Friday, February 5, 2016

Productive Frustration

Jack has been at Montana Academy for about 10 weeks now and by all accounts things have been going pretty well. He has adjusted to the surroundings and structure of the facility and has been very happy with his social interactions. The social piece is Jack's strong suit for sure. He is a charming, seemingly confident young man with inviting blue eyes and a warm smile. He listens well to others because, I believe, he genuinely cares about people.

Jack has been playing music everyday. He has a bit of a gift for music and finds enjoyment and comfort in all things musical. He is adept at the piano and guitar and has recently found a fondness for the mandolin. He has joined the choir at school and enjoys showing-off his pleasant voice.

If it weren't for the school and therapeutic work I'd say that Jack has found his Nirvana. The school is located out in the "boonies". From the grounds and windows there is nothing in sight but Montana wilderness and snow-capped mountains. In the winter the weather there is cloudy and snowy yet remarkably mild. I'd have guessed that temperatures would be consistently prohibitive to outdoor activities but that is not the case. As the kids move about the campus, a total of seven or eight buildings, the experience is pleasant. I know that Jack loves the environment.

The last letter we received was the first hint that perhaps things aren't all rosy. We had heard before that school work was a source of great stress for Jack. That was no surprise as academics has always represented that for him. He has a soaring IQ coupled with some deficits in his executive functions. That makes it very difficult for him to lay out the steps for getting assignments and projects completed. The frustration comes from his ability to easily understand the concepts but struggle to get to the work done. Montana Academy is the perfect place for him as that is their specialty on the academic side of things. He will be taught how to plan and organize and create bite-sized goals as a means of accomplishing his work.

This letter brought to light a newer struggle, one in his therapeutic work. In the letter he stated that he wasn't really gaining anything from a mental and emotional perspective. He feels as though he is going through the motions and waiting for graduation. He lays responsibility for that on the school, his therapist and the staff. For Jack this is a regression, a step backward into patterns that helped push him towards his experience of wilderness and therapeutic school in the first place.

Kids like Jack often fail to take responsibility for their situations in life. In the face of adversity they will externalize the causes of their frustrations and consequences. The behavior is a filter through which they soothe over the conflict they feel for having made inappropriate choices. It's a defense mechanism against further crushing of self-esteem.

I can hear the pain in Jack's voice as he describes his perception of the situation and feel bad that he bears such negative emotions about it. On the other hand I am encouraged that he is in a place from which he will need to recover. It's in the recovery that the skills are learned. Jack's counselor, while he was in wilderness, often told us that no progress is being made while a child is sailing along. He'd say it was like "going to the gym without lifting the weights". At this moment, and probably for several weeks to come, Jack has some heavy lifting to do.

As Jack works through this struggle he will be developing the skills he'll need to get beyond other challenges he'll face as he lives his life. He has the advantage of doing this work in a place that specializes in helping kids like him with this type of issue everyday. Before long he will understand that his intention to grow and mature outweigh the negative influences he perceives coming from his surroundings. He is frustrated but in a place of being aware and intentional about progress. His is a productive frustration.

Consider contributing to one of these funds so families that need help can afford it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home