13 Reasons to Unpack the Dark Side of life with your Teen

April 25, 2017

13 Reasons Why - Talk to you Teen
13 Reasons is one of those stories that makes me happy when it shows up and rattles everyone’s cages.

I’m happy when this happens because it gets people thinking, and more importantly it gets people TALKING. I believe that many of us are walking around our lives half asleep – and it’s not really our fault – society is rigged to keep us complacent. We’re either burnt out from overwork, not enough sleep or ridiculous amounts of sugar from our Starbucks ‘frap a f*#k’. All these things burn out our adrenal system and have our bodies so stressed our minds tend to just shut down and focus on one stress after another and often fail to be able to see the bigger picture, or look beyond ourselves and our own lives into the world around us for a moment

Controversy is ALWAYS good in my mind. Controversy may bring out the trolls and the negative nellies, but it also sparks us awake and gets us talking about things that we ignore day to day. Things that are happening, all over the place. Things that are sensationalized by the news, dramatized in stories and movies and flashed about so much that we end up becoming numb to it. If you question that, think about the last war movie you saw, or horror movie –  did you even really flinch when someone’s arm got torn off? Most of us don’t’ anymore…we just say ‘meh’ it’s just movies. But that ‘meh’ tends to travel into our perception of ‘Real Life’ events – we have a ‘meh’ attitude – UNTIL something comes along that really pokes through our defenses and gets to how we truly feel.  Again, not really our fault. There is so much darkness going on at times it can become overwhelming and many of us shut down just to protect ourselves from the insanity of it all.

This is why a show like 13 Reasons is important and why I watched it, after my daughter did and then why I talked to her about it – honestly, candidly and admittedly, with great fear initially. I’m only human after all, and a parent of a teen – which is far more stressful and scary. I was angry at Hannah for being so self absorbed and I was pissed that she thought she was the only one who thought she had issues. That’s kinda the point isn’t it? How Hannah behaved is how many teens behave. Developmentally they are self absorbed, overdramatic and no idea how to see the bigger picture. Is shaming the show really going to fix the issue? Umm…no. Because the reality is many teens feel the way Hannah does, and if we shame this, we further shame them and show them we don’t understand –  and we might not even know we are doing it.

The fear is real for parents, and I do think many parents are lashing out at this show BECAUSE of the fear. They blame it for romanticizing suicide and making it seem beautiful. I don’t agree – In any way with that. I have never felt more pain, sadness and horror when watching rapes or suicides like I did when watching that show – and frankly, we all need to feel more of that when those situations are depicted on TV or in the movies. Our numbness does us no justice and does nothing to better the world we live in. The victims of these crimes have to live with the horror, while we just tune ourselves out to it and often end up blaming the victim – we need to blame someone for the feelings that come up.

Blame – it’s a powerful thing. It is what we all do when we are afraid of looking at our own darkness. 

That’s a powerful statement. And I stand behind it, no matter how much controversy it creates. I believe much of the disharmony and failure to connect to each other is in part due to the inability we have to embrace darkness, talk about the horrors and dive right into the pits of hell that we fear so much. You see, just because we ignore those parts of us, does not make those parts of us disappear. What you resist, persists and this is why we are are all so sick today.

Focusing on light, happiness and positivity is good when it’s balanced with compassion, understanding and courage to explore the darkness, depression and anger as well. One without the other is a pathology. One without the other is imbalance. One without the other is disease.

13 Reasons is a show that took a risk to force us into the darkness so that we could truly feel the horror of it. Our teens are watching it, and keeping them from watching it, or getting angry with the producers for making it will NOT make the issue of teen suicide go away – in fact – it will perpetuate it.

And here are my 13 reasons why:

COMMUNICATION IS THE ESSENCE OF HEALTH

Healthy communication requires an ability to truly SEE another individual beyond your own fears, expectations, judgements or perceptions. Talking about horrific things is healthy. Horrific things exist. Putting your head in the sand does nothing to get rid of horrific things – you become part of the problem then.

