Chapter 9 –Saturn-
Initiation into Power and Restraint
The Discipline of Humility
The Teenager and physical discipline-“Arete”
“Arete” means the humility learned through experiences…
In a maturing child a great perception shift seems to take place during sexual maturation. Between the ages of 10 and 13- puberty begins to take place; Testosterone begins to move in the boy’s body and estrogen in the girl’s. They begin to notice and respond to each other in a new way. Each student responds differently to this development but in all there are primary traits.
On the positive side the boy;
Becomes stronger, his chest broadens, he undergoes a growth spurt, hair appears on his chin, his voice deepens. He may discover he is intensely interested in a particular subject— it could be – a girl!
On the positive side the girl;
Also becomes stronger but rather than broadening in the chest, she develops breasts. Actually her whole body grows more curves through new fat placement. Her hips broaden. She too may have a growth spurt. It is often the case the girls grow taller than the boys for a time. She too may discover she has a “passion” for a subject—or it could be – a boy!
With these developments there is also an element of clumsiness and awkwardness. Sometimes there is very real physical disorientation due to changing placement of the baroreceptors in the joints of the body (nerves sensitive to pressure which give one a sense of body position) which is a result of the bones growing longer. The physical disorientation corresponds to disorientation to “self” or identity. The response to this is usually some sort of reaction involving clothes or make up or style of hair. Sometimes more dramatic ways of “acting out” occur and heroism and criminal tendencies can surface. Here is also where self-abuse, drugs and high risk behavior of all kinds including suicide-often occur. Such risks and the extreme exaltation of these risks, allows the teen to “feel” like someone, because – at that moment – they “feel” slightly disassociated. Such shocks pull them together if it does not destroy them.
As the boy and girl finish the passage through puberty they are stronger and naturally more rebellious, have a stronger, if not Napoleanic sense of self, and tend to be more aggressive. The boys want to “prove” themselves; the girls want to “show” themselves.
On the negative side of this passage;
The boys can become dangerously aggressive, belligerent, and reckless; getting in fights, getting drunk, wrecking cars, making girls pregnant, shooting people. The issues of life and death can really surface at this time in life. The boy often searches for power as well as pleasure. And when neither give him the identity he searches for he will increase his physical risks to try to find what will contain or define him. Extreme sports can become extremely important and a skateboard can become a constant companion.
The girls can also do most of the things the boys do – given the differences between them in upper and lower body strength- but usually opt not to.
Generally given same approximate height and mass the girls with broader hips, have stronger lower bodies for their size, and the boys with their wider shoulders – have stronger upper bodies. Before and passing through puberty the girls tend to have better fine motor skills in the hands and so perform archery with precision but lack power. The boys lack the precision but often have the power to shoot long range. This is very general but what I have observed over the years.
The “Tom-Boys” or “Amazons” are the extremely physical girls who can often out fight and out perform the boys! And they often step out of conventional society all together since it does not recognize them. This type of person has a very old historic precedent going into Ancient Greece and well before that too!
In modern times they often end up working with animals, becoming soldiers or policeman or paramedics, fireman and other high risk occupations.
Generally Girls, due to their difference in physiology often work from the “Seduction as Power” side, finding out how useful and exciting boys can be for them- and also how dangerous. They are forced to develop their characteristic “talent for survival” which includes how to use the boys as servants in exchange for attention, sex and status. Generally they are rewarded in society for this behavior.
Meantime the boys are encouraged to think their job is to “earn” the attention of the girl through demonstrations of mental or physical prowess, preferably both. And in spite of talk otherwise boys are still taught – especially through sports -that might is right. So males are still encouraged to use coercive power and bullying while females are encouraged to use seductive power and behind the scenes social and psychological manipulation.
And also-in the final analysis, the boys are given the impression they must “Earn” or “Buy” the girl through various displays of power wether mental, physical or financial.
The girl for her part is encouraged to think she must be beautiful and attractive and charming to earn the attention of the boy – and there are all sorts of unconscious and very conscious snares set up in this equation to make the girl think she is never beautiful enough, never charming enough—and the boy that he is never strong enough and never rich enough and/or smart enough.
