I couldn’t have written this piece 10 years ago
I would have denied it
I couldn’t have been educated on this 20 years ago
It wasnt a thing
I would have avoided trying to think about it
So I get it.
I would have had to look at me, and that terrified me.
So I would have avoided it.
I will try……. to fix you
ran the Coldplay song of 2006. Big anthem.
How do we talk about young people?
In need of us
They need role models
from ‘broken families’
‘lost… in need of…’
Because… we don’t see them. We see them to fix them. See them to change them. See them to fix them for our needs. The needs of our organisations. The need of the church and its very survival. This was feedback recently:
‘I think in faith based youth work, there is a broader organisational co-dependency because of the vampire complex. The belief that survival of the church as a whole but more pertinent as individual communities need children and young people to survive. ‘
It’s not just churches, or faith organisations, Schools as well. I’ve heard the following:
Can you work with so and so?…they need a bit of support right now
‘We really need you to work with ___________, they need ___________’
And that is music to the ears of the codependent youth worker.
Give me a problem to fix, a person to rescue, a persons who might need me, and I am there.
Or at least… I was..
And I thought that was ok to be. Identity around this.
Shall we ask a different question?
Language is important. After all. Who needs who?
What would young people think if they heard themselves being described in such a way?
and yes, of course they’ll give consent to an intervention, but any rebellion or opportunity to say no isnt likely to go down well. ‘well we tried to put in place support for them’ but they refused..
What would our youth work practice be like if we ‘saw’ young people for who they are?
not just a pile of needs waiting to be fixed by you, but a person that already shown extensive resilience, coping skills and abilities, despite what everyone says about them or what the system values. Gifted even.
and alongside this.
What if we saw ourselves, and recognised our own self, our own emotions, our own needs?
I spent 20 years professionally avoiding the trauma within. Practicing youth work out of it. That may not be you. But. it may be too. 20 years with a head full of theory and a body full of emotional hurt and that was piling up. Its no wonder I went into youth work and ministry, to try and compensate and heal others externally, whilst avoiding my own.
My therapist said to me recently. I went about trying to help others, especially young people, because of the trauma of my own inner child. Wanting to give them a better experience than I had had.
So. Is this you?
Are you avoiding talking about codependency because it hurts?
The problem is that is not something that can be avoided anymore. Neither are issues such as emotional abuse, narcissism, mental health and self care. It could be argued all existed 20 or 30 years ago, but the language and words didnt. Now theres not an excuse, except denial, oh and that organisations and structures will happily collude and deny these things or play them down, whilst maintaining a culture of it.
Maybe we’re avoiding it, because it might cause us to change practice and attitude?
True. Then again if we see young people, and see ourselves, tending to our own emotional garden as well as others, this will promote healthier relationships and practice. Moving from need related practices to asset based ones. Seeing them.
There is another way. Even empowerment and voluntary participation give the opportunity for young people to say no. And to critique the power we have over/with them.
The fear that we have to change. Both in ourselves, and what we do.
What is inside might be easier to change than is outside. (Paulo Coelho)
Practice might change, after we have reflected on ourselves.
And yes, we do need to talk alot more about emotional health in ministry training, education and not just youthworkers….
There was very little stopping me being the people pleasing, responsive, rescuing youthworker 10 or 20 years ago.
It’s not a place of health, and so its not a place where God would want you to be.
Now, you have read this, you know you don’t have to be.
But I get that you dont want to think about it.
If it hurts. It’s ok.
Your healing journey starts here. It will be ok.