SUICIDE IS REAL, TEEN SUICIDE EVEN MORE REAL

This is a horrifying – but it is a darkness that we must journey into in order to understand it. Once we understand it, we can solve it. Running and hiding from it only serves to create the denial that caused this issue to begin with. Our teens don’t feel they can come to us? Why? Well, we’re trying to avoid the horror of it. We’re trying to keep shows like this from airing. We’re trying to ‘protect’ our kids from themselves. It’s admirable, I get the motivation – but it doesn’t work. It only shows our teens that we are too afraid to face it, so they don’t bring the darkness to us to unpack it and understand it. They struggle with it – alone.

ABUSE/BULLYING

There are thousands of articles out there about abuse. Abuse in relationships, at work, at school. Why is this? Because our children learn from our adults. Our adults have learned from their parents. We have created monsters in our world who are broken – and these broken monsters are victims themselves. As long as we are looking only at the monster and not looking behind the monster to see where he came from, we will never be able to heal monster town. We have to go deeper, we have to go darker. How does abuse begin? What elements of our communities support abuse? How do our governments abuse it’s citizens and then veil it with lies? It’s all around us. As long as we look away, we will never be able to unpack it, identify the problems and overcome it.

HEALTH

Have you taken a look at what the cafeteria at your child’s school serves daily? Most of it shouldn’t even pass for food. We make our best efforts as parents to feed our children healthy food. But the reality is; healthy organic food is expensive, genetically modified food is everywhere, chemicals are in everything. It’s pretty easy to realize when you are aware, that our teens are fighting a battle with their bodies because the days of healthy life, clean air, clean food are fast fading. They are born into a world that is dominated by profit over health ( Coke, McDonalds etc) and a world we have been destroying for that same profit – and if you are one of those climate change deniers, then you likely also are in denial about there being a problem with teen violence, suicide and depression.

TEENS ARE NOT FULLY FUNCTIONING ADULTS

Teenagers do not reason as adults do. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all had horrible things happen to us, and we all remember how it felt like our lives were over – or maybe you don’t remember?  As teens, we are unable to see the bigger picture, think in grander terms and separate our fears and insecurities from what we think is FACT. The only fact when we are teens, is that we are teens and we are not developmentally mature yet within our brains. As adults we need to understand this is how the teen sees the world, understand and accept. Otherwise, we’re preaching adult ideals and ideas to teens who live in teen land – remember ‘teenage wasteland?’

HIGH SCHOOL SUCKS

There aren’t many teens out there who don’t feel awful at least once during this time. High School can be a nightmare for many kids, and as adults our job is to support our teens through this by not idealizing it, or patronizing them by saying ‘just wait until you are an adult and have to do REAL life’ that doesn’t help a teen come to terms with the tsunami of feelings they have going on. Bullying, abuse and rape are very real in highschool – yet, can teens really feel safe coming to adults who think they have it good compared to them, and when we’re busy being angry over a show that finally shows the world how they feel each and every day? I doubt it.

CONNECTION

As adults, if we’ve lost touch with the nightmare of teenland, then we are unable to support our own teens. Letting them explore their dark side is the most frightening thing a parent can do, but it is also the most empowering thing a parent can do for their teen. It connects us to them and their world and then they trust us more. Connect to your child where they are, not where you are. This is one the hardest things to do, but when you do it, you’ll know – your child will open up to you and  trust you with almost everything they feel.

COMMUNITY

If our society only deals with symptoms and is only reactive to the tragedy of teen suicides, then we miss the opportunity to heal this issue from the depths of where it is born. As a community, it is our duty to allow our children to feel their darkness in a safe environment. To not punish them for speaking out, being individuals, and trying to find their own identity. It is our job to create safety in expression, safety in sexual choices, safety in gender. There is no safety right now – and that is not the fault of our teens, that is the fault of us and those before us. Are we ready to fix it? Or is it more important to blame a show on TV for all that is wrong?

DISEASE

Our society is diseased. When we are dealing with teen suicides, teen shootings and teen murders that are happening every day, and then we lash out at a show that simply opens it up for exploration – we are working under the illusion that our world is ok. It’s not. Children are our best mirrors. When you can look right into that mirror and actually SEE what is happening, then, ONLY then do you have the power to overcome it. You’ve got to be able to look without running away.