It is no wonder after marriage that the girl feels she is being “treated like an object-bought off like a whore or ?” and the boy feels like he is “being used as a perpetual slave to finance a wife and possibly kids”. And so within these subconscious set-ups is sewn the hatred between the sexes which is further enhanced by media depictions. This unhappiness keeps the psychologists offices full and medications flowing as each boy or girl tries to understand why they hate each other or do not understand each other.
The more introverted of either sex can become obsessive – compulsive, go in for “alternate experiences” with drugs or other risky behaviors. And often these introverts are very intelligent and do not prefer to play the behavioral games they see endemic in the school.
So the newly discovered strength and cunning as well as the accompanying need for sensory stimulation finds its expression in the mid and post- puberty teen. It is here the realm of physical exercise, competition, risk, athletic endeavors have proven themselves most useful to establish psychological balance.
Remember the physiological system is totally new now -to them- and the teen feels nearly invulnerable!
At this junction behaviors vary widely from total introversion to teens screaming and cursing back at their parents for controlling the T.V. or not letting them “do something”. This is the time the teen decides to do things without telling the parents and lying -if not already a fine art-becomes perfected during this time— Remember sometimes the teen feels “invulnerable” and therefore they do not “need” parents.
They also feel at times very justified about telling lies and using half-truths to explain their behavior. Remember these glandular “invulnerable feelings” also allows them to feel “justified” about their actions. They are literally on a trip with their endomorphins (glandular secretions)!
There are, according to the Ancient Greeks four temperaments or dispositions or perhaps Pre-dispositions in a human being. The Waldorf Curriculum of schooling accepts these as useful in working with children. Of these four, two tend to need physical training and two tend toward a more poetic nature. In other words, about half of the children are warriors; they need physical activity and aggression outlets, while the other half of the population of children process life through more artistic or intellectual endeavor.
The Four Temperaments as seen from the Ancient Greek Perspective
1. The Sanguine Temperament (“Seeing Red”)
“Sanguine” translates literally as “Bloody”. It means “spirited”. These are the red faced, extrovert, laugh-out- loud types. They are comfortable with the physical and need it. The ancients saw these children as “having an abundance of blood.” They get along well with others and enjoy the social life. Easily they get angry and easily forgive and move on.
2. The Choleric Temperament (“Seeing Yellow”)
“Choleric” means “prone to anger”. The ancients believed it was someone whose body made more bile or acid in the blood steam.
In ancient medicine there were/are two kinds of bile – one was from bad diet or emotions- the other resulted from the neglect of the body ; the two biles are “yellow” and “black”. Yellow bile is manufactured acid and results in canker sores and boils. It is typically shown when someone is excessively angry or frustrated and their skin breaks out. Fatigue and lack of sleep can produce it too. As can smoking.
Black bile is accumulated toxin in the blood steam which comes from poor diet, constipation and drug use. It eventually can result in cancer. Pale skin with dark blotches is the outward sign. What the ancients called “morbidity”.
The Choleric is an irascible child. They like to challenge and argue. They ask to be admitted to the “College of Hard Knocks” as it were. Events must be in their face before they can see them. They are short sighted and obstinate. They will “Argue the paint off a barn”. They like to argue, confront and challenge. If their parents do not have this temperament they may well be puzzled; “Where did SHE/He come from?” “Must be YOUR side of the family!” etc. Of course this type of personality fits right into debate and law and revolutionary causes. And they like to hold a grudge too!
3. The Phlegmatic Temperament (“Seeing Grey”)
“Phlegmatic” means sluggish, apathetic or cold. In Greece it was seen as analogous to the melted wax of a candle. It is a coldness or inactivity. In old medicine it was coughed up from the lungs. The phlegmatic child is quiet, does not like activity and often sits and thinks. Some people may even wonder if there is ANYTHING between their ears! They often do not say much. Sometimes the phlegmatic may like to eat and be a “tub of lard”, other times they may be tall and sort of tree-like. But they are capable of incredible mental activity. In the Sherlock Holmes stories there is the tale of his coming back from his trip to Tibet wherein the reader meets Mycroft-his older brother. Mycroft spends his time at the Diogenes club smoking and reading and solving all of Sherlocks’ riddles without running around London. Sherlock comes to Mycroft for advice and then goes running all over England once again. Some of us would rather run than think it seems! But it takes all kinds to make a world. And the Phlegmatic is a thinker and has, as it were a candle hid deep inside them that is often hard to see. What can help this child are things that challenge their mind like riddles and cross word puzzles as well as certain intricate arts like embroidery, model building (ship-in-a-bottle type things) and perhaps other forms of art too
4. The Melancholic Temperament (“Seeing Blue”)
“Melancholic” means “Dark” and indicates moodiness. In it’s negative form it is depressed or delusional. It also means apt to fantasize or imagine. It can mix well with the Phlegmatic above, but since it’s primarily emotional it can be seen in any of the above temperaments- mixed in with them.
