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He can't treat us like that - A short story about school
German city lowers voting age to 16 - Bremen, Germany. May 2011
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|A Few of My Beliefs
|The Importance of Feelings
I feel very strongly about the importance of feelings. I feel passionate about it, in fact. I grew up in a very "intellectual" family. We didn't talk about our feelings. No one ever taught my parents how to. So, they never taught us. One result was that I have had to go through a lot of unnecessary financial and emotional pain because of my lack of knowledge and skills when it came both my own feelings and the feelings of others.
Until I was about 35 whenever someone would ask how I felt, I would tell them what I thought. I didn't know the difference between thoughts and feelings. Now I have learned the language of feelings (see Emotional Literacy). I want to help you avoid some of the pain that I have suffered from my ignorance of the importance of feelings.
We live in an intellectual society. We are bombarded with textbooks, exams, grades, test scores, and achievement tests. If you are smart, you are encouraged to go make good grades so you can go to college where your cognitive brain will be further developed. But all of this comes at the expense of your emotional brain. New brain research is giving us more information about this "emotional brain."
I believe the new information about the emotional brain is some of the most important information you will ever come across in your life. A whole new field has opened up under the name of emotional intelligence. People all around the world are startiing to pay more attention to emotions. It is my hope that more people will then realize that it takes more than being "smart" and "successful" to be happy. It is my hope that more people will realize that happiness requires more than money, status, material things or fame. In short, I believe it takes satisfying, fulfilling relationships with other people. And I believe the key to satisfying relationships is the development of our emotional intelligence.
Most of you know that your parents "love" you. But a useful question to ask is do you feel loved?
There is a big difference between knowing you are loved and feeling loved. And it is the latter one which has the most effect on your self-esteem.
Along with the development of your emotional intelligence, I suspect that your self esteem is the most important variables in the equation of your life's happiness.
Your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, and these feelings are most directly caused by your parents. So it is critical that you become very aware of how your feelings are affected by your parents.
Here are some questions to help you raise your awareness::
Here aer some sentences to complete:
You can do the same kind of thing with respected, understood, cared about, conrolled and judged.
Your Parents' Feelings and Needs
Some of you have parents that I would call emotionally needy. In other words they feel certain needs (like to feel powerful, important, needed, appreciated, in control, obeyed, "respected"). Once you realize this, you might be able to see that they are just trying to get their needs filled, as you are. The problem is that very often they are using you to try to fill their unmet needs. This could be called a form of emotional abuse.
Depending on your parents, you might be able to talk to them, or have someone else talk to them and educate them to help them see that it is a form of abuse. On the other hand they might become very defensive if you say anything or if anyone else does. If you can talk to them, or if they will listen to someone else, then you are pretty lucky. If you can't you are pretty unlucky. In the second case you might have to just try to get emotional support and understanding from other sources and wait until you either feeling stronger or till yoyu are legally able to choose where you live and who you are around.
Happiness and Depression
To be happy, or at least not to be miserable, depressed and suicidal, all of your needs must be met to some degree.This means both your physical and emotional needs.
Your physical needs include food, shelter, and human touch. These are pretty basic and easy to see. But our emotional needs are much more complicated. We each have very different needs when it comes to our feelings. I might need more freedom and you might need more security, for example.
No one will ever know what your emotional needs are better than you. Not your parents, not your boyfriend or girlfriend. Your needs are not, and never will be, the same as your parents. So what works for them won't necessarily work for you. It is just like a pair of glasses. I can't expect to hand you mine and say, "Here, these work for me, they should work for you!" In fact, maybe your parents aren't happy themselves, so it wouldn't make sense to do things they way they do.
Being happy or at least not being depressed requires a certain amount of freedom and independence. This means being able to fill your own needs. But to fill a need, it helps to know specifically what it is. So how do you know what your emotional needs are?
The answer is your feelings.
Your feelings tell you when you have either too much, too little or just the right amount of something.
For example, when you feel lonely, you need some people to connect with.
When you feel crowded, you need less people around.
