Welcome to Nebo Literature.

Into the World - developing a self

From when we are born we go through a gradual process of change and development or periods of transition (stages, phases) from infancy, to adolescence, to youth, middle age and finally old age.  Shakespeare, in As You Like It, calls them the seven ages of Mankind.

The changes in our impressionable and formative years occur in various aspects of our being:  the physical, biological, emotional, mental, psychological and social development towards maturity.  We begin a journey as a non entity towards the self hood of a unique human being with our own independence, identity and hopefully integrity.  Some will have their growth delayed or arrested and remain underdeveloped in one or more aspects due to a failure of the assertions of individuality.  We are the ‘author’ of our own lives, or ‘destiny’ and we are ultimately unique, autonomous and responsible for who we become. 

However as in most things in life we have to balance the art of being a unique person pursuing individual fulfilment and fitting in with the culture and society we live in.  It is important that we do not allow influences of events or other people to destroy the essence of who we are. Be Yourself!  You are a unique, distinctive person with your own beliefs, values, mannerisms, skin, blood, culture, language, DNA - don't compromise these just to fit in with any group. Explore what makes you "YOU" and celebrate your idividuality.  The collective needs should not always dominate over private needs, desires or identity. 

Infancy:

Sigmund Freud considered the formative years from 0 – 5 as critical to the underlying personality and psychological well being of an adult.

Should you let babies cry? Govt website at odds with experts

Crikey intern Lara Nicholson writes:

Training babies to sleep through the night using the popular "controlled crying" technique can be damaging to their development, according to a leading youth mental health group, directly contradicting information provided by the federal government-funded Raising Children Network website.

The controlled crying technique -- or controlled comforting, as some call it -- involves leaving a baby to cry for short but increasing periods before returning to comfort them, with the aim of teaching them to settle themselves.

AAIMHI National President and Curtin University Senior Psychology Lecturer Dr Lynn Priddis says while she doesn't seek to criticise other organisation's approaches, parents should focus on building reassuring relationships with their infants for optimal mental health.

"Self soothing doesn't happen at all," she told Crikey . "When children are quiet after being left for a long time, it's because they're in despair."

Dr Priddis say it's important that children's needs be met time and again for them to develop a sense of security and self esteem, but she admits no clinical research had been done to support this.

"If parents are loving and responsive in the day there is no evidence at all that [sleep training] is harmful," she said.

Dr Hiscock says that by six months a baby has developed object permanence -- the ability to understand that when a person moves out of their range of sight they do not cease to exist and are therefore able to understand their caregiver would come back.

"[Controlled crying] is only for three to five nights, it's a very short time in a baby's life. If parents are warm and appropriate during the day, then it's fine," she said.

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Child protection has become major issue in the last 30 years due to increased awareness of the damaging effects of child abuse through neglect, abuse or mishap.  Some believe that children are increasingly being robbed of their childhood through trends towards over-protection, over-legislation and over-monitoring.  What may have originally been based on good intentions of a regime of permanent panic about the perils of puberty to protect children, is too often resulting in the creation of environments that are sanitised, free of meaningful challenge and designed more to minimise potential litigation than to maximise a child's development.  A delicate balance must ensue to allow children to grow up in safe but free environments that allow them opportunities for independent mobility, freedom to experiment, engage with their peers and chances to learn from their own mistakes.


Quotes on Childhood

Our childhood is like laying the foundation to a building – if it is not done properly, the building will collapse.

Every childhood lasts a lifetime.

The child is the parent of the adult.

Or as the Jesuits put it: 

“give us a child till he is seven and we will give you the man”.

Children begin by loving their parents; after a while they judge them.  Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.  Oscar Wilde.

We are the children our parents warned us about.

Kahlil Gibran compares the upbringing of children to an archer aiming and releasing an arrow -  The Prophet on Children

You are the bows from which your children

 as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Adolescence:  a period from the tweens (teen twilight) to young adults.

This extended phase can either be a carefree, joyous idyllic time of your life or a miserably insecure and tormented time of confusing, conflicting values, identities and choice, full of youthful angst.