The Melancholic is an observer, a poet, a dreamer. This is the type of child who can become “lost in their thoughts”. This type of temperament is the most apt to suicide or drug abuse. This is also the type of child who can create art and some of the most beautiful things you have ever seen. Because their work is so difficult to quantify, this type of child often has a difficult time in our present society. They are difficult to discipline, hard to regiment, and hard to get to “produce” on a schedule. Do not confuse this with being unwilling to do things. These children ARE NOT ABLE to perceive in the same way say as a sanguine or choleric.
And they are often made fun of. HOW to guide them is enigmatic but not to an adult of the same temperament. They work well with the “Fine Arts”; painting, sculpture, forms of design.
All of these temperaments and their accompanying children go on a “chemical ride” at puberty. And it is difficult to avoid the challenges they present- often parents have to struggle to make additional time to deal with them. And quite often a child will change to another temperament after puberty.
The ancients and world cultures up to the last century found the best way to deal with the chemical ride of the teen was through a “Rite of Passage”. Some of these “Rites” were very rough, very intense and life threatening. Others were more gentle and careful. All ancient cultures recognized personality types and organized them similar to the Greek temperaments. Some cultures had as many as 12 types, others as few as 3.
The Rites varied from culture to culture but all involved risk and life and death. In essence the chemical ride was allowed to peak and through this “Peak Experience’ the teen would emerge reborn and be given a new name to have, as an adult. At present similar activities to the old “Rites of Passage” would be athletic competition, taking an Outward Bound Course or working in the Eagle Scouts or entering the Soapbox Derby. The most essential thing about a “Rite of Passage” is it must be a solo endeavor as opposed to a “team activity”. Rather than become a “team player”, the teen coming through the “Rite”, becomes more independent and intrepid. And ideally, more understanding develops of their own limits and their ability to do- and to do what they say. So this was the way teens and puberty were dealt with traditionally and these ways still work- assuming the teen is not already medicated or has a fully developed sociopathy. Significantly, these methods are and were used one on one with a teacher or mentor. These methods were not used in group work.
The child/teen when exercised intensely discovers their strength, passion and courage. If these three are channeled into the PE activity all goes well and the abundance of energy found in the child during this time gets expression and satisfaction.
If the child does not participate in such a program it could be they have an introverted nature and would respond much more to art- particularly painting, sculpture, music and drama.
Without any outlet for expression the child has many negative options and can create with their own negative attitude very complicated situations from gossip, telling lies and lighting fires both figurative and real in the many available ways. There is almost no limit to the hell which can be created. Here teacher and faculty and parents must have a clear picture of potential on both ends of the scale and care must be taken not to indulge the child. This merely increases the danger for all concerned.
During this period it is good to remember each child has their own Will and ultimately makes up their own mind. Parents are not always to blame-sometimes the parent carries incredible guilt for a monstrous child when in actuality; each child must be responsible for their own decision and its actions and results. As James Hillmen has said in “The Code of the Soul” each of us comes into the world with our own daemon (spirit).
The increasingly libelous nature of our society and educational system has put parents, teachers and children at a disadvantage. Most discipline and correction by parents and teachers has been changed into a legal process whereby any physical action or consequence of a broken law is delayed while all variables are considered. The remedy for this “slow process of justice” has been the placement of police in the public school system. This approach uses police to intimidate children into obedience, a job which used to be reserved for the parents and started before puberty.
The problem which remains is one related to the glands. If a child who is passing through puberty goes into a rage-be it partial or full- and is beating another child and the teacher says “Stop” he may not be able to hear it. Also he/she may not want to hear it. Moreover, if they are on a drug-and enraged- they may be truly in “another space”.
