you for anything, even BLAME. Imagine an environment that allows your kid to be stripped down to the bare bones of who they are, face it, and rebuild. Imagine your kid telling YOU what they realize they need to work on. Imagine your kid being among actual PEERS, who mirror FOR THEM the effect their behaviors have on a group. Imagine what that might actually mean in the long run?
Is it potentially teaching them to rely on themselves for emotional sustenance at this crazy-young age? Is it an opportunity to unlearn years of bad habits? Is it an opportunity to prevent your kid from falling down a rabbit hole of self-medicating, aka drug abuse? Promiscuity? Self-loathing? Self harm? I am not saying that this is the “fix.” But it’s a damn good try.
The whole amazing concept is so therapeutically well-structured, it would blow your mind. (our experience) After you attempt to pull your OWN self together because you are going through the trauma of missing your child, you have to write your kid a letter for them to read to their group. Holy intimidating, can you even imagine how powerful that is? I love to speak to people, I am a communicator. However extroverted ANYONE is, it is nearly impossible to be vulnerable at this level, IN PUBLIC. I mean, I was freaked out to even publish THIS. Now – you’re 11 and just think about this for one teensy little moment…
“I am now going to read aloud to everyone in this strange group how I have disrupted my family and why I am not a productive member of my household and/or community. I will read about the things I have done and said and tell everyone why my parents sent me to this place.”
Then actually making yourself available for feedback? GET REAL! This is one of the biggest all time fears of the public AT LARGE, and now you’re talking about kids who struggle??? Public speaking mixed with vulnerability and the potential embarrassment that accompanies it? It is just through-the-roof intense. THROUGH THE ROOF.
Our letter to Violet outlined her behaviors that were intolerable. SO HARD for me to do, because I had my own hang ups about not wanting to make her feel worse. Nasty voices, aggression, unpredictability, actual verbiage of some of the things she said. Scaring people, hurting peoples’ feelings, being out of control. It even got as granular as not cleaning up after herself and invading our privacy. The program helps you structure it and it is bookended with positivity and encouragement.
“…We can’t live like this anymore. It makes me feel like a person I don’t want to be and it cannot feel good for you…I know in my deepest heart that you are such a strong, brave, smart girl and you will be great at this. Please make the best of your experience Vi. You can do this. I KNOW you can get control of these things; it will change your life! This is not a punishment, this is so you can have a happy, healthy future and be a positive person. I know you are going to be mad at us for going there and I think it’s natural to hate us for a little while. We will always love you, no matter what. And we will wait for you to love us again.”
That last part always killed me. I am terrible at enduring bad feelings. And we did have to wait for her to forgive us and love us again, and that’s part of our struggle.
THIS is why I was able to sacrifice my daughter’s face being near mine for so long. These therapeutic, internal dives that we could never have shepherded her through. It is an out-of-this-world opportunity. And the biggest gift you could ever give anyone, at any age. The freedom to explore yourself. Isn’t THIS what growing is really about? Pushing yourself past your own limits to REALLY find out who you are?
Man oh man. I want this. BUUUUT, I’ll skip the bugs and the hole in the woods “toilets,” thank you very much.
thx for this article M!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walden - a link from my bro - love it!