The transition from child to adult is gradual over time. It can take many years. It’s something that happens almost when you are not looking.
For some teenagers there is little formal guidance to assist them during this transitional stage. There are not always appropriate maps. The maps of our ancestors are way past their use-by date. Adolescence is a time of transition – like travelling on a train. You have left one station behind and you are on your way to somewhere else. You are clearly no longer a child, though sometimes you behave like one and you are not yet an adult.
Adolescence can be a time of mixed and confused emotions, feelings and messages from parents, friends, self and body. During adolescence you are not only confronting stressful situations, just as adults do, but you are also developing ways to cope. Finding ways to respond to stress is a crucial skill for adolescence. This often gets easier with practice. Be as easy on yourself as you can. There is a lot of learning to do and it doesn’t happen overnight. There is no rush.
You live in a complex world. You are making your way in unfamiliar territory. It’s easy to get LOST in life. It’s okay to ask for guidance, support and new instructions. It’s okay to take your time. It’s absolutely brilliant to forge new directions and create new maps. All of the experience and learning is necessary in order for your transition from child to adult to take place. There are many steps to take that are part of your Journey. Be willing to take them and accept that whatever you are going through is valuable learning for life.
Caterpillar to Butterfly
What you are going through is similar to what happens to a caterpillar. The caterpillar looks at the world from a limited point of view. As a child you did too! Children often don’t think about who they are. They just are! When the time comes for the caterpillar to transform itself, it makes a cocoon. This is like the adolescent stage of human development. The caterpillar is willing to let go completely of its life as it has known it. It allows its body to become like a soup – a mish-mash of cells preparing themselves to transform into a butterfly. At this stage the caterpillar is not aware that this is happening. Slowly, over time, the cells re-group and eventually they become the form of the butterfly. Growing up is a process that is natural. There are no short cuts, as this story demonstrates:
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He watched the cocoon for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it could go no further. So the man decided to help it. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly. He expected that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man in his kindness did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings. Then it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. It is not until the struggle to get out of the cocoon has been won that the butterfly can fly.
Turn Around Time
Sometimes struggles expand us into our lives. Life without obstacles could cripple us. We may not become as strong as our potential allows. We may never fly!
If your upbringing has been generally unsupportive, it’s during teenage years that childhood influences can be turned around. During adolescence radical changes can be made in your beliefs, the way you see yourself and how you behave as a result of your upbringing. Like the caterpillar you are in the soup. Adolescence is a time, more powerful than most, when you metamorphose. You may struggle to grow yourself up if life has given you some extremely heavy knocks: physical, mental, emotional abuse, alcoholism, neglect or separation from natural parents, homelessness or anything else. Other things that may stunt your growth or badly hurt you:
– Not being accepted and loved by parents.
– Being put down, judged or criticised can distort your sense of self.
– Having an absent father or mother as a child can cause anxiety, insecurity, isolation and identity confusion.
– Not being allowed to freely express yourself.
– Not having a sense of belonging within a larger community.
– Violence of any kind or sexual abuse can seriously affect the way you live your life.
If you address your childhood wounds during puberty, it can make life as an adult happier and fulfilling. If your hurts are not addressed then you may go about acting out your pain, doing all kinds of damage to yourself and those around you.
“I haven’t been aware of myself totally changing. But the changes have brought me mixed emotions and made me very confused. I blow up at nothing. Cry about nothing. All mixed up! It’s scary for me not having control of my emotions. It feels like I’m trapped in a room with the walls closing in on me. I’d like to break away and I can’t do that. I’ve become numb to everything. I’ve noticed that a lot in the last two years. I don’t react like I used to. There’s a shadow over my whole life. I feel separated from everything around me. This sense got stronger since I went to high school.” – Natalie (13).
“Teenage years are about having fun! It’s a time to get yourself sorted. Learning about life skills, about everything really. It’s good being a teenager because I don’t have adult responsibilities, I can enjoy it more and I can relax. School’s been challenging for me. It’s good to do some study but not too much. That sets me up for my life. My social life is fast. Keeping up with everybody, it’s a fast life.” – Alan (16).
Becoming Your Own Person
Adolescence is a time for establishing an identity that is separate from parents or guardians. This is sometimes marked by arguments, anxiety, separation, fights and the breaking of rules. You are becoming an individual. You are discovering who you are and what you value as a person. You are learning that you are not either your father or mother. This is a testing-out time in the family that can be painful for everyone. You are naturally testing the boundaries they set for you. That is how you strengthen your personality. Their job is to set limits, to guide and support you to mature. It’s useful to learn how to negotiate with them so that you can all feel like you are winning.
Ideally, parents also protect you and keep you as safe as they can. This can be challenging for them if they have not been brought up well themselves or you are not willing to co-operate. Flexibility and open communication between teenagers, parents or guardians can make everyone’s lives easier. If you understand about the process you are going through it may make your transition smoother.
The Importance of Friendship
At this time, new relationships are being established with friends and the other gender, providing you with opportunities to go outside the boundaries of the family. Friendships are vitally important. They create a bridge from one world to another. Moving away from the family, the friendships that are formed during adolescence are what carry you through this stage of development. As a teenager you can redefine yourself through your friendships.
Adolescence is about learning how to cope with all of these new experiences and finding out what does and doesn’t work for you. You are constantly faced with new feelings and difficult decisions. At times it may be hard to hear your Essential Nature. Your friends and acquaintances may be trying to influence you. You may be tempted to go along to make them feel good about what they are doing. If you do not stay aware, you may lose connection to your own knowing. It is empowering when you decide what you are ready for.
Your Essential Nature
I use the term Essential Nature to describe your authentic and real self. When you are experiencing your Essential Nature, it’s like something clicks inside you. You feel at ease with yourself, comfortable with who you are. You sense that everything is okay. You are relaxed. Accepting yourself you can then live your potential, and share your unique gifts with the world. Your Essential Nature is often covered up because of the treatment and expectations of your parents, teachers and society. Sometimes in order to connect with your Essential Nature you may choose to clear out what is layered over it; this can be beliefs, family and societal conditioning and negativity from others. When people expect you to behave in ways that go against your own knowing, this can take you away from your Essential Nature.
GETTING REAL … about growing up! challenges you to have the courage to be who you really are rather than what the people you are with would like you to be. Be ready to stand by yourself if what is going on around you is not for you. Also be prepared to create waves if what is happening does not sit comfortably in your heart. Stand up against people who are behaving foolishly or harming themselves or others. If people are judging others or putting them down, speak up. If you don’t think you can speak up – leave. Then you are no longer a follower but your own leader.
Can you imagine GETTING REAL and:
– safely expressing your true feelings and emotions in the moment they arise?
– living in a place where you love yourself, others and appreciate the gift of life?
– living life as spiritual beings having a human experience?
– realising your oneness with all Life?
– creating a way of life that preserves and nurtures all life forms on Earth?
When you reconnect with your Essential Nature, the true you, you become more confident. You open to receive guidance. You can have an understanding that makes it easier to live in the evolving World around you. The right people are drawn to you. The support to bring about your personal and planetary transformation is available. Can you call upon it and use it now for the good of others as well as yourself?
HAVE A JOYFUL ADVENTURE, FELLOW TRAVELLER.