With every emotion, your feelings are a reflection of your emotional needs. These needs are genetic. They come from nature and from millions of years of evolution, a process which simply amazes me. There is so much intelligence in nature, and since we are part of nature, we were born with a great deal of this intelligence to know what is right and wrong for our survival, health and happiness.
Just as a tree and a plant need certain things to thrive, so do you. But unlike a tree, you have needs that go far beyond the physical ones. After your physical needs have been filled, when you have had enough to eat, for example, you still have emotional needs.
You might feel the need for excitement, for knowledge, for intellectual stimulation, for understanding, for acceptance, for empathy, for freedom, for solitude.
A lot of teens have a big need for self- expression, and to feel heard and understood. This goes along with their need for acceptance.
If you are unhappy or depressed then chances are pretty good that yur parents haven't done a good job of filling your needs. This is because parents of depressed teens are typicaly more used to talking than listening, judging than accepting, and discuraging rather than encouraging. If your parents have been emotionally draining you instead of emotionally supporting you, then it will be understandable if you are depressed. Here are more common feelings depressed and abused teens have.
Filling Your Needs
No matter what kinds of parents you have, it will help you to identify your needs. Depending on your parents, it may or may not help to communicate your needs. If your parents are insecure and get defensive easily then its better to try to do this in a way that they can hear without getting too defensive. This may be tricky. But is worth a try.
Over time, I think you can train them. And I believe you have more power over them than you realize. I will help you see how you can tap into this power.
Listening to Your Parents vs Listening to Your Feelings
Parents usually think they know what is best for you. They think they know this better than you do. But too many times they are mistaken. In that case we might say, it is better to listen to your feelings than to your parents. Of course they do have more experience than you, but they will never have your feelings or your exact needs. Plus times change quickly. As just one example, now you can learn anything you want from the Internet so it is less important for you to sit in a classroom chair to learn something.
By the way, it is natural for most parents, like most people, to feel defensive, if you suggest they are doing anything wrong or they don't know what they are talking about. Parents in particular believe, or want to believe, that everything they are doing is for you, and therefore is in your best interest. But believing something doesn't make it true. Still, it will help to accept the fact that it is natural for them to feel defensive if they do. Maybe you can listen to them so they feel a little more respected, but you can still give first preference to your own feelings.
Suggestions When Arguing:
See the page on listening
He can't treat us like that -- a short story
While traveling once in New Zealand I met a man named Stephen Alexander, who was in charge of all the public kindergartens in Auckland, the capital of New Zealand. When we were talking about how he got so interested in education he told me this story.
He said that when he was 14 he and his friend were being humiliated in front of the whole class. He got up from his chair and said to his friend, "Come on. Let's go. That's it." The friend said, "Where are we going?"
"To see the principal. He can't do that to us."
So they got up and started to leave the classroom and the teacher said, "Hey, where do you think you are going?"
"Down to the principals. You can't treat us like that."
I said to Stephen, "Wow. Where did you get that kind of empowerment?" He said from his father.
I didn't ask what happened in the principals office. Actually it doesn't matter much. The point is my friend's father had instilled him a sense of justice, self-respect and self-dignity. He had empowered him with a belief in himself, a self-confidence that said, I assume, something like this: Whenever you are being treated wrongly, take action. Go to someone in a higher level of authority. Don't stop till you are satisfied. Never allow a teacher or any other adult demean, disrespect or humiliate you.
My friend Stephen Alexander now is one of the most independent, self-reliant, self-confident and fair people I know. I admire him and his father and I thank him for sharing this piece of his life.
Email from another US teen
Hi, I'm a 17 year old that lives with my mom and stepdad. I'm going into my senior year of highschool and plan on attending college. Ok, if you needed to know that. I just got done reading your page about teens and parents. As for your questions...
