5. Staying Healthy
Being a teenager is not easy. It takes a lot of energy and it requires support from others. There are energy traps to deal with, sources of life energy on which to draw and a support network to put together. That has always been true for the heroes of myths and movies and it is true for us all.
Heroes Don't Go Alone
Few (if any) of the heroes that do truly cross the threshold have to face the trials and tests alone, although the heroic journey is ultimately an individual one. On almost all journeys there are helpers of various sorts who can provide direction, tools, companionship, encouragement, and coaching in coping letting go, mastery and “inbetweenity.”
There will also be healers to help overcome the inevitable injuries that happen to us on our journeys. The help and healing, like the tests, might be physical, emotional, intellectual, social or spiritual. The nature of the roles of helpers and healers and their importance will vary widely, but they will almost always be present in some form. Whether they are seen and used by us is, of course, one of the challenges.
These supporters come in many forms from family members and peers to other adults who are veterans of the heroic journey who share their wisdom and encouragement. Sometimes support comes from individuals and sometimes it comes from groups, organizations or communities
If alert, we can also often find companions with whom we can travel for parts of our journey. Other characters, such as tricksters, jokers, allies, enemies, opponents, and such can also be encountered.
Figures Encountered on the Journey
The key is to weave relationships with these people into a web of support and figure out how to deal with the people that will try to lure you off the path or undermine your progress.
- Companions or friends for parts of the journey
- Tricksters and jokers
- Opponents (people we compete with and grow in the process
- Enemies (not the same as opponents—enemies intend harm)
- Teachers and mentors
- Role models
- Those who inspire
- Those who have gone before (veterans of the journey)
There are some natural questions that arise regarding these figures:
- Who have I met and who might I meet?
- Who do I want to meet and how might they help me?
- Who do I need to avoid or deal with?
- Who are the figures I’m involved with that I need to move away from?
- How can I create the relationships I need and get out of the relationships that are not good for me? (Yes, this is easier said than done.)
Sometimes it's Easy
In influencing the interaction with these figures, particularly the adults, sometimes it is as simple as letting them know what you would like or need. That can be very informal or it can take more of a "contract" form. Often people who are ready and willing to help, support, guide, teach, challenge, heal, etc. do not do so because they are not sure exactly how to do it or even if they are welcome.
The Energy Traps: "Challenges to the Heart"
Living takes energy. Living heroically takes lots of energy. This section addresses how energy can be lost or quickly burned up. The next section looks at sources of energy.
One word of caution. As with all of these sections, the elements that follow are natural to the journey. Their existence does not mean that something is wrong or that mistakes have been made or that all is lost.
They are presented for consideration ahead of time or in the midst of the journey. Reviewing the list is particularly helpful when energy starts to diminish. Sometimes just identifying a source of energy drain can take the power away from it. You can also talk with others and help each other deal with these energy traps
The fact that there are an impressive number of energy traps may be daunting, but that's the way it works on the journey. Everyone is dealing with these demons. The key is to (a) know they are there, (b) understand that they are natural and not an indication that you are failing or inadequate, and (c) deal with them directly. AND remember that heroes don’t go alone, so talk with others about how to deal with them.
Common Energy Traps Encountered on the Journey
- Refusing to let go of old ways, relationships, images, affiliations…
- The desire to turn back vs. the desire to go ahead
- Losing sight of the vision—losing the way—getting lost
- Getting tired, worn-out (physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually)
- Injuries/illness (hurt, pain, loss of function, etc)
- Successes overlooked/discounted
- Failure/defeat/losses/mistakes (those from which little or nothing is learned)
- The unexpected
- Disorientation and confusion
- Negative self-talk
- Becoming disconnected or separated from others
- Difficulty of the learning process - awkwardness of new skills, initial drops in competence and performance, etc.
- Lack of a sense of purpose or significance
- Lack of sense of significance or that behavior really makes a difference
- Stress—either too intense or unrelieved (chronic)
- Doubting the worth of the journey
- Doubting the ability to successfully complete the journey (potency/effectiveness of self, tools, strategies, helpers, etc)
- Points of despair (bottoming out)
- Discouragement or despair
- Fear (may have an early burst of energy, but then drops or wears out)
- Others’ fears and anxieties
- “Nay-sayers”—“you can’t…” or ”who are you to…?”
- Bullies, “mean girls”, people who are jealous of your progress, etc.
- Lack of money or other resources
Sources of Life Energy For the Journey—The 70/30 Principle
One of the differences between these sources of energy and the preceding energy traps is that people on a heroic journey usually have more influence over the sources of energy than they do over the energy traps.
That is not true in every instance, but it does reinforce the 70/30 principle, which argues that it is best to spend 70% of your attention and effort on the energy generating side and 30% dealing with the energy traps.
Taking advantage of these sources of energy is another direct challenge to "be the author". It means not allowing yourself to be the victim of the inevitable traps. This is a big list of possible sources of energy, so stay aware of just how many opportunities there are for you to take care of yourself. Some of these sources of energy are simple and some are more complex. Simple can still be powerful. The key is to draw energy from a bunch of these sources.
Possible Sources of Life Energy
- Places of rest or renewal—where you can go that allows you to rest and relax—places that give you energy
- Celebrating success in meeting trials, tests, challenges, "crucible experiences" (small successes as well as large ones)
- Revisiting, renewing purpose and meaning
- Reviewing desired personal profiles or heroic codes or heroic spirit
- Building competence/capabilities/attitude and employing them
- Symbols and objects of meaning
- Receiving from companions and helpers, healers, teachers, and mentors
- Revisiting role models (talking with them?)
- Positive internal dialogue
- Self-care—little or big ways of taking care of yourself—staying healthy
- Celebrating the successes of others
- Experience of learning (insights, skills, capabilities)
- Time with pets
- Time spent on hobbies
- Sports or exercise
- Listening to music
- Creating artwork
- Cooking or baking
- Making things (from woodwork to knitting)
- Going to movies
- Writing in a journal
- Being in a group that is fun or meaningful
- Community service
- Mastering something—even little things
Once again, it’s about being the author of the experience as much as possible.
It’s about weaving together a support network, dealing with people who will undermine you as well as the inevitable energy traps, and drawing on a bunch of sources of life energy. Staying healthy—and recovering from setbacks/injuries/illnesses—is required to:
- Take on the three core challenges of being a teenager—forming an identity as a young adult, developing deeper relationships and building a wide range of competencies
- Navigate the journey from beginnings, through the “trail of tests” and on to completions
- Deal with the three types of test encountered—letting go, mastery and managing “inbetweenity”
- Develop on five levels—intellectually, emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually
AND—it’s a long journey.