The Raw Unconfigured Experiences of Childhood

The Raw Unconfigured Experiences of Childhood

About this Podcast:

A discussion of how the raw unconfigured experiences of childhood have been replaced with micromanaged, for pay, coached, “learning experiences” that result in teens and young adults feeling anxious, confused and unable to create and make their way in the world without a clear path defined for them.

Episode Transcript:

You. Hi all. Good afternoon. I wanted to speak on something that I noticed a lot when I began teaching, working with kids, teens, young adults, and also became more intensely apparent to me once I became a parent. And I'm going to meander a little bit because I haven't really put the thoughts together, but it's something I've talked about and thought about a lot since then. In the context that I want to give you is if you take a look at, for example, a society that has tons of laws, like, for example, the United States has tons of laws, tons of codification of behaviors, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Years ago, it occurred to me that that was not a sign of the fact that we were a law-abiding society. Most of those laws are necessary because people are doing stupid, immoral things that then inspire the society to go well, things are not going to go well unless we make some laws to regulate this behavior. So, for example, if everyone behaved morally and respectfully of one another and never stole and these sorts of things, then society wouldn't need to put any effort into codifying laws to tell people that they shouldn't do it and that these are the outcomes, the negative outcomes if they do. Another example of this principle where societies respond by building these things out to say, well, we want to be this way - only indicating that they're not that way is the case of how much modern humans talk about how wonderful nature is and how beautiful it is and how much we should meditate and show kindness towards one another. And in fact, I'm even criticizing my own field a little bit, because so much of what therapists do is just encourage modern humans to acknowledge that they're completely cut off from really normal, healthy behaviors. And I've said many, many times, if all of my clients meditated a little bit, ate healthy, got regular exercise, were a part of a cool human community that they were in regular contact with, I would lose like two thirds of my business instantly because so much anxiety and depression and so much of the mental health field and the self-help field is once again society inventing and selling to you a bunch of things that are meant to correct for the fact that we're entirely not that way anymore. And so with that as context, I want to speak to something, a place where it bothers me a lot more, and that is with kids. How hard parents work and how much we talk and think about developing curiosity and helping kids learn to think and making sure we're socializing them and exposing them to nature and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I'm a parent, and I do this, too, so I hope not to offend or to judge anyone, but to point out that this going by the same principle is merely an indication that we've completely abandoned what is normal childhood, which is you don't have to encourage kids to be curious. You have to stop discouraging curiosity in them. You don't have to encourage kids to love nature and want to interact with nature. You have to acknowledge that you've completely removed them from nature and that they have no normal access to nature. You don't have to try to control and reduce the amount of sugar that your kids eat. You have to acknowledge that you live a lifestyle that is completely saturated with an unhealthy amount of sugar and that you, in fact, model that behavior. You don't have to try to reduce the amount of time that your child spends in a dark room playing video games for hours and hours. You have to acknowledge that they have grown up seeing you interact with electronic devices, not being out mountain climbing, rock climbing, swimming in the ocean, fishing, whatever it is that this is, in fact, is the reality that you've provided them, and they merely internalized it and are adapting to that. And so I noticed this a lot in my frustration of trying to provide healthy activities for my children. And in a place like Los Angeles, you get into spending a lot of money. And again, I don't want to disparage any particular program. Like, if you need to do it, you need to do it. But for a while, for example, my son, we were paying for a program where they went to the beach and there is an obstacle course, and they're just, like, climbing over stuff and kicking balls and whatever. And you're paying for this. You're paying someone to set up an environment in which your child does what any child will do at a moment's notice if you allow them the space to do it. And so my goal with what I'm saying here today is to invite you to really think through how you relate to young people, how you relate to children, how we criticize young people when we see them behaving in ways that is only a response to the fact that we have provided that environment. We have separated them from nature. We have separated them from their curiosity. We have separated them from social groups. We have been doing this for decades. And then we look at them and tut and go, what's going on with these generations? Well, they've adapted to exactly what we provided them. And our job is not to judge them or not to try to pay for some one-off or identify some one-off behavior by which we seek to mitigate the damage we've done. But our job is to look at our own lives and our own behavior and make radical changes such that it just becomes normal that your children and your neighbor's children and students in your class, that you're not talking to them and saying, we think it's very important that you learn about nature, and we're going to do a nature walk and we want you to really take some interest. It's like, why are you saying that kids are interested? Kids are super, super curious. If you are exposing them naturally to the environment and to the natural world, they're like, obsessed with it. You don't have to inculcate curiosity. So it is on all of us, the older generations and people who work with children and young adults, to stop judging what we have created and how younger generations have responded to that and begin to make radical changes which will naturally result in an environment when we're not helicopter parenting, we're not micromanaging, we're not trying to build back in. We're not taking the bleached white flour that we've stripped of everything and then attempting to put vitamins back in so that it's fortified. We all know that doesn't work and it's a crappy way to live life. So the call to action is that we look at ourselves when we see things going sideways. We look at our society and see what we're building back in as a solution, as self-help and go - Rather than buying the solution, maybe we should look at why it needs to be solved in the first place and build back into your life the kind of environment and the kind of regular lifestyle and regular behaviors such that it's just totally normal. It's just normal that kids are not gorging on sugar and that kids are not that interested in playing video games 12 hours a day because they have so many social experiences and they have so many environments where it's just normal for them to run around and be curious and play and have fun. If that's not happening naturally, it's not because there's something wrong with them. It's because we have removed their access. So the call to action is for the older generations to look at what we've created and to look at the environment and to make radical changes ourselves, rather than judging them and waiting for them to fix what we created. All right, guys, thanks for listening and I will see you next time.

Meet your hosts:

Jon Sorensen


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