Social Anxiety and Depression
Recently the Board Chair of Ventura Unified School District, along with two VUSD high school principals, visited our campus for a lengthy tour. When asked why they were visiting, Board Chair Sabrena Rodriguez said that the "depression and isolation caused by screens" among their students prompted them to learn about other educational models, models that aren’t screen-intensive.”
Santa Barbara Waldorf School
The early child is told “NO!” eleven times to each “YES.” We are observed, graded, compared and judged even before we are born. Joseph Chilton Pearce notes; prior to medical-technological birth, all mammalian mothers found the quietest, safest, most private, meaning least-observable, place to give birth. Natural birth pioneer Michel Odent, MD, shared that birth is an ancient primal process, established long before the neocortex with its fear and defense projections evolved. Being observed, talked with, photographed, all the various medical procedures and environments, activate the neocortex and that interferes with birth.
Chris Mercogliano, in his well-researched book, In Defense of Childhood, describes how childhood has been domesticated. The free range play in nature that Laura Ingles Wild describes in Little House on the Prairie, and even the self-organized ‘pick-up’ play I experienced in the 50’s and 60’s has been replaced by anxious helicopter parents, adult organized and therefore judged competitive public events, standardized tests with the whole world watching, and social-media, a pervasive form of Big Brother and the NSA, that implicitly exposes, displays, compares, and judges every move we make. Look at what we have done. Is there any wonder that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people?
Social Anxiety and Depression
- Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population.
- Childhood Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old.
- Major Depression Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults each year.
- Panic Disorder affects 6 million adults.
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Once the eleven-to-one reprimand to endorsement is set, it becomes internalized. The early child begins to ‘anticipate’ the coming threat and this stimulates the neocortex to mount a preemptive defense. The social ego or self-image is that defense. The beauty and power of original play is that the state of authentic play is absolutely free of failure, allowing complete attention to be invested in the learning that true play is. This complete attention is nearly impossible when being observed and judged.
Culture, as we have explored, is this powerful, comparing, judging, punishing and rewarding force that activates the fragmented, anxiety, social-media driven inattention (attention deficits) that is our new norm. Given the snowball nature of this self-centered splintering of attention, the antidote is to intervene at the root, to see that the whole process is a function of our own capacity to imagine, misunderstood and misused. Each of us, and especially our children, must find and press the ‘reset button’ and reestablish the natural order of the heart and mind as nature designed.
Attention is the key. Mindfulness is the practice. As J. Krishnamurti observed, with complete attention there is no observer. We are exploring innovative ways to activate this ‘reset’ in ourselves and in others.