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How we empower kids with self-awareness May 11, 2020

A series of books I recently read talks about the fact that our education systems often fail to teach “wisdom”. I distinctly remember thinking when I was about 30-years of age, “If only I had the benefit of the wisdom accumulated at age 30 when I was much younger.” Surprisingly, I find myself thinking the same thing about age 30. Perhaps I am not alone in thinking this.

You may be thinking “Can we teach wisdom, or can it only be learned through direct experiences?” I believe we can provide a basic level of wisdom and that this may help prevent some of the negative experiences from which we would otherwise have to learn from.

One element of wisdom is self-awareness. Self-awareness is important as it means we cease to be victims in our narrative, whether it be a child dealing with tension between themself and their teacher or something more serious like school-bullying.

If we understood the “thought processes” that often accompany a position of victimhood, then perhaps it would be easier for each of us to recognise such thoughts in our own thinking or our children’s thinking. Perhaps we could use this greater self-awareness to surmount conflict.

Self-awareness in everyday situations

If the number of words written are indicative of passion and knowledge for a particular field, then we are in safe hands listening to Dr Ken Keis of CRG, who has authored over 4 million words of content including four books, 12 assessments, 40 full day training programs and over 400 articles in the field of self-development, personal style preferences, leadership and living with purpose.

Ken states that:

“Self-awareness is so connected to success that it transcends age, intelligence, education, profession and job level.”

He quotes a study by TalentSmart that finds 83% of top performers are high in self-awareness, no matter their industry or profession, yet just 2% of low performers possess that critical skill.

Drawing an analogy between self-awareness and round wheels, he notes that people are more likely to:

  • play to their strengths at work and home,
  • limit the negative impact of their deficiencies and
  • get the results they desire.

Failing to become more self-aware is like using square wheels rather than round wheels, where our broken or unproductive habits cause unnecessary jolts and pain to everyone involved.

“When you become aware, you cease being a victim of your circumstances. You own your own space, whether this be at an individual, family, team, organisation or even government level.”

Start young

Ken states that you don’t have to wait until University to become self-aware. He tells the story of his son, who in eighth grade, was experiencing tension between himself and one of the younger, less-experienced teachers. Ken started to coach his son about the impact that his “personal style was having on his environment” – he was creating self-awareness in him. This was aimed at coaching him to manage his verbal nature and to tone it down a bit, rather than trying to change who he was. Ken wanted him to be aware that his verbal energy was disrupting the class. Things very quickly resolved, with his son taking pride in his ability to manage the situation himself, while being self-aware.

Self-awareness in more dramatic circumstances

Unfortunately, bullying in our schools is all too common. While no two episodes are the same, sadly we often here of the more serious impacts on children. How can we help a child in such a situation?

Victim-like thoughts

Certain thoughts are associated with victim-like thinking. These include:

  • their biggest fear is “I’ll have to fend for myself”
  • no options
  • lack of identity
  • undeserving (of happiness, love, abundance, fun)
  • helplessness (no choice)
  • shame (all my fault)
  • powerlessness (disempowered)
  • degraded (rejection, no-one cares) and
  • fear (can’t do this because something will happen)

If we could learn to recognise such thoughts, or better still help our children to recognise them, thereby arming them with this self-awareness, we could endeavour to change their automatic responses and help them to learn healthier reactions.

Dissecting the “drama triangle”

No matter what a person’s age, whether they be 10 or 50, self-awareness can empower us. Discussing with them what their options might be and how they may deal with possible consequences can prepare them to step out of their “position of victimhood” and to more effectively deal with the situation. This can be empowering.

Let’s consider the following triangle developed 40 years ago by Dr Stephen Karpman. It depicts the three roles which play out in any drama or conflict.

Self-awareness 2

Can identifying such roles and the behaviours associated with each make it a little easier to deal with such drama or conflict?

Understanding roles

What is going on for each of the bully, the victim and rescuer? What roles are each playing? Just knowing that they are playing roles, often subconsciously, might be helpful.

How helpful would it be to know that the bully/aggressor/persecutor tries to maintain their power or control through fear? What might your child fear? Perhaps it is something many children fear. Would it help to talk about such fears in order to normalise them?