The brain when a person is in a state of “rage” (like “Road Rage”) is engorged with blood in the bottom third; the so-called “reptile brain” or “reactive brain” is switched “On”. The blood stream is qualitatively and quantitatively different. It seems the reptile brain works very strictly with survival responses of “flight or fight”. Higher thoughts, sophisticated and moral judgments cannot be made in that part of the brain. The blood can only move in so many ways in the brain when it is on “rage”. There is simply not enough blood to use to “think”with, as it were-in the other portions of the brain! Hence, there is the typical scene of the policeman trying to “talk down” the gunman with the hostage. Sometimes the ploy for a time, can diminish the rage…sometimes not fast enough.
When Police try to “talk someone down” if the “someone” is attempting suicide or holding a hostage, this is the process they are dealing with. And it does not always work. The person is not in their right mind and they are dangerous. Time allows the blood to change flow in the brain and glandular chemistry to subside, but it may take more time than either party has patience-hence the danger.
In a teen passing through puberty there is added to the physical disorientation of rapid growth; anger and rage. The additional layer of conflicting emotions adds further fire. When all of this is mixed with the teen’s sense of society’s hypocrisy-and they are clear on truth! But often confused about goodness! which even so- called “mature” adults cannot deny- then there is a very volatile mixture of material!
If a child/teen in this state attacks another child or adult it is very important to realize they are extremely dangerous. Do not discount the strength and power of an enraged or angry child. Children have killed adults.
Please have no illusion or sentimental emotions about it. The solution is to pull the child away. If the child is older and stronger-13-18, they can be grabbed by the arm or wrist quickly. If they are smaller and fragile, 10-12 years old- you must be careful because they can be hurt more easily. If they are grabbed by the neck- at the back, like a kitten- their whole posture can be controlled. The front of the neck is too dangerous to grab because of the placement of the wind pipe and carotids. Though one must realize if you do indeed grab a child by the back of the neck you can be struck in the face or groin so it is best to grab hard, pinch or pull them off balance, so the child forgets to hit you or does not have the opportunity! And it must be done quickly and shockingly before the child/teen can begin to fight back. Children are strong and quite lethal and must be given their full respect as regards their strength and their rage. If the child is large I suggest Mom and Dad know some wrist locks and how to protect themselves when their “bear cubs” get large!
There are children who are born poets who would never think of doing anything physical. But there is the other kind.
In my own experience I have had a parent ask me what to do if their 11 year old bites them on the arm (and I mean “bite” as in leave teeth marks). I advised the parent to bite them back on the arm. This was done and the biting stopped. What interested me at this time was the fact the parent felt they were obligated to be bitten by their child-and not respond! I have known other parents who routinely let their child hit and scratch them. There is no other animal in the mammal kingdom which will allow this -without a rapid bark or cuff to the cub! In the horse kingdom biting is even more alarming as it can signal an attempt to kill and we all know how horses can kick… To react quickly and immediately to these actions is instructive, not abusive!
Physical Discipline when administered properly is not abuse and it need not be synonymous with abuse.
Obviously there are legal implications and it must be realized this sort of response rarely needs to be done more than once to make the point and change the behavior. But it must be stressed, if there is no immediate response the behavior will continue. The youngster is trying to push the adult to their physical boundary. If the adult responds and whacks the child the child then knows the limit. If this does not occur then the child will become more and more frustrated and continue to “needle” the adult for the physical response. To the Child the adults ability to respond to their “needling” is equivalent to their ability to respond to a threat from outside the family or class. In other words if the adult grabs the child or slaps them on the cheek (prescribed by Doctors for someone going into hysterics) or the butt (some have said in order “to awaken the kundalini energy”!) for being insolent—the child then knows the adult can respond to an outside attacker the same way. This is the clarification of physical boundaries.
Oddly, when used at the right time- the child then feels safer and more confident in the adult. It rarely happens more than once or twice in a childs growing up but again this depends on temperament.. But sometimes it may need to happen two or three times over a period of years; maybe once a year. This is NOT the equivalent of the drunken father or mother who comes in at night and beats their children on a regular and abusive basis leaving a trail of blood and broken bone and bizarre co-dependent issues. This is totally and absolutely different. And it is definitely what was accepted in agricultural life and is now lost to generations of families devoid of any sense of the animal kingdom or nature.