Youth can be a tumultuous and difficult time. Sufferers inhabit a world of extended sleep-ins, misguided arrogance, impulsive behaviour -- risk taking with alcopops and newly acquired driving skills. Young people’s brains are underdeveloped and addled by a cocktail of hormones. They can’t be trusted to take on tasks requiring good judgement. Or so the rhetoric goes in the all-too-regular "What’s wrong with your teen?" tabloid feature.

Puberty, the name for a period of time of profound biological and chemical changes in our body, is arriving earlier - perhaps due to the food chain or other societal influences.  A radical shift occurs as peers supplant family as motivators of social rewards system. Studies have demonstrated that teenagers will take more risks when performing in front of their peers and the intensity of novel experiences can never be recaptured. 

While puberty arrives earlier, adult responsibilities are delayed.  In primitive societies, children as young as seven are sometimes given adult tasks and responsibilities, yet in the modern world our education and apprenticeship is prolonged and may not eventuate until many years of schooling 21 +.  

Problems can include: suffering from depression and anxiety in silence unaware that they are not alone in this,  becoming a victim of physical, verbal or cyberbullying,  pressures to indulge in binge consumption of alcohol or illicit drugs, eating disorders, as well as coming to terms with their s*xuality in an increasingly s*xualised, commercialised and commodified world.

Pre teens face many pressures toward adultification or early s*xualation  either through pre-mature rites of passage, Junior Beauty contests and fashion parades.  All the psychological issues, if not dealt with, can have lasting consequences.

Yet school days are supposed to be the “best days of your life” – not terribly promising.

Guy Rundle writing about the John Hughes brace of teen movies of the 80s, -- Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club -- that marked an abrupt shift not only in the genre, but in the way people thought about teenagers and their own teenager years.

In a world dominated by individualism, youth culture came under the sway of competition -- there was no battle between the generations, simply a series of small skirmishes within youth, as you moved towards adulthood.

John Hughes was the first to spot that something else was happening to teenagers -- that the process of becoming an adult, a self, of making one's own persona had come to the centre of teenage life. Though Hughes's characters fall into the sub-cultural groups that dominate American high schools, those groups are never as stable as they are in earlier eras, nor do they offer an easy answer to the questions of who one is. In The Outsiders or some such, subcultures define themselves against each other, or against adults as a whole.

 Hughes characters are continually putting themselves together -- through clothes, music, accessories, friends, behavioural style etc -- from an array of available options.

Hughes's characters are all afflicted with boundary issues -- they are desperate to know what is really authentically themselves, and what is coming from the outside as a manufactured product.  Guy Rundle writes: Crikey.com

Between the ages of fifteen and thirty are critical because we make most of the our life determining decisions at this time; our friends,  interests, career paths, where we live, marriage partner, life style........ and we have to find ourselves and become the individual we want to be. 

 II.   As we mature we slowly gain certain rights and independence known as rights and rites (celebrated as rituals).

Rights of passage

Rites of passage

Walk to school/shops alone

Go to a Party

Drive a car

Drink Alcoholic Beverages

Travel by yourself

Live away from home

Be self –supporting,  become self- reliant 

Christening

Confirmation/Baptism

Debutante Ball

Major Birthdays; 18th 21st 30th ........

Marriage

Anniversaries

Funeral

 III. Influences:

Alfred Tennyson’s claim that:  I am a part of all that I have met” applies to us all.

Family and Parents:

Cut off your family and how would you know who you are?”   David Sedaris

            “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Leo Tolstoy

           "Happiness is having a large loving close knit family living in another city/country".

   "With family, you do not have to judge each other, you just have to love each other

Our ancestors are always with us; their enduring if elusive presence are inscribed in our DNA, our physical features, and in our mindsets. Atavistic attributes can be traced through generations of your family.   Even our most irrational behaviors can be blamed on our antecedents.

Parenthood is one of the most challenging roles played in life and yet many people are ill prepared for it.  Originally it was assumed a natural instinctive role, however in today’s highly competitive goal oriented world, many parents are tempted to adopt a more vigorous interventionist model. 

