My Best friend just moved away, what should I do?
It is often a very intense experience when someone leaves, either by death or by moving away.
For teenagers it can be extra hard. They depend on the connection! As a baby you are born with 2 needs, according to Marisa Peer, who is my most favourite person and mentor by far. She’s won several amazing awards, named best therapist in the UK by (and listed in) Tadler Guide to Britains 250 best doctors (and I full heartedly agree) and author of 5 amazing self-improvement books. She developed Rapid Transformational Therapy, which I’m qualified to do, but more on that next time!
The 2 basic survival needs you are born with are
1. to find connection and
2. to avoid rejection.
In tribal times the only way for you to survive was to connect within the tribe, to have a purpose and to become indispensable to the group. If you didn’t stay in the group, your safety was at risk and it is something that is still inborn to us as our main survival tool. If you did something against the rules, they would banish you from the tribe as punishment, which forms the second linking part, rejection. That is why sending your child to the naughty corner or to their room works, by taking away the connection they feel. Being alone and not part of the moment causes them to feel rejected.
So why is connection so much more important for teenagers? By the way, it is one of the many reasons why they are also glued to their smartphones. As I so many times mentioned, apart from the teen phase being a time of phenomenal brain changes, it is a time where they disconnect from family and connect with peers. This is an inherent tradition that stems from early mankind where they move together as their own tribe into a new phase, the adult phase. They plug in because they share the same journey and that makes them feel they belong (included). I’m sure you’ve noticed a group of teen girls dress the same and act the same. That’s how they fit in and connect themselves to feel part of their group/tribe. In school you can get the “cheerleader/popular” group, the “nerd” group, the “musician” group, the “rebel” group, etc. Their behaviour and mannerisms changes to mimic each other, increasing the connection within the tribe. And of course, every tribe has a leader to start and continue the momentum of the group.
If at any point they ban a person from the group, it hurts and this creates the 2nd most important part of survival, rejection. It is only until the individual are welcomed back into the group or finds another group when they will find meaning and motive to carry on. Rejection is felt in many ways and can vary from simple to complex. Of course for teens everything is complex and “the end of the world” and “nobody understand”, especially mom. When a teacher marks a paper negative, rejection is felt. When mum says “no” to going to a party, rejection (and destruction “you’re trying to ruin my life”) is felt. When a boyfriend dumps her, major rejection in ultimate intensity is felt. When a long-time friend (BFF) moves away, rejection and disconnection is felt. There are numerous examples to be added, but for teenagers, more so than adults, between rejection and connection, to belong is most important. Even though for adults the teens’ reaction to minor rejections are distorted thinking and to get on with it, for them it is very real, because remember, they are not yet able to figure out the logic behind the rejection and it is PAINFUL. As one of the 4 rules of the mind, the brain will do anything to move you away from pain towards pleasure. Your brain needs to protect you at all cost for survival, that’s why you quickly pull your hand away from a hot plate. That is why they will go to unreasonable, non-logic extremes to win their place back in the group.
To process rejection, teens (and some adults) will have very emotional reactions. Perhaps screaming, slamming doors, distancing themselves by isolating themselves in their room with loud music, etc are some ways they feel to cope with rejection and disconnection. And in order to make sense of it all, children of all ages, even teens, will blame themselves first when rejection is felt. “What is wrong with me?” “Why do I always do this?” “Why am I so stupid” “I can never get it right”.
Coping with rejection is a skill they need to learn, and it involves 2 very important components:
1. what you feel
2. how you interpret it (what you think of it, the meaning you put behind it)
These 2 often can have a looping tendency. How they feel can influence the way they interpret it, because everyone is different and will do it differently, especially when it comes to emotional intelligence. One teen might feel extremely rejected for not getting into a school play, thinking they’re not good enough or didn’t work hard enough to get the role which in turn will make them feel like a failure and that in turn can limit them by thinking or feel shy to try again next time. Another teen, in the same situation, might see the try as a practice run and they feel it was a learning opportunity to do things differently next time, which in turn can make them feel more in control.
Helping your teen to see the difference in the way they experience rejection will also help to develop their confidence. Helping them to build their confidence will also help to strengthen their “go get” skill. Teach them the skills to handle rejection in a positive way. Be in tune with how they interpret it by not knocking it off as something small, which it might not be for them and to teach them to celebrate small wins, even if they tried their best and they don’t succeed (this gets me humming the song “Fix you” by Coldplay).
It all has to do with boosting their confidence, every time, every day.
Here’s to creating confident adults, one teenager at a time!