Some of our most influential Psychiatrists and “Behaviorists” have never as much as even raised a kitten. Freud himself was so weak-willed he could not even hypnotize people! and we need no go into his mother issues here… But he could talk them to death. And he did. In fact his whole method centered around talking and it often takes years if it works at all.
If you raise an animal; be it dog, cat, horse or other you will indeed find behavioral boundaries are set in all animals by the sharp and clear memories of such incidents.
The main point here is that both parents and children need to be taught to stand up to an abuser, whether it be an adult or a child—especially if it is a child who is trying to find out “Who is the adult in this relationship?” or “Who is the authority in this relationship?” not simply “take it” thinking their example of “long suffering and patience” will win the child over to a more spiritual realm! Remember-they are not using that part of their brain yet!
When they calm down they will be using the “other” part of their brain and then you can talk to them with some effectiveness. ..This is particularly true after the age of 10 years or so. Up until then, in the physical plane, you are dealing with a potentially dangerous mammal. And their conscience may not be at all developed yet either! Of course there are children who don’t need any of this and are models of good behavior.
Their do seem to be sorts of “High Souls” who do not play much with their animal side. They are easily recognizable by their artistic or intellectual temperament. This is the type of child who at 2 years of age can be taken into the antique shop safely. They put things back. They have a sense of “where things go”. Completely opposite to the more physical and animal child who seems to break everything in their wake or at least knock things down on their way through the world! I know of one child who at three and four had such earnest and intense feeling to do right his mother confided in me, “I don’t know how to respond to him—I mean, I wonder if I am good enough!!” the same child by six was playing golf- by himself –for hours at a time!
So please keep this in perspective—the human being has an incredibly diverse range of capacity and behavior, I am dealing with the animal, the physical side here, which is nurturing but strict on the essentials; food, clothing, shelter and all of this is part of “respect for elders and parents”, whose assistance provides the essential three.
There is truly one essential rule in the animal kingdom; “Do not bite the hand that feeds you!” And that in a nutshell is what discipline is about.
I know of an incident which was told to me by a woman who had taken in an abused dog that turned on her and bit her. She replied by lifting the dogs front leg and biting hard. The dog yelped and never has bit her since. And I know this woman and her dog and they are quite a pair! And they understand each other clearly. Such is the base line of mammal behavior and it is likely to be hit during the puberty phase.
It is not the time for passivity and it is exactly the time when the adult is being asked to make a stand. The question being asked is this, “Who is the adult (the larger and more mature of the species) in this situation?” If the child is not responded to then they naturally assume they are the adult and the roles reverse with the parent progressively becoming more and more a stranger in their own house, often yelling and screaming and hitting their own parents.
Because of liability issues some people believe no one should touch anyone else. Physicians in the U.S. pride themselves on NOT TOUCHING their clients. After all-that is unprofessional! Little do they know the old Physicians in the U.S. used to diagnose health by the handshake! And some had it down to a fine art, much like Chinese pulse diagnosis! And I know this because I have studied both Western medicine and Pulse diagnosis from Chinese and Tibetan physicians.
If I shake a child’s hand or put a hand on their shoulder or hug them – I am learning something. I have felt the shoulders of children who were under unimaginable stress, enduring it with an almost rock –like musculature and the child’s expression kept the emotion totally hid from their parents! When I mentioned it the parents responded with the list of the child’s recent nightmares…
So it goes…children pick and pinch at each other, throw things, spit etc in the infant period they push each other and get in scuffles, wrestling on the ground or playing “king of the hill”. All of this -at least until they pick up sticks and pretend to hit each other by hitting the sticks together! “I got you” or in French Fencing “Touche!”….so this touching and hitting and wrestling and stick fighting are built into the DNA pretty deep. It seems Moms spend half their time saying, “Put that stick down!” to the boys. In my own classes I teach them how to pick it up and use it and tell them what it can do and give them a sense of the danger. I believe you subtract the forbidden aspect by letting them experience it and understand it—and that is what a lot of Physical Education does.