DEATH

Death is a topic that I feel should be covered in schools. It’s not – why? Because we fear it, like we fear suicide. So, we avoid it, try to ‘protect’ our children from it and sweep it under the heaviest carpet we can find. Not talking about death is a grave mistake ( pun intended) Children are aware, and if they are taught that death is off limits, they will naturally become curious about it and try to find ways to explore it on their own. Death IS human. It IS healthy to talk about. As a parent, the best chance we can give our kids in life is to not be afraid to talk about death. It is part of life, and refusing to talk about it is what romanticizes it, it’s not the talking about it that does. If someone told you not to do something when you were a teen, what is the first thing you wanted to do? Yup…death needs to be normalized enough to be part of our discussions – if that triggers you, you might want to explore why you don’t feel death is normal? It is as normal as birth, it happens every day.

FEAR

This is a topic that can have pages and pages of words to talk about. Fear is a killer, fear destroys and fear eliminates connection and communication. Fear is what tears apart families, communities, countries and worlds. Fear is manufactured to perpetuate disharmony and to solidify our insecurities. It is the one thing that we all have, and the one thing that we all try to push away. It is the beast that will blame and it is the jury that will judge. It creates victims and destroys confidence. If you fear your teen committing suicide, that is one of the BIGGEST reasons why you need to discuss it with them. Fear vanishes when it is looked at closely. Fear can only survive in an environment that turns a blind eye, or avoids awareness. If you FEAR it, FACE it.

LOVE

Right on the heels of fear. And yes, it comes second because most of us have to get through fear to get to love. There are two realities in this life. Either love or fear. We choose, each and every moment of each and every day which direction to take. Fear is false. Love is the only thing that is real – in EVERY situation. Love heals, love connects, love purifies and love is REAL. Once you’ve faced fear, you can get here. So, you can see that it’s a very important thing to ensure your child knows. Do you love them? Of course you do, but do they know it? They will know it if you face your fear and battle your demons to get to love for them. That means you’ve got to explore the darkness first. And in doing that, you’ll teach them how to do that as well. No more fear, no more separation, no more need to run away.

FINALLY – TRUTH

Truth and Love are the big finale. The truth about suicide is not pleasant. The truth about how a child gets to believe suicide is their only option, is not pleasant. The pain, tragedy and loss is not pleasant. There is nothing romantic about the emotional pain and lack of understanding a teen has that there is another way. There is nothing glamourous about the fact that our schools don’t teach life skills, communication, respect and community. There is nothing mysterious about the fact that most of us cannot even see the signs when someone is suicidal.

We are OUT OF TOUCH WITH TRUTH.

We are so out of touch with the truth of our dark sides we have built a world of denial around it. It is THAT world that perpetuates this problem. We need to risk doing different things to solve old problems.

If a show like 13 Reasons has made you angry as a parent, I urge you to sit down and make your own 13 reasons as to why it makes you angry and then really look at them. Do they have anything to do with the truth? Do they have anything to do with the bigger picture – or are they all about your own fears and your own denial?

It’s a tough pill to swallow – but as the Matrix so beautifully depicted in the 90’s – You can have truth and be uncomfortable, but KNOW you are real. OR you can have the lies, be manipulated and be comfortable and in denial – which do you choose?

It really comes down to which one you choose. For your children’s sake, choose the truth pill. If you choose it, they will choose it. Kids never do what we tell them, they do what we do. They will find a way to watch that show, find a way to watch it yourself and then sit down and truly connect with your child – connect with love and truth. Unpack the issues, unpack the terror and unpack the tragedy. Accept them for who they are, in all their darkness. Give them the gift of your acceptance and I promise you, the danger of you ever having to face teen suicide in your family and community will be reduced significantly.

This article comes fully endorsed by my 14 year old daughter who watched the show – she knows more than I do about being a teen in this day and age, so I listened. This is something we should all do. Listen, Learn, Love. Hating on a show will do nothing to change the world, choosing the truth will create the most powerful of ripples. There is no child out there that will feel alone if they know they have you in their court with FULL understanding and acceptance. Be the Change.

#JustReal

Related articles:

12 Things your Teenage Daughter Needs to Hear from you

Let your Kids Embrace Their ‘Dark Side

For those who still like to read, this story was originally a book by Jay Asher: Click HERE

13 Reasons Why - Darkness is the key

More about Kaare Long

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