Finding Onself in the Wilderness
Increasingly, it seems that our children grow up lost. Unlike times before, they do not have sufficient opportunity, in the formative years of their lives, to discover who it is they are. Even those children who have the rare advantage of being raised at home are bombarded with society’s ideas of what is important from a young age. Exposed to television, commercials, Internet, and other forms of media, they grow up with a clear idea of what is “cool” and what is not. They have no question as to what toys they should have, what clothes they should wear and what style to maintain.
Without a knowledge and love of themselves, they are thrown into school at a young age and find themselves amongst peers and society that accentuate their insecurities and leave them feeling even more lost. Because of the natural desire for young people to feel secure and happy and have a sense of belonging, so many children are seeking to find refuge among things and people that deliver will nothing long term but dish out empty promises of happiness and friendship.
What can we do, if anything to prevent this … or address this? Strengthening family relationships is imperative to the survival of our society. But, what about these children that are already lost. Is there any way to help them find themselves?
I have been thinking a lot about a wilderness program that my sister attended when she was seventeen years old. She hadn’t been involved with hard-core drugs or behavior, but we, as her loved ones, were deeply concerned about her. She was borderline anorexic and had very low self worth. She failed to she how absolutely beautiful she was and how much she had to offer those around her.
My parents knew of a program that successfully helped young people find themselves. Based out of Mesa, Arizona, this program takes young people into the wilderness for a minimum of forty-two days. This program does not believe in the boot-camp mentality but rather, their objective is to surround these young people with love and keep them safe. There is no focus on behavior or the catalyst that propelled these children to come to the program. The focus, rather, is much different. It is open love and acceptance in Nature, in an environment which is constant and uncompromising, that allows these children to discover who it is they really are. Amazingly, as these young people begin to be self-sufficient in the wilderness: making fires without matches, cooking every meal for themselves and hiking between five and seven miles a day, everything in their lives begins to come into perspective. Seeing themselves for who they really are (sometimes for the first time in their lives) they begin to fall in love with themselves … and with their family that loves them so dearly.
I have seen this program work. Since my sister attended ANASAZI many years ago, I have been back to do some research for myself. The results of this program are astounding. Whole families change in this program … not just the “troubled teen”. ANASAZI, like some other programs, adhere to an increasingly well-known philosophy known as Arbinger. The principles well articulated in the Arbinger philosophy help parents focus on themselves and their contributions to the problems at hand. Honest investigation of the self is required. Therefore, while their child is in the wilderness, parents are also undergoing some deep and often unsettling discovery. Parents and children reunite after forty-two days begging for mutual forgiveness and resolving to do better.
I am sure there are other programs that are effective. If a parent is considering a wilderness program, I would advise extensive research. Ask the company for a list of references so you can talk to other families that have experienced the program. Navigate the Web sites and ask as many questions as you can.