Now in the standard Physical Education curriculum both in the Waldorf (originally, not here in the U.S. at present) and old American tradition, wrestling is one of the main exercises. Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler as was Gilgamesh. Wrestling is all about touch. And it has been practiced in agrarian communities for about 5-6000 years. And it is about touch with nearly all parts of the body. In fact it is probably the most intense exercise a child can have because it uses all the muscles continuously. The only similar exercise is swimming. In India the wrestlers combine
wrestling with swimming and yoga for a full workout. But swimming does not teach you to relate to another person. Wrestling does. Getting back to wrestling, the main thing is Correct Touch. This means getting a grip of the person and finding leverage. So geometry and leverage are learned through the body. Moreover concentration is developed. It is not difficult to concentrate- since each student has a very specific agenda; pin or be pinned! Throw upward or pull downward. And the holds and trips are specific. All their concentration goes into this-and they have plenty. Now if they put an arm in the wrong place or start pinching because their “reptile brain” is starting to engage- I simply stop the exercise and say, “This is illegal in the bout because you can REALLY hurt them!” SAVE THAT FOR SELF DEFENSE”. The child then has a mental drawer, a caveat, a place to put the information that is legitimate clear and positive without getting into petty mean-ness or other ideas.
Now in this respect some children are remarkably conscious about the difference between playing and really fighting. And some really do not know the difference- and often hurt others willfully or not. And as you explain and teach more, they get a clear technical picture of the difference. And the bullies are sorted out from the less aggressive children and you can see the thinkers who wrestle carefully and the “instincters” who wrestle with fire and little thought!
And that too, is what Physical Education is about. It is also the careful drawing of the boundary between sport and war. The ancient Greeks understood this clearly and you will see on vases and friezes from the time, the coach or referee has a walking stick in his hand to touch, tap or hit the wrestlers to remind them to ease up or change the hand position or relax and not be enraged! You see, they too knew the “Reptile Brain” and were interested in a clean match. After all, the man you wrestled was to stand beside you on the shield -line in war! If you destroyed him -he could not. So touch is extremely relevant, valuable, and necessary…in fact it is vital- in this sort of training and in life and it reaches it’s zenith between a man and a woman.
Those of you who have studied massage therapy or “Touch for Health” as used by nurses may know about these experiments; Harlow was the name of the Doctor who had two sets of monkeys. One set stayed in a room with two buttons; one for “touch” and the other for “food”. The other set only had the “food” button, but they were never touched. The first set always pushed the “touch” button BEFORE the “food” button. And they all lived. The second set which had food but no touch nearly all died. In fact I recall they all did die. I am sure the experiment is up on the web somewhere; it was done sometime ago and is the mainstay report of Physical and Massage Therapists in relation to body therapies. So I am bringing this up so you can see where touch fits in the health and survival scheme.
Now with people things are more complex. The whole brain develops differently without the body being touched. There is a vast array of information about babies/small children who lacked certain mental development because of this OR because they were abused/touched in the wrong way. So “touch” is like everything else; a two edged sword whose usage defines it as a weapon or surgeons tool.
Touch has to be taught the right way. Abuse is another issue. When this occurs-particularly in infants or young children, certain parts of the brain are prematurely connected. They literally grow nerves to interpret what is happening to them. In other words they have grown a new pain classification system to understand EXACTLY how they are being abused. This makes them MORE sensitive to pain rather than less sensitive to pain. Remember when they used to circumcise babies routinely? Now they/the scientists who originally said “Babies don’t feel” (their discussion was about circumcision) are now having to admit that babies do indeed feel and there whole brain is altered from this procedure!
Now I have tried-and continue to do so- to understand this thoroughly, having spent nearly 30 years studying martial arts and yoga and massage.
It has taken me this much time to realize why; At birth I was a premature baby who was given between 2 and 10 blood transfusions – I had every finger and toe pricked for blood samples and incisions made in my abdomen because there was no other free skin! My heart stopped on the third day for an hour and started again. Then I was circumcised! So imagine what my brain map looks like! And I am sure this has driven me, in a sense – into the martial arts and yoga path and the path of healing. So when I work with students I am very sensitive and keenly aware of this whole situation and I have enough medical school and traditional physical and herbal training to sometimes pick up on certain developments, possibilities of abuse or birth defects and similar things in students.
Occasionally I am asked to deal with, teach, instruct, shape, suggest, work with, and try to understand a violent or mean-spirited child. Often I stick-fight with them (with padded sticks) or wrestle with them- first thing. They get to pit their strength against mine and with nearly 30 years of experience I can hold my own-and it is not easy as some of these “kids” truly are strong and a very few may be pathological in one way or another.
