They all suffered. All the characters in my novel suffered. Men and Women. Children and teens. Adults and elderly. Not that it’s a depressing story. It’s just a reflection of life, how many of us perceive it and then submit to their limited and false perceptions.
Attending a Mindfulness workshop a couple of years ago the instructor explained, “This is life, it’s neither hell nor heaven”. I do agree. Then why most of us suffer? If it isn’t hell, why many people are negative, sad, upset, lost and sometimes even on the edge of depression? Why some of them fake happiness, wear masks and pretend that everything is fine while they are broken from the inside? Why? Because most of us are lost.
“Who are you?” A question I tempt my students sometimes to answer in ‘one minute’. To keep talking about themselves for 60 seconds non stop. And the average answers I get vary between: “My name is….”, “I’m a student at….”, “I’m in the….. grade”, followed by silence. That’s all? Yes!
I don’t blame them. At my time when I was their age if one of my teachers had asked me the same question I would have given the same answer. Where is the problem then? The problem is that we belong to different eras. At my time, when I was at school, there were no computers, no internet and not even bookstores with international best selling books imported from the other side of the world. Life coaching, Self-awareness, Mindfulness, Life purpose, Legacy statement were all unfamiliar concepts. It was okay to go to school, study disciplines, go home, stay sheltered, do your homework and sleep to get ready for another exact copy of your day. Now it’s no longer tolerable. This must change.
Back to suffer. Why people suffer? Why my characters suffer? Why teens I teach suffer to the extent that they talk about self-harm and depression? Lack of awareness, from my opinion, is the clue, the answer, the key. We get raised to fit. We hide our individuality. We feel embarrassed from our uniqueness. We learn that it’s a threat, and maybe even a shame, to be authentic. We’re asked to follow, to obey, to copy and to imitate. Isn’t this what most of us were brought up to in Egypt, and I’m sure in other, many other, parts of the world?
Looking at the rear view I see myself sitting there. Vulnerable. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Guilty. I was different from my siblings. I used to ask ‘why’ and requested answers. I analysed events while my duty was just to remain passive. Following and obeying. Accepting and even appreciating. It wasn’t limited to me or my family. It was my culture. And you know what kills me? Is that we still call it ‘Disciplining our children’.
We even honour parents who have ‘disciplined’ children. What is discipline? As found in the dictionary, it’s “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.”
If I would change one thing in my childhood it would be this. I wish I was taught ‘Self-discipline’. Not discipline. And the gap is huge. “Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.” Self-discipline is the number one secret behind any success I achieved and will achieve in my life. Without the need for any punishment. Just by being aware of who I am and how I can control my own self and lead it to happiness and success, while neither trying to fit nor feeling embarrassed from my nature.
We ought to reconsider the way we raise our children. Giving them freedom isn’t the solution. We need to train them to celebrate their uniquenesses, to understand their nature, to unleash their potentials and to display their capabilities. On our turn we must regulate, moderate and guide them. All by training them to have ‘Self-discipline’.
When individuals become aware of their unique natures and understand that it is the secret of being ‘human’ they will suffer less and self-discipline themselves to live more and achieve more. Albert Einstein exclaimed that, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. If we dream of a better country, we need to raise better individuals by being better parents and better role models.