How helpful would it be to explain why our friends don’t seem to be there to support us? That is, why does the “rescuer” only appear when they feel it is safe to? Why do rescuers choose to remain silent when the aggressor strikes? How does that make your child feel? Would understanding this particular dynamic make your child feel a little better?

Can greater awareness about these common dynamics help kids to better see and understand what is happening?  Can such understanding help protect them from subconsciously developing negative self-beliefs that limit or block their full potential.

Being able to avoid a victim-like mentality will be a useful life-long skill.

Rescuing in an authentic way

When the rescuer is only playing a role, then their actions might not be from an authentic place. Perhaps they have an ulterior motive for helping, rather than operating from the heart. The rescuer may see their own perceived value increase as a rescuer. For example, they may have the belief that the victim cannot do something on their own.

The rescuer can actually maintain the role of the victim by encouraging the victim’s negative sense of self-worth, encouraging them to stay silent and not to look for solutions. This encourages the aggressor to stay or maintain their role, as they maintain their power through fear.

An example of how this dynamic might play out is for the rescuer to say to the victim, “Do you think you should really talk to a teacher about this? It could actuallyl make the bully angry.” or in a slightly different context, “Don’t tell father about this”.

A better, more empowering response for the victim might be for the rescuer to ask, “What can I do to help you deal with this bully.” or “Can I help you so that you can tell your father and deal with his reaction, whatever, that might be.”

The rescuer might try to instil a sense of guilt in the victim by saying “This is how you treat me after everything I’ve done for you.” Or they may say “If you love me, you’d do more”. In this way, the rescuer is maintaining the various roles on the triangle.

Bear in mind that there is a potential victim in each role, which is why the aggressor can so quickly can become “the victim” in their mind when their behaviour is pointed out.

Self-awareness can help us by helping us to understand “what is our fear”?

Are we telling or creating our story?

Michelle Obama in her recent biography “Becoming” talks about the importance of knowing her story. She writes of her parents:

“Together they helped me see the value in our story, in my story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it is not pretty or perfect and when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have. What you will always have. It’s something to own.”

While knowing our story might seem like “dwelling on the past”, this does not have to be the case. The good thing about a story is that is still being written. We still get to write the next chapter. We get to create.

Being more aware about this “process of creation” is empowering. What are our thoughts about “who we are” and for that matter “who we are not”? Even as adults, some of the ways we learnt to think or not think as kids, can actually disempower us.

Another course I took a couple years ago talked about “dualism as the cause of all conflict”. Rather than limiting ourselves with certain beliefs about who we are and who we are not, it said that we should endeavour to balance out the two opposite poles by shifting away from what is “in the light” and moving more towards what is “in the dark”.

That is:

  • Rather than happy versus sad, can we learn to accept or embrace sadness?
  • Rather than being scientific or spiritual, can we embrace both science and spirituality?
  • Rather play and work, can be see “work as play” and “play as work”?
  • Rather than charity and making money, rather than just giving money, can we teach those in need how to earn money.
  • Rather than friend and enemy, love your enemy.

Our current self, that is, who we identify with, is the side we have chosen to put in light. To evolve, we must consider the side that is in the dark. That is, we need to balance the poles. If we are to evolve, the key will be variation. Conflict arises when we resist this change.

We do not want to cling to an identify built up from stories of the past. We must let go of who we currently are to become who we want to be. This involves doing things which we have ignored, judged and victimized with our current self and its identity.

How do we consider the side of us that is hidden in the dark?

  • If you are extraverted, then take time to quietly reflect
  • If you have ignored money, start to make money
  • If you have chosen a side as right, face one that you think is wrong

Lovers of self-development are enticed by the opportunities and potential to live a life that is more joyful and loving, with acceptance for “what is” and gratitude for “what is”. While they may experience pain or conflict, taking the time to “work on the self” means that they are better positioned to accept the pain, avoiding any tendency to identify with it. They don’t expect these outcomes as though they are entitled to them. They realise that they must work at it. That through greater self-awareness, they can gain greater mastery over their thoughts and their lives.

If you find the concept of the drama triangle useful, you can find a great explanation at https://lindagraham-mft.net/triangle-victim-rescuer-persecutor-get/

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