INSIGHT INTO HANNAH’S PSYCHE
As we become spectators in the life that was Hannah’s, we glimpse the world through her young teenage eyes. As we journey with Hannah we will find ourselves in one of 3 camps.
Experiencing her life from the sidelines will at times frustrate us. We will find ourselves horrified as we witness the injustices. We will feel the urge to reach into the screen to hug her and bring her a measure of reassurance that tomorrow will be a new day, to not lose hope that there are better experiences awaiting her. We will see the gaps in her confrontation with caregivers, and shake our heads in wonderment that they could be so absent, despite being so present.
Her experiences will stir up in us memories of our school years that we would rather forget. We will readily identify with her experienced injustices. We will remember the times we wished someone would have just hugged us and given us some reassurance that tomorrow would be better and tell us not to lose hope. We will remember dismissive caregivers when we tried to find our voice.
We will look at her life and experiences, the injustices, the felt loneliness, her encounters with dismissive caregivers and respond, ‘we all experienced these things, suck it up, get some backbone, stop being an attention seeking drama queen. We all survived, what makes you so special, grow up.’
In which camp do you sit dear reader?
You may think this a superfluous question, yet it is indeed the most important question to begin with. It is the question that will evoke in us the desire to bring change on a local or global scale. It is the question that will move us from a place of complacency and comfort and create in us a desire to equip ourselves to rescue another. Our response determines whether we have the empathy that is prepared to walk in the shoes of another, or stand indifferent from a distance leaving it someone else.
The camp in which we sit, determines whether we will be the life raft to someone drowning.
Hannah is an attractive, quick witted, intelligent young girl. Her demeanour is friendly and inviting. She doesn’t think of herself as better than anyone else, and is always enthusiastic to believe the best of people. As the new kid in school, she is keen to accept any invitation from her peers welcoming her into their circle of friends.
Realistically, she had everything going for her. Looking at her one would never think that she would be a person whose life would contribute to suicide statistics. She came from a good family that was loving and supportive, and like many families doing what they can to make ends meet. They weren’t permissive parents, and had clear boundaries for behaviour in the home. Their love for Hannah was evident in their interactions with her.
However, life’s knocks, which we are all experience, will have a profoundly negative effect on her.
As Hannah offers the viewer an insight into her life that was, we see how her view of the world and what she expected it to be as far as relationships, be they friendship or romantic, were systematically eroded. She valued the loyalty of friends, yet found herself betrayed by those who claimed to be such. She looked to friends to stand up for her when she faced ridicule or false accusation, yet none did. She thought she had found a safe place for expression and opportunity for cathartic release of her inner turmoil in a support group, only to have her written work, her innermost thoughts, foisted into an arena where she found herself the subject of peer ridicule.
She hoped for a love that would be as steadfast as her parents. Venturing into romance saw her betrayed and disillusioned. Intentionally they set out to publicly humiliate her and shatter her reputation. She carried the guilt of her inaction as she stood frozen witnessing the rape of her intoxicated friend.
Through all her humiliation and the shattering of all her cherished ideals, she continued to believe that there were good people in the world, and that she did have a purpose and reason for being on this planet. To shake off her experiences she decides to re-invent herself by cutting off her long locks, symbolic of leaving the past behind and starting anew. She reasons, you can’t change others only yourself, hoping that this would be the catalyst to new and better experiences. But that would not be so.
She finds herself drawn to loud music at a party down the street. Her inner voice said, ‘don’t go in’. An internal argument ensues, as to the pros and cons of joining the fun. Sadly, that warning voice went unheeded. That night she was raped, a moment she identifies as having destroyed her spirit. What’s left once your spirit is destroyed?
She is truly broken now. She has sunk into a pit of darkness, of alienation, an endless nothing. The unpredictability of life is overwhelming, making her feel small and powerless. Angry at the world and the way it works, with a pervading sense that there is nothing she can do to make it a better place. She believes she has nothing left and no one. She was drowning, and there was no life line to grasp and take a hold of.
In a last ditch attempt to grab hold of life, she sees the school counsellor. She has no language for how she is feeling or what has happened to her. She wants life to end. She has clumsily articulated her inner turmoil, in a hope that someone would see her, and hear her unsaid words. She leaves the office, waiting outside, hoping that he would be that one, but sadly he is not.
Did Hannah want to die? No she did not. She wanted the same things all of us want – to be seen, to be loved, to be accepted, to be valued, to be cherished and have a life that has meaning and purpose. Death had become the only answer when all hope was lost.
After she had recorded her 12th tape, she experienced a measure of relief at being able to get those traumatic events out of her head. But there was not turning back. She had tunnel vision. Hopelessness does that to a person. It narrows their vision so that they are unable to access additional helps, they cannot see the forest (future potential and solutions) for the trees.
THE UNIVERSAL NEED FOR ACCEPTANCE
Her desire for acceptance, is the fundamental need of all human beings. It is what we all yearn for whether that is in romance, friendship or even from strangers. It is a key component to maintaining good mental health and physical wellbeing.
Unfortunately, acceptance has an evil twin whose name is rejection, and it is a key contributor to poor metal health and physical wellbeing. It is indeed naïve to think that we will be loved and accepted by everyone we meet, though it is certainly hoped for. In a perfect world that would indeed be the case; however, we live in a broken world filled with broken people, a world far from perfect, and therefore the greatest challenge that faces us all, as it did Hannah, is how to cope with rejection. It is how we process and respond to rejection that can be the linchpin to maintaining good mental health and physical wellbeing.
In brief, an adolescent already has many influences that have shaped who they are up to that point. Cultural influences, family relationship dynamics, cognitive growth, opportunities to explore, and temperament predominantly dictated by genetics, are all contributors to shaping the child that will one day be an adolescent.
Then come the adolescent years, a span of time spent discovering oneself, one’s identity, self-esteem, and self-worth, already heavily influenced and shaped by the events and experiences of the preceding years.
During this span of development, peak peer involvement and conformity occurs. They experience growth spurts, which can leave them feeling quite awkward. Then there are the hormonal changes that fuel emotional highs and lows. Romantic relationships become a greater focus. Parent-child relationships become more equal and their level of autonomy increases. Decisions about schools and future careers become important considerations. Planning for their future which has been entirely absent up to this point can weigh heavily on an adolescent mind.
Much more could be said, but in a snap shot, there is a lot going on in the life of an adolescent. Reflecting on their adolescent years, all the adults reading said, Amen.
Adding another layer of complexity is that the adolescent does not possess the life skills to rightly process crisis events. They possess insufficient knowledge about life, and in a depleted state of experience and knowledge must navigate this tumultuous time. Too often they look to their peers, who are also in this same depleted state for direction and counsel, rather than seeking out a mentor with a wealth of life experience who would be better placed to offer sound direction.
Imagine if Hannah had a mentor in place who she could have turned to at each encounter as her ideals were being eroded. The accumulative effect of these events on her psyche, would have been arrested and each event put into perspective.
How critical it is for us to see beyond the person, and hear what isn’t being said.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees!
Next Blog post: Being Held Accountable.