I have just posted the following post as a guest on So You Want To Teach. Hopefully it will be appear there soon.
Sad. That is what I am feeling right now. I can give you a good number of reasons why I am sad, but that is not the intention of my blog post. I can also add a whole bunch of other emotions such as frustration, disappointment, anger and exhaustion into sad, but for now, I will umbrella them all under sad. I hope, as I start out writing this, that I can ultimately express my message clearly and use my sadness as a tool to get there….
A few months ago, I had the privilege of hearing Hugh Mackay, psychologist and social researcher, speak. Now, if I had not heard him speaking, I might have just taken my sadness off to bed and hid under the covers for a few hours. But Mr Mackay made me finally understand that without sadness, there would be no happiness. I accept all the research out there about the depression epidemic our children are facing by the time they hit 30. I’ve read the numbers and they are pretty scary. However, the awareness of depression, as Mackay has pointed out, has made us all too scared of sadness.
Yes – there is no doubt that depression is a real illness. I am not talking about that depression. If you are a normal human being, you will experience sadness, despair, doubt, disappointment… without these, how would we know how the feeling of happiness feels? MacKay confirms what most of us already know – that the “most significant growth and development has come from pain, not pleasure.”
The human experience is filled with a range of emotions. It is the experience of these emotions and the ability to deal with them that makes us complete human beings. Being complete, whole human beings is the goal we should instill for ourselves, our children and our students, which implies that happiness is not the goal. If it is, how can it ever be reached?
Mackay goes on to say that when parents comment that they only want their children to be happy, he is tempted to ask them, “Is that all you want for them? Do you really want them to be as emotionally deprived as that? Don’t you want them to learn how to cope with disappointment, failure and even unfairness? Don’t you want them to be whole?”
If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I believe whole heartedly in teaching our children about resilience and independence so that they may have the life skills to live meaningful adult lives.
On the same day I heard Hugh Mackay speak, I was stunned into awe as I watched Lindy Chamberlain take the stage. She was rows and rows away from me, but I felt her touch me. I had seen the movie about her as a young child and I knew her name well. Lindy spent a number of years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of the death of her nine week old baby who was killed by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain deserves a whole blog post, rather than a mention in a paragraph, but I would like to mention an essential lesson I learnt from her. I like her terminology of how you move through the stages of being a victim to a survivor and then a thriver. I have embraced this terminology and use it often with my own children and some of my students. It is the people who cannot move out of the victim stage who land up having real depression. It is so useful to be able to tell my senior son that he has had victim emotions for long enough and what is he going to do about it? He knows the route and there is only one.
So, back to my “sad.” Firstly, being able to write about it and visit an old mentor has started me on the process of moving away from being a victim. Secondly, my sadness is okay. It is allowed to be here and stay for a (short) while because I am going to embrace it, acknowledge it, accept it and move on. It is not depression. It is part of being human and normal.
Yes, people – tomorrow I am going to thrive.