Parents can have the most fundamental and profound overall influence on us even though from about 13 onwards we outwardly resist and attempt to reject their advice.  Through nature and nurture, especially during the ages 0 – 5 their indelible influence is through osmosis or subliminal inspiration.  They influence our general outlook in life and construct our values and conscience – our sense of right and wrong. 

All parenting models are different but we can group them into 3 loose types:

1.    The overbearing, domineering, smothering, overly protective, obsessive and authoritarian Parents – today called, “hovering”, “helicopter parenting”, super moms, or tiger moms.  They want the best for their children but on their terms which can at times seem controlling, repressive and restrictive.  By snowploughing all opposition and dotingly doing everything for them, they may be robbing their children's confidence and self-reliance.  By “hot-housing”  - intensive pressure to over- achieve, their children could become socially deprived or rebellious.

Perfectionist parenting produces poorer performances and  probably does more harm than good.

A Sydney (Macquarie University) study's finding potentially puts a hex on the helicopter approach and grabs tiger mothers by the tail. Perfectionist parenting produces poorer offspring performance, according to research by Jennifer Hudson and colleagues at Macquarie University's centre for emotional health.

They tested 75 children at a copying task. The children were randomly selected to do the task under either perfectionist or non-perfectionist rearing conditions, in the study's jargon. About half the group had been diagnosed with anxiety and the other half had not.

Whether the children were anxious or not, when their parents were relaxed and hands off, they performed better. When their parents were interventionist and pre-occupied about mistakes, the children became more perfectionistic themselves but performed worse.

The chilled-out children - ''non-anxious in the non- perfectionistic rearing condition'' - strove least but did best.  (SMH Catherine Armitage 23.02.13)

2.    The patient, supportive and inspiring Parents.  They try to influence their children through discussion, modelling, and positive reinforcement. By instilling their values and enjoying the childhood phase, they leave fond memories. If they are too lax or permissive, their children can grow up to be spoiled, narcissistic or self indulgent.  

3.    The negligent Parents.  Either by neglect or by being unreasonably demanding of their children these parents can be abusive.  The products of these families generally become “free range” children and can become anti-social.

Writers who comment on their parents include:

Jim Morrison:
“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder".
  

Oscar Wilde:   Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them. 

Philip Larkin in This be the Verse:

"They f*ck you up your Mum and Dad
They may not mean to, but they do
They fill you with all the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you."

Friends               A friend is a need answered.

                         “Grapple them to thy soul with the hoops of steel”

 Shakespeare

      "Friendship isn't about who you have known the longest. 

It's about those who came and never left your side."

Friends are there for mutual support and it is important that we work at developing good friends who we can assist and rely on.  Friendships you develop in childhood can last a life time; others die an early death.

Making and losing friends is an important experience in life. It is through friends that we learn about social interaction, bonds that connect us to the outside world, social skills that can satisfy our social needs.  The pain of loss or rejection of friends is a necessary experience in their development and they can learn from adversity.

Belonging in a group helps adolescents to meet their needs for independence. As friends supplant parent’s influence, young people go into the world. The group decides how to think, what to value, which activities, goals and friend ships matter, and like sheep they follow others.  It is important that the group you belong to does not destroy the real you.

Sub-cultural groups are never as stable as they were in earlier eras, nor do they offer an easy answer to the questions of who one is. In The Outsiders or some such, subcultures define themselves against each other, or against adults as a whole. Hughes characters are continually putting themselves together -- through clothes, music, accessories, friends, behavioural style etc -- from an array of available options.   Guy Rundle writes: Crikey.com 

Friends are an important part of our lives but as with parents, their overall influence needs to be curtailed so that you can still be true to yourself.

Peers

Peer Pressure feels like an arm being twisted in exchange for belonging and for clear rules for thinking and acting.

Studies on peer pressure suggest that teens - who often seem to follow each other like lemmings - may do so because their brains derive more pleasure from social acceptance than adult brains, and not because they are less capable of making rational decisions.

These are some examples of what Peer Pressure sounds like;

‘Everybody’s doing it ‘Be cool!’

‘Grow up!  ‘Don be a nerd’

‘Afraid your mum is going to find out’

‘No one will find out’

‘if you were really my friend, you would.’