1.verbal abuse- I get lots of this from my stepdad. Whenever we have a family argument he calls me some of this stuff (lazy, ungrateful, inconsiderate, uncaring, manipulative) He also has called me cuss words when he's really mad, most of this, I don't let get to me, he just has a big mouth, lol, and my mom , I don't think, really ever verbally abuses me, although she doesn't really do much when he does:-/
2.afraid- Some of my recurring fears are as follows, fears of succeeding and going to college(so I won't disappoint anyone) Lots of fears that if I'm not perfect academically, physically, and psychologically that I won't be accepted...by anyone.
3.criticized- This is a big one! I feel so criticized about every thing I do. It's like if my grades aren't A's, then I'm criticized about it. If I ever settle for anything less then the best, no matter what, I'm criticized heavily, I'm judged on how my friends are!! I hate that! Well, I hope this will help. Sincerely, Rebecca
Ways You Can Help
- Send us your true stories.
- Tell us what kinds of verbal and emotional abuse is common in your home and school.
- Tell us what your parents say that help you feel criticized, guilt-tripped, defensive, afraid, threatened, judged, or invalidated.
- Volunteer to help us write, edit and post articles for the site.
- Join the teen chat support group
Learning from you helps us make other teens more aware and feel more understood. It also helps us educate adults about verbal and emotional abuse.
Resources, Rererences, Links
freespeech.org/teenrights xx broken freespeech.org/teenrights
- (Notice that two important words are not used on this page: feelings and needs. While I generally support this person's arguments, I believe it would be more productive to speak in these terms instead of in terms of "rights." Most adults will feel attacked, defensive and they won't take this page very seriously because this person has very strong feelings, but never directly speaks of his feelings. He seems to feel a little victimized and most people in power don't respond well to that type of attitude, for lack of a better word. )
Notes from an interview with the author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook
Toxic Parents, Susan Forward
Healing the Shame That Binds You, John Bradshaw
The Family, John Bradshaw
Walden & Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau
Illusions, Richard Bach
Demian, Hermann Hesse
Beneath the Wheel, Hesse
Other Recommended Writers:
Ayn Rand, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow
http://Chioke.com (A guy from Bermuda who wrote me. Has some good poetry- check out Divine Inspiration)
Convo with Tim
yeah, and then u can prevent urself from being influenced by the emotional abuse
yeah maybe i will add that
but im not sure it is "prevent". I'd say it is more like reduce the effects of it
and start to take some steps towards recovery
The reasons I don't believe even an aware teen can totally prevent being affected by emotional abuse include a) by the time they realize they have been, or are being, abused, it has probably already been going on for years, and b) while they are still living in the abusive home, they probably will constantly be worn down to some degree each day. By worn down, I mean they will probably feel discouraged, criticized, judged, questioned, doubted, emotionally neglected, not understood or supported.
All of this is very likely to have an effect on their self-esteem. This is why I believe it is important for them to find a source or emotional support in the form of someone who cares about them, understands them, encourages them etc. Tim, for example, later said that talking to others online for the past two years helped his self-esteem.
I also believe that it does help a person understand themselves if they can identify their specific feelings around someone abusive because labeling the feeling seems to serve as some kind of protection against the damage. Maybe this is because it gives the person some sense of power when they can label what is happening, or in other words, it empowers them to some degree. Also seeing the cause and effect relationship between how they are being treated and what feelings that treatment causes helps them feel empowered by this knowledge. It empowers them because once you can identify something and understand where it is coming from you can start to build your defenses against it even if you can't physically escape it. For example you might be able to mentally tune it out or combat it without it entering so deeply into your self-image.
For example, if you realize that you are feeling judged, then you might be able to see that the person judging you is feeling judgmental. This helps you see that the problem lies more with them than with you.
One positive thing from being abused, but being aware of it, is that it could help you avoid doing the same things to someone else one day. It could also make it easier for you to help someone else because you will understand what is going on.
Common Negative Feelings of Depressed Teens
judged, criticized, controlled, underestimated, interrogated, mocked, invalidated, forced, threatened, belittled, punished, blamed, distrusted, disrespected, pressured, invaded, encroached upon, imprisoned, resentful, unsupported, misunderstood, unheard, unseen, unimportant, bored, neglected, uncared for