It is not easy for many people, including myself, to make decisions that are guaranteed to make us feel good. Some of us are known to mull over a fork in the road for a long time. Because imagine if we make the wrong decision and we regret the course our lives take afterwards!
So too do youngsters in juvenile detention centers, wonder how they can know for sure how to make the right decisions, since they will influence the direction their lives will take when they get back out. When a good friend pushes a gun in their hands, should they take it or give it back? If they're low on money but need to buy food, should they rob a store tonight or get up early tomorrow to ask for an advance at work?
How can they easily know which road to take? They can't. To them one option is not as obviously worse as the other. Because they have not experienced the benefits of long term satisfaction. They have not been guided, nurtured or loved in their (even) younger years so their primary modus operandi is set on survival. And survival is always for the short term. 'There is no guarantee for next week, so I might as well make sure I live well today'.
So yes, it is easy to condemn "those criminal kids". The ones who make us feel unsafe in our own homes. The ones who would shoot you if you look at them the wrong way. The ones who can't be trusted. The ones who are barely more than animals. They are the ones who should be locked up for good! They are dangerous! Agressive! Criminals!
But what if we give them what they need? They need guidance. They need trust. They need to be seen as human beings who have just as valid human needs as any other person. They want to feel valued and cared for and they should be treated as such.
Their hearts still work. They do a good job at pretending the opposite, but we shouldn't let them fool us like that. Believe me, these kids are the most sensitive ones who have had the hardest upbringing you can, or actually can't imagine.
Last week, during our regular art therapy sessions, I had an interesting conversation with one of "those kids". I said I sometimes forget to check with my heart when I'm about to make a decision. He replied 'me too'. After a moment he asked how I knew I was making a decision with my heart. When I explained how, he looked at me for a moment, assessing if I was shitting him or not. So I continued 'you know how it feels when you feel things? You know how you feel it in your whole body?' 'Yes' 'Well, that's how I know my heart is in on the decision making'. He yelled 'yes I know exactly how that feels! It's been a while, but I've felt that before!'.
It was a magical nano-moment. Because he's still a tough guy of course.
Then he asked 'how can I remind myself to start feeling when I need to make a decision?'.