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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

The Window (A Need to Control Something)

My wife and I recently took two of our grandchildren on a flight to visit our daughter and two more grandkids in Idaho. It was one of those regional jets (SMALL), and we were to be cramped in there all the way from Houston to our connection in Salt Lake City.

One of the grandkids, Jake, had never flown before. Guess whom he sat with?To say he was nervous would be an understatement. But he did just fine.

He did something interesting. (Poor boy; how many kids have to fly for the first time with the added burden of sitting next to a grandparent who is also a psychologist?) After we were in the air, he would raise the little window next to him, look out, then close it. He did this over and over again.

My first thought was he was made more anxious by what he saw when the window was open, so he closed it. (I can’t imagine why he would be anxious about flying in an enclosed aluminum tube loaded with fuel, going five hundred miles per hour, six miles up.)

As I thought about it, a different reason came to me. The little window was the ONLY thing he could control. Regarding everything else, he was totally dependent. He couldn’t even get out of his seat unless the little light allowed it. So he worked that little window for the whole trip.

At first it irritated me a bit. But when I realized that it was bothering no one else on that airplane, I became fine with it.

Don’t we ALL need something we can control in times of stress and uncertainty? Whatever it is might not make a big difference in the total outcome of situations and circumstances, but it does help us tolerate an uncomfortable experience.

Dr. Viktor Frankl (Austrian psychiatrist and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”) realized this very thing when he, a Jew, was thrust into the Nazi death camps of World War II. In the experience of daily not knowing if he would live or die, he realized he still had complete control over one thing–how he would interpret it all. From that, the whole existential movement in psychiatry grew. The attachment of meaning to live’s experiences (Dr. Frankl called it Logotherapy) clearly  makes a difference in physical and psychological survival and thrival.

We all need to feel like we can control something, even if it’s a little window headed for Salt Lake.

James Sutton, Psychologist

July 18, 2009 - Posted by | adversity, Difficult Child, family, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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