If I believe they are pathological in some form or other I will stop working with them and send them on to psychotherapy. The usual response I hear of is the simple technique of making them manageable by medicating them. I would prefer they were sent out to “Outward Bound” or a similar course for a sort of physical initiation to direct them back to their true selves. And admittedly, there are some who actually do well with medication, but I still consider that the last resort and often it is simply the easy thing to do and is the equivalent of simply not taking responsibility of interaction.
If I sense a child truly has potential to regain a sense of self and dignity and respect for themselves and myself I will continue to work with them. So far, I have been kneed in the back, elbowed in the head and have developed a fairly high tolerance for pain. I have seen students who truly wanted to harm me come to love me and appreciate me and “get it”. It is tough work. Still, it is timely especially as concerns the present issues of bullies and gangs in the schools. Bullies and gangs have always existed but they have not always been so protected by the law. Recently I noticed in the news a death due to a bully killing another child. The usual response to this sort of thing is cringing and the typical statement, “How INHUMAN!” The problem is that humans are primates and primates – chimps and apes too- kill each other. The same love quarrels and petty jealousies, strategies of murder and adolescent anger-all happen every day among both apes and people.
I sometimes think we do not know what our brain is for- at all! And so- since time immemorial people have studied martial arts and yoga or some kind of religion or shamanism which creates altered mental states; the first to defend themselves the second to try to figure out what to do with their thoughts their mind and their brains.
“Action” and “Violence”
I think these two terms have been much confused today. An “Action Movie” can be about a runner or a skier. A “Violent Movie” is ABOUT killing someone. A person can die in either film. The question is, “What is the story ABOUT?” What does the story, the plot, circle around? The Lord of the Rings is an action movie which has violent scenes. It is not ABOUT violence. It is about a good king finding his way to the throne through the help of several characters, two of whom are naively innocent. My feeling on this is the violence of the film is essential to the story. I would not take little children to the film but would definitely take a teenager. The film itself is practically speaking a mild form of Initiation into the meaning of innocence, courage and right action according to higher powers that cannot be seen. If that is not what adulthood is about- then you tell me.
The present deconstructionist motif and existential dilemma has left our young with no hope, no myth and no vision. Luckily Tolkien saw it coming in his time and he, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield and others deliberately wrote their tales with the current spiritual climate in mind. This is far from the child with the “Game boy” who sits for hours shooting lizard creatures in a maze watching blood splatter everywhere. Ask yourself, “What is that “About””? or better “Who or what stands behind that?”
Because there are violent people I teach my children how to defend themselves and encourage them to defend their parents. I say, “One day your parents, your brother, or sister-may need you to help them.” The faces of children soften when I say this and I know they somehow understand-if only for a moment. I can only hope they are not going home to a drug or alcohol addicted parent. All of us can only hope the right means will work in the right way. It does not help to keep people ignorant or helpless. Children and even adults need to know how to defend themselves and how to hope and be courageous. If you say, “I cannot teach a child how to hit someone, or how to wrestle, or shoot a bow, bind a wound, wrap a sprain…I refuse to teach them such violent and gross things!” that penalizes the good folks as well as the not – too – good. And it encourages the very evil.
And I believe in Evil too…check out Scott Pecks’ “People of the Lie” if you want a candid survey of the thing we call “Evil”.
Rudolph Steiner said by this time in history we would resolve our sense of death and know there was something on the other side. NOW the issue for those of us on this planet has to do with understanding “The Mission of Evil”. Obviously such a statement infers we must be willing to do something about it. At present the “fence sitters” seem to run things. And remember it is not ABOUT violence. It is about health, courage and the stand for good things. And stand you must or someone will push you into a position of their choosing or a hole! If we do not teach children how to protect themselves then by default, we make them victims.
The Healing Aspect
In addition to becoming more fit, more clear in thinking and able to survive, anatomy, physiology, talk on diet, how long a sprain takes to heal and why, and things of that nature should be taught in P.E. courses. In this way students learn about healing and something about “Working Medicine” or “Physical Medicine”. This rounds – out the program and makes it whole. I feel at this point, it is the best way to develop an understanding in the children of the questions they may encounter in the class. It is also a way of connecting their physical learning with other fields— like science and medicine— in a positive way.