Stories are powerful. Watching a good movie or reading a book can give us better perspective on the story of our own life. Seeing the hero struggle and triumph inspires our own courage, bravery and hope in the face of great challenge and difficulty.
For this reason, I was shocked by a discussion I had with a second grade counselor the other day. She told me that her students are now strongly resonating with the role of the villain over the role of the hero. They are idolizing the one who is strong, selfish, powerful and undefeated, trying to mimic that behavior. She is at a loss as to how to teach them that it isn’t a role that will pay off in the end.
I was really struck. These are kids who are coming from middle-class, non-violent, loving families. How is it that they are so enthralled with darkness?
As I thought about it, it became clear that we are living in a culture that is constantly presenting and highlighting horrific events, chaos, pain, and injustice. Since we are rarely, if ever, fed positive stories by major media outlets, we are left to think (especially if we are 7 years old) that the world is ruled by darkness. This breeds underlying feelings of powerless, hopelessness, fear and defeat. Inreaction to those feelings, the ego seeks comfort in power, dominance and control.
Even if we look at traditional myths or some Pixar movies, we see that the path to overcoming the force of darknessis often presented as not so attractive – difficult, long, demanding and lonely. There is strong, widespread belief system entrenched in human consciousness that says the path of exiting the darkness to reach the light must be defined by suffering, sacrifice, and deprivation. It is no wonder that these kids aren’t seeing the hero/heroine’s journey as good option.
How can we show our children the truth that darkness is a fake power, a very convincing illusion of temporary and empty victories? How can we ignite their own inner light to overcome and consistently choose kindness, love and hope?
Here are some tips that have worked in my home:
- Focusing too much on changing the world’s woes is overwhelming, especially for children. I consistently remind my kids that fighting the darkness in the world starts with fighting our own darkness, and every small victory matters. Everytime we overcome self-doubt and fear, stay in the present moment, learn to manage our emotions, or treat someone with human dignity and respect, we eradicate another piece of global negativity, and reveal the beauty and order that really exists. Consuming ourselves with worry and judgement about what others are doing or not doing rather than focusing on our own growth and improvement, just creates anger and frustration. Bringing the big goal of change “home” makes the world much less scary and more manageable.
- My children, like many others, are very aware of what’s happening in the world – well actually what’s happening in the news. I make a point to keep reminding them that there is so much more going on that is not featured on mainstream TV, because it doesn’t sell. For example, there are millions of wonderful and kind people who are doing good things in their homes and communities…and not only in the wake of a disaster. The more I consciously trust this to be true, the more I come across them…in school, at the grocery store, at the carwash, and so on.
- Remember the best way to teach is by example! All of the above won’t really work unless our children see us being this way–managing our own challenges gracefully, expressing gratitude, seeing the beauty that exists in any opportunity, and always taking responsibility for our own process and choices.
Let’s not give darkness more power and credit then it already has. It is time to see and shine the true power that we each have inside.