‘Think you’re too good for us’

‘What a goody-goody!’

‘Why not?  It’ll be fun.’

These above statements are what some of these teenagers say these days to threaten isolation, loneliness and ridicule for the person who does not go along with something. It is very difficult for a young or insecure teen to say ‘NO’ in the face of such a choice, especially when the young person does not have a better answer.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can cause untold damage for a lifetime.”

Peer pressure can also be quiet and subtle. Teens who conform due to their friends expectations are succumbing to peer pressure, whether or not the expectation is linked to a threat or being left out.

Peer pressure also means that the attraction that prospective and present group members feel toward a group’s values. They behave in ways that the group approves in exchange for group membership because they want a sense of belonging, the mutual support, and also the recognition by outsiders that they are part of the group.

In a new book, reviewed by Susan Maushart, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,  a Dante-esque journey into the teen-age petri dish of American High School culture, Journalist Alexandra Robbins argues

“that students  in ‘today’s educational landscape’  either have to conform to the popular crowd’s arbitrary standards or face dismissive treatment that batters relentlessly at their souls.”

Many factors contribute to why teenagers give into peer pressure. With a lack of confidence, uncertain identity and a lack of a sense of personal worth, young people seek reassurance by conforming with the crowd.  The reasons for joining a group, family influences, personal recognition, and the habit of blaming oneself, all play roles.  The group provides you with security; emotional, psychological and social.

Peer pressure can be an impediment towards being yourself and your search for authenticity capable of living full and autonomous lives.

Peer pressure is not necessarily a bad thing.  Scientists say facing the influence of friends represents an important developmental step for teens on their way to becoming independent-thinking adults. It gives young people a chance to test boundaries, to learn to takes risks,  learn from mistakes thus ultimately gain a measure of autonomy and self determination. 

We are all aliens to ourselves, and if we have any sense of who we are, it is only because we live inside the eyes of others.          The Book of Illusions - Ed Wright

Media 

Teachers and parents compete against powerful and seductive media forces where semi-literate sporting heroes or vacuous celebrities' values rule,  or the banal simplicities of foul-mouthed media personalities are given more prominence than cogent well articulate discussions.

All kinds of modern media outlets including the internet, 200 channel cables, i-Phones, to magazines, can create celebrity obsessed of conflicting images.  Media can be one of the most insidious and prevailing influences on formative minds.

Role Models - 

In our impressionable years we meet many older people we respect, admire, or even become in awe of.  These people will have a profound influence on our outlook, beliefs, interests, and approach to life.  Sub consciously we may emulate them. We need to distinguish between the superficial celebrity set and genuine wholesome heroes.   It is important to aim for authenticity; that we remain true to ourselves...

Situations – environment - culture

A change is as good as a rest.  Geography and landscape does have a subtle effect on our outlook on life.  People who live in mountainous valleys can develop parochial or narrow views, while people who live in open plains may have open minds.  People who live near water often have a more laid back existence. 

People who stay in the same place and the same jobs can become stale, stultified and burned out.  Every time you move to a new place, new job or situation you have to redefine yourself and discard attributes you don’t like and remake yourself.

Life can throw up situations and traumatic experiences that scar us for life.  It is important to fight issues that you can, but sometimes also to deal with them and move on lest they destroy you.

Life’s experiences

People account for their actions. They answer to themselves when the results of a poor decision turn out harmful, unpleasant, or ineffective. Choices made in haste or for short-run gain often become long term problems. We cannot rightfully blame unpleasant consequences on other people, wrong timing, unfortunate circumstances, or just plain bad luck. Like a boomerang, poor decisions swing back to us. Whether we like it or not, legally, morally, and personally, we answer for our choices.

Helen Garner – The Darkness in us all.  Garner’s address ‘How Can We Write About Darkness?’ – Domestic Violence -   delivered on 21 May 2015 at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

I’m interested in apparently ordinary people who, under life’s unbearable pressure, burst through the very fine membrane that separates our daylight selves from the secret darkness that lives in every one of us.

