Right Brain, Left Bank and Parenting through Teenage Angst


Being on the right side of the brain is a little like being on the Left Bank in Paris: relaxing while watching the passing show, listening to the music on the corner. It’s a place to sit around and tell stories and wonder about it all – and most important, to slow down. Call it crazy or lazy, this wisdom may be found only by slowing down and learning the art of being. As Carl Jung explains, this is much more difficult than it sounds:

‘We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be simple enough, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things.'”

~ The Essential Crazy Wisdom, by Wes “Scoop” Nisker

Of course, this reminds me of what I was learning earlier this week from the brilliant scientist, Janna Levin. Her specialty is cosmology, but I hesitate to refer to her that way, because at first glance, I’m afraid that might seem like someone who does hair and nails (a cosmetologist). I am new enough to thinking about science or reading about it as an adult, that the mistake doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. She instead deals with the Cosmos. She has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from M.I.T., and she makes learning about Physics seem poetic and grand and glorious.

Because I am listening to her book on tape, it is difficult to get word for word quotes to share. I’m often milking goats, or feeding pigs, or folding laundry while I listen to How the Universe got its Spots.

So I will try to give you the idea that has been churning around in my brain for the last couple of days. She was talking about Super Novas and particles in space that get crushed and put under enormous pressure and how they freak out and explode; she actually used the phrase, “they will resist their confinement and vibrate quantum mechanically in rebellion,” filling far more space than they would normally, in these catastrophic displays.

I can’t help but think of people when they get boxed in or when we try to make people fit into certain modes to satisfy our thoughts or beliefs, and the rebellion that follows. Right after I’d been listening to this part, I had to go shopping at Costco. I was admiring some of the art-focused and mechanical toys they have already displayed for Christmas, and struck up a conversation with a woman who was picking out artistic toys for her kids. She shared with me that her daughter is into Anime, and that she draws really well. I responded encouragingly, because I completely support my son who does cardboard creations. I said that I just keep him supplied with the tools he needs to see what he’ll create next.

Then she said something that made my heart sink. She said she keeps trying to get her daughter to do other things. My face must have registered my surprise and shock – “Why try to steer an artist away from what they love?” pounded in my head. She justified her outlook by saying that her 12-year old daughter had started getting into the “Darker” side of anime, “you know, the cutting.” I don’t know about the cutting side of Anime. To be honest, I know very little. I mentioned that my son had gone to the Comic-Con held by our local library, and that some of the teen girls were dressed in really cute Anime costumes they had created. She said that her daughter also knew some people who did Cosplay, but it was said with frustration. We parted. It seemed that we may have each been skeptical of the others parenting decisions.

(Please know I feel strongly that if someone we know is cutting, professional help should be sought.)

She might have been wondering why anyone would let their child get into the darker sides of Anime, or think that was okay. I went home and looked up the Darker Side of Anime on Google, and came across the most amazing website. From what I can gather, the dark side of Anime is showing angst and feelings and loneliness of young people trying to learn to deal with the heartache that happens in life. Don’t we want to encourage emotional growth? Sometimes kids aren’t going to know how to talk to us about the darkness they are feeling. Sometimes the characters in their books or comics help them understand things in ways we have long forgotten as adults.

I wish I could say that I can relate to all the ups and downs and drama of the teenage mind, but honestly, I don’t think I can. I would brush over things that seem completely vital to a kid. I would see it as nonsense. Desperately wanting to be popular, or to be accepted by a certain crowd were things I did as a teenager, but have learned not to seek as an adult. I would love to impart grown-up understanding onto my son, but I also know that some of this stuff has to be lived through and gotten to the other side of somehow, individually, to truly learn the lessons.

Back to the other mom at Costco, I was wondering why anyone would try to redirect an artist. Artists need to create, and their hearts and souls are completely caught up in what they are creating. In my son, it doesn’t even seem like he has a choice. He creates, because he wakes up with an idea. Lately, I have been edging away from some of the darker stuff he wants to do, but even there, I’m resisting myself, and trying to give him free reign. He wants to do special effects for movies, and so much of that gets started, or the interest is fed by horror or at least scary movies where there are lots of special effects. He is on the verge of being a teenager. I feel like he’s still too young for some of the scarier movies, but I’m letting him read whatever he wants to read because he’s drawn to spine-tingling, hair-raising things where costumes and masks and claws are necessary.

Running into this woman who was wanting to control where her daughter takes her art actually helped me see even more clearly how I need to let my artist thrive in his area of interest.

Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace.

Deep in my being, I have a desire to be the kind of person who can sit and be, who is what I keep thinking of as “hippy-cool.” The quote at the top of this article is exactly what I have been wanting to embody for years – to be able to simply Be, and let others Be – to not interfere or help or correct or negate, but simply leave things alone to grow and develop in peace. To not Hover or Helicopter Mom.

When it comes to parenting, I think a lot goes into the early years. We direct and manage and train up in the way they should go. At a certain point, while they are still at home, doesn’t it make sense to back off a little? While they are still with us, we can let them discover, and stretch without feeling like they have to strain against us. Without confining them too much, they may not need to spaz out or “vibrate quantum mechanically in rebellion.” The quantum mechanically part of that phrase is interesting – it is referring to the infinitesimally small, down to the unbelievably tiny components of the cells. So, quite literally, when a teenager is in rebellion, perhaps he is quivering throughout his whole body, down at the cell-level, below the cell level, down below the atom level, down at the photon and neutron level – on the verge of imploding because of confinement or restrictions that limit his abilities to test his own mind and decision making skills.

It is somewhat encouraging to hear that letting go in this way is not just hard for me, but for humanity. That simply relaxing and watching the passing show, wondering and telling stories, and listening to music is something we have to train ourselves to be able to kick back and do.

It is a very worthwhile thing to focus attention on, I think, this learning to slow down, and not fester over things. Our children will grow and develop and even be willing to include us in their thoughts, perhaps, when they are given the freedom to do so.

As a bit of an afterthought, we can almost always learn something from any person we meet. I think I may have made a mental slide into judgement just a little too easily. I only know a tiny tidbit of that woman’s and her daughter’s situation. That too is something that a Hippy-Cool, Right-Brain, Left-Bank person would be able to do – simply relax and watch the passing show – stop thinking that I can correct others outlooks – their outlooks are what they are and mine are what they are. I am learning the lessons I need to learn, and others are learning what they need to learn. Comparison is one of the things that will harsh our mellow quicker than anything.


Breathe in, breathe out, and on we go.

photo from here

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