Our brains are at the center of our whole lives, wielding unimaginable power. (how’s that for a conundrum.)
From the time we are born our brain begins to make paths within itself, meaning it makes connections between cause and effect, thought and action. The more frequently particular paths are used, the stronger that they get. If we are taught to retreat and conceal emotion, we will likely carry that into adulthood. If we learn to pay attention to the feelings of others and to empathize, that will likely become a part of our personality. This is not to discredit “nature vs. nurture”, because for some traits our mind will genetically carry predisposition. That doesn’t mean we can’t still hold power over our own actions/our own life.
The tendency towards addiction is a great example of one human psychological condition which may be caused by nature, nurture, or both. But how we get to the threshold of addiction is not what I am looking at tonight, at least not on an external level. I want to describe what happens to the mind during adolescence, to better argue my stance on prevention. I am trying to remain an easy read so I am not going to get too deep into the anatomy.
The human brain is still developing during adolescence. It is also maturing, and it matures from the back end first, towards the front. The back of our brain (above the spinal cord), is all of the emotional connections. The front of our brain is where logic and reasoning happens. In adolescence, we have all of the DRIVE but our BREAKS are not so strong. Not to mention all of the excitement that comes with the “first-times” for almost everything.
This explains why teens feel like they “know it all”, because they kind-of do… they just don’t have the experience or fully developed break system in place to live safely. A parent might feel like they are forced to steer something which is accelerating 200mph. A tough task, to say the least. But to let go is asking for disaster, although so is a permanent grounding.
Young people actually have a biological need to take risks and find independence. Communicating is so important during this time of their life.
When a young person finds their first “joint” or can of beer, they will probably NOT be thinking about this fact: they are actually in control of building their brain, and therefore, their life. When we’re young, we’re new to responsibility of that level, and the future may seem like something which will just one day land in our lap, all wrapped in a bow. Unless- a young person has been talked to, extensively (we learn by repetition, and need even more of that when we are preoccupied) by a caregiver, and/or have really read my book, which goes into all of this, but directed more towards them.
Just because young people can’t touch the future doesn’t mean they can’t see it. I spent my teenage years thinking nothing mattered and that the future would just work itself out. But the future is built everyday by the decisions that people choose to be every single day. People can easily weave themselves into a tangled web of carelessness, which takes a long time to untangle (time which would be better spent doing something else). When people are thoughtless about the actions that they take, that doesn’t mean that they’ll never have to think about them (so no one is really getting away with anything)
When a young person spends their weeks routinely turning to a drug or alcohol, even if it feels harmless, they are creating neuro-PATHWAYS in their mind. They are building their brain- now. The same brain that decides whether they get to be happy or sad.
The actions that they take, and even the thoughts that they think are building pathways, which get stronger with every single instance.
For every cause there is an effect.
And the hobby’s and habits that they let go of? Well, use it or loose it, because the mind not only is building pathways during this time of life, but it is also spending a great deal of time during adolescence destroying the connections which are no longer used. This is to clear out childhood behaviors, but if they neglect other behaviors, those will go out with the pile as well. I’m not saying they wont remember, but those habits will have to be re-formed.
Every adolescent person should understand at least a little bit about their own mind and the power they have over it during this important time of their life. The pathways which are strengthened during this time are much harder to be “swept-away” later, the way that childhood behavior does during this “pruning” stage. And addiction usually takes a lifetime of recovery to overcome.