Civil liberty and individual resiliency in the network

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Mark Katz, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and expert on behavioral disorders (such as attention deficit). He conducted a seminar last month in Lincoln, California, about the nature of individual resiliency and overcoming adversity. The seminar was organized by Strategies, a California alliance of professionals working with children and families.

While the presentation was aimed at relating to children with diagnosed behavior disorders, I found his lecture very informative, practical and inspirational for parent-child and educator-child relationships in general. Katz provides a framework for 1) understanding the true nature of behavior problems, and 2) engaging children to apply their own capacity to confront adversity.

One of the challenges, Katz explains, is that being different makes the individual vulnerable to bullying and attack; it can feel like there is no place for you and no escaping. “Humiliation and an inescapable situation can create rage,” Katz said. “It is a universal need to feel like we matter.”

Individuals with demonstrated behavior issues offer extreme, chronic examples of this pain of feeling like you don’t fit in or that you don’t matter, which is a universal human experience.  And we all know that sometimes self medication through the abuse of alcohol and drugs becomes a coping strategy.

Katz encourages educators, parents and social workers to approach behavioral challenges as logical reactions to the contexts of school, peer, family or work environments that provoke the weaknesses, not the strengths of an individual. Katz also cautions that kids need reassurance of their ability to overcome difficulties, and have expectations for civil conduct and honest effort as they are accommodated.

Most certainly, we can also conclude that this is one of the risks for all digital natives who are vulnerable to cyberbully attacks as the “crowd” or “mob” mentality of the network expressed via texting and social media makes being different dangerous.

Anxiety is high. As one teenager put it, “Everything is situational.”

Context and resiliency go hand in hand

According to Katz, resiliency and context are inseparable. “Children are especially vulnerable to context,” Katz explains, “And while they have less discretion over family and school environments, they are incredibly resilient. After all, they have to survive childhood.”

To illustrate his point about the importance of context, Katz presented the formula for creating a psychological problem in an otherwise healthy individual:

1) Convince people that bad things are permanent

2) Bad things are pervasive

3) Bad things are personal – they are happening because of you

Many educational and home environments create circumstances that have this affect. So do the social media and texting communities.

Katz’s “resiliency and context” message explains beautifully the experience of youth in their cyber-powered “friend communities”, where the lies of popular culture are hyped, and can capitalize on insecurity. Some of the lies include:

  • Everything I need to know I can “google” or learn from my “friend community”
  • I cannot stand alone (say no to drugs and alcohol, or bullying) or I will be attacked
  • Validation comes from “friend communities”

What you believe matters in overcoming adversity

Kids need to know that in the long run, adversity is not permanent, pervasive or personal. It is a matter of what you believe. “What we believe is more powerful that fear,” Katz said. “And there is nothing more liberating than people around you seeing you as resilient.” He gave the example of WII veterans who view themselves as heroes, and Vietnam veterans who did not, which was largely a matter of how society viewed them.

What meaning do you give to adversity? Is it really a personal attack on you? Is it really permanent? Is it more powerful than you? Is there really no hope of escape or a better future?

Mustard seeds of faith and civil liberty

As a mom and advisor on cyber safety, I have found that the model of individual resiliency and power that made the American republic possible is a great way to help children confront adversity, off and on line.

Children understand that we live in a society that recognizes the power of civil liberty, and the people get their power from their Creator.  The authority model is defined by God’s sovereignty over the individual, who grants individuals free will and intelligent life. The people in turn, grant government limited power so as to protect this civil liberty.

In this model, power is something that cannot be taken from you. It can only be surrendered; hence there can be resiliency in the face of adversity.

So our children need to be trained to think along the lines of not giving power to insecurity when adversity presents itself. When they are texting and posting images and thoughts in social media, the question guiding their participation should be: how do I limit the power I give up?

For more about building individual resiliency in the network, go to: The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture – A Parent’s Voice in the Cyber Wilderness.

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

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Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, a contributor for Three Moms and a Mike, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.

 

 

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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