Why are we ever surprised by the scorched earth around a broken family? Our laws and strictures and conventions have no purchase on the dark regions of the soul into which we venture when we love.

But everyone knows that love is brutal. A thousand songs tell the story. Love tears right through to the centre of us, into our secret self, and lays it wide open. Surely Sigmund Freud was right when he said, “We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love.”

What people find really hard to bear, I’ve noticed, is the suggestion that they themselves might contain their share of human darkness, hidden inside their souls. Human beings have many shields against this darkness.

At times of great darkness, everything around us becomes symbolic, poetic, archetypal. Perhaps this is what dreaming, and art, are for.

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“Some people are driven beyond the point of their endurance and just crumble and give up.  There are others who for some reason are unconquerable.  You meet them in times of war, or in times of peace.  They have an indomitable spirit, and nothing, neither pain nor torture  nor threat of death will cause them to give up”.   Roald Dahl

Unless the situation is critical, we should stoically deal with it and move on without brooding and allowing it to destroy us. Adversity is a chance to develop character.

Coming of Age - Moves towards Maturity and Self – identity

The more complex our society becomes the later in life we achieve our preparedness to meet the demands of that society.

In primitive societies young people at 13 or 14 became initiated, whereas in a modern day technical society many people do not join the work force until their mid twenties or even later.

Maturity develops as we begin to sort out our priorities – determine what is really important to us and come to terms with who we really are- we reject some influences and accept others.  Self determination and self acceptance are indicators of a mature individual.

“Just be yourself; everybody else’s identity is already taken”.

 Only the shallow know themselves.     Oscar Wilde 

Independence AND Responsibility

Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.     Oscar Wilde 

Young people accomplish a great deal before becoming adults. They acquire their own beliefs, values, feelings, interests and abilities. They find their strengths and their limitations. They also learn ways to get along with different people in their lives.

They learn how to behave as independent people in various ways They pick vocational directions and then start building skills necessary to reach their goals. They face major disappointments; make major choices and lesser ones.

Today’s adolescences face many difficult tasks because a complex society sets high expectations for young people with even greater rewards for success. . No wonder so many young people feel unprepared for the challenge. In fact, one young person in ten has issues with meeting the demands of growing up that requires professional help.

Many young people cry for their independence without giving a thought to their responsibility. They want driver’s licences, spending money, jobs, the right to pick their own friends, and most of all their own privacy. Belonging in a group helps adolescents to meet their needs for independence. As friends supplant parent’s influence, young people go into the world. The group decides how to think, what to value, which activities, goals and friend ships matter, and like sheep they follow others.

Independent people truly direct themselves and rely on their own judgement. No one however, stands totally independent .We live in a world with other people we need.

All of us are born with original sin and a tendency towards self –serving evil.  The film, Clockwork Orange, raises the question of how do we socialise people away from selfish narcissistic drives to more noble, altruistic and collective motives?   To be fully human, we need to be able to choose between good and evil.  If we impose regulation, denying the natural freedom of moral choice through social conditioning, people do not own their behaviour and lose their free will.  

Loss of innocence - 

Young people are susceptible to all kinds of deceptions.  We believed in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Easter bunnies and a raft of monsters.  Children’s stories are black and white in terms of good and evil.  As we mature we become more aware of reality and become less gullible or credulous. We should not be easy prey for purveyors of false cults or causes. 

Loss of innocence also applies to our s*xual awakening; our realisation of s*x and its function in life. As all aspects of life, S*x can be fulfilling or damaging for us.  It can enhance your self-esteem or lead to self loathing.  Coming to accept our s*xuality can be the most humanising experience we encounter.

Individualism - rejection of conformist tribalism

A sign of maturity is having the courage to say no to friends, peers and parents when we assert our independence and individuality. 

Self-reliance, possession, actualisation

A fully mature person takes care of themself, is happy with whom they are and tries to express their true self.  Our whole lifestyle should reflect who we are and what we value.

In a free and open society our choices should be open and everything we do, especially our career choices should be ours and lead to creativity, self-fulfilment and self- actualisation.

Integrity being true to yourself   - a sense of wholeness.

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