Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everybody Needs a Teenager...

By Amy Phillips-Gary

We've all heard about (or lived with) the stereotypical teenager.

As young people navigate that threshold between being a child and an adult, there are those angst-filled, confidence-testing and sometimes downright harrowing years that fall roughly between the ages of 13 and 18-- give or take a few years.

I live with a wonderful teen. He is loving, caring and sensitive-- at times. He can also seem, to me, to be difficult, stubborn, disrespectful and even arrogant-- at times.

The thing about teenagers is there are occasions that they seem to know each and every button to push to make you crazy.

It might not be a dear teen in your life that appears to cause you unending irritation and exasperation. Your partner, neighbor, boss, parent or even an acquaintance may seem to have a knack for ruining even your best days.

I believe that everybody needs a teenager (or irritating partner, boss, neighbor, etc.) because this is the person who has the potential to help us expand, grow and move closer to being the person we each want to be.

Without that beautiful irritating person in our lives, we might not make the changes we've been wanting to make.

It's not about you.

As much as any of us DON'T want to hear this... nobody can make you or me feel bad, irritated, angry or upset. We do all of this to ourselves.

There is always an element of choice in how to take in what's going on and how to respond.

When my teen is having a grumpy day and his growling spills over onto his brother, his dad and me, I get to choose how I will greet his grumpiness and behavior.

I could take it personally and interpret his words as an insulting or degrading comment about me. I could also set aside any judgments or knee-jerk reactions I might have and simply address what's going on.

Without labeling my teen in any way, I can make requests for a change in his behavior or tone of voice. I can ask him what's going on, how he's feeling, what he needs to feel supported right now.

I can listen more than I lecture. And I can be honest and upfront about what I expect from him.

When you come upon someone who seems to be directing his or her anger or criticisms your way, stop and pause before responding. Ask yourself if you absolutely know it's true that this person is singling out you in his or her annoying.

Then decide what you need from this situation and this person. From as calm a place as you can reach, make it clear what you need and stay open to listen to what the other person might need.

When you really listen, you might be surprised. And you probably will gain a deeper, clearer understanding of the person and what's going on.

Well, ok, it is really about you.

...But not in the way you might be thinking.

On another level, when you get triggered by something another person says or does, that's a sure sign that it is about you. This doesn't mean that every time my teenager gets angst-filled or snarky I am to blame.

What it means is the fact that I quickly and easily go to a place of irritation and annoyance with him indicates that there's learning and growth for me in this situation.

Sometimes the person pushing your buttons exemplifies a point of contrast for you. He or she is making a choice that is absolutely NOT what you want for yourself.

This can be a wonderful moment for you-- or not.

Spiritual teacher Abraham points out that those blessed people who seem to cause us such consternation are actually those who help us to expand in ways we've only dreamed of.

Once you see what it is you don't want in the choices of your button-pusher, you can take notice and then turn toward what you do want.

Many of us, unfortunately, get caught up in the trap of continuing to fixate on what we don't want as demonstrated right before our eyes and thus we intensify our irritation and usually the conflict escalates.

As great as it is to be with people who agree with us and make the same lifestyle choices we do, such an environment does not always encourage expansion and growth.

It is by recognizing the contrast in situations with others, that you can more easily decide what you want for yourself and then orient yourself toward what you desire.

And you can also decide to love yourself and even those irritating people for who we each are... beings trying to discover our own personal paths to greater awareness, wholeness and fulfillment.

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