As you may know from reading some of my posts, I am a huge action-adventure movie fan. I mean, I eagerly watched every Avengers movie and each of the side movies for the sub-plots. I adored the Jurassic Park series (always pulling for the T-Rex). And, of course, the many cinematic adventures of Dr. Indiana Jones .
So enamored was I with Indiana Jones as a young adult, that I actually considered going into archaeology. However, I soon learned that the glamorization of the career on film, did not apply to real life. As an extrovert that could easily talk to stones, I realized how miserable I would be if they were all I had with which to converse. But Indiana… now that was an archaeologist!
Just the name: Indiana Jones, sparked intrigue, danger and romance. right? What creative and imaginative parents Indie must have had! And yet, in the third movie of the series we find out the truth. We are introduced to Henry Jones Sr, (dad) who tells the world that my precious hero was actually born, Henry Jones Jr. and that Indiana had been their dog’s name.
After the slight let down, I wondered why such a brilliant scientist and archaeologist, adventurist and all-around cad felt that he had to reinvent himself to be taken seriously. His father, also a renowned scientist, espoused that the brand change came from a son’s desire to distance himself from a father. But was it? I thought that there might be more to it than that.
Another interesting moment in that third movie came when Indie (the hero not the dog) found the cave of the Holy Grail. Big Issue: Between the mountain ledge where the adventurer stood and the entrance to the cave lay a gaping abyss. He found no bridge or walk around and could not fathom how to enter.
Frantically searching in his father’s journals, he found a passage: “Leap from the Lion’s head to prove a man’s worth”.
And …then… he…hesitated.
After everything he had experienced on all of his adventures, why did this passage stop him? And it occurred to me. He had no faith in his own worth. His entire life had been spent chasing things he could see or touch. Now he was asked to believe in his self, in his understanding of the text, and of the mystery of the Grail. He was unsure that he could take that step. Of course, to save his father’s life he did step out and behold! he landed on the hidden bridge that had been invisible from the vantage of the jumping point.
The whole scene started my social work brain turning. Here stood a man, who had spent most of his young life trying to capture the attention of a distracted father. The father, obsessed with the legend of the Holy Grail, never seemed to notice his son. Nothing Indie did as Henry Jr seemed to be enough to get that affirmation from Senior. So, as an adult, Jones (the younger) took outrageous risks for adventures and fame. The world believed in the rising adventurer known as Indiana Jones. But when the defining moment came, the man himself had no real faith that Indiana Jones was worthy. In response to the shooting of his father (bringing the threat of imminent death) , Indie had to remember that he was, indeed, Henry Jr, son of Senior, before he could take that leap and find the right path beneath his feet.
Reinventing ourselves to become something more… than what? Why do we think we are not enough? Not smart enough? Not brave enough? Not pretty enough? Not strong enough?
Why do we strive so hard to change things about us that make us…well..us?
Self-improvement ( learning new skills, taking classes, trying new things) can be healthy but should not be a way of trying to change the basic make-up of who we are. In order to find contentment and fulfillment, we really must learn to accept that we are worthy of success, of well-being, and, of love.
I started to think about the children from hard places: the foster children. To watch some foster teens swagger, rebel and blow hard, your mind would instantly jump to words like “delinquent”, “arrogant” “self-absorbed” and yes, “bad”. They can make it very clear that they don’t need you or anyone!
Yet, if posed with the same challenge as Indie (take a leap of faith and show your worth), they too would falter. Because all their blather, and distance and anger and blaming stems from the feeling that they are “not enough.”
Many of these kids received non-verbal (and sometimes openly verbal) messages from the adults who were supposed to protect them. Even when they are placed in a safe and stable home the messages come to them in whispered taunts and pointed fingers from deep inside their soul.
- If you were better, your mom would not have left you to get drugs
- If you were tougher, you wouldn’t have been molested
- If you were smarter, you would’t have blown your last three placements
- If you were lovable, you would’t be alone.
I want you to take a few moments and just imagine hearing those messages playing on a loop in your brain. Would you feel worthy? Would you feel enough?
The challenge for this week is to look beyond the swagger, the dismissive words and the behavior to the child. Where is it coming from? Anger is often an expression of fear. Of what are they afraid? You might find that the behavior that is pushing you away comes from feeling that they are not worthy of you, coupled with a debilitating fear that you will soon figure that out and reject them. Like everyone else.
Sometimes just knowing the why…can help you find the strength to stand firm, not move away from them and to continue digging for the underlying issues in each traumatized child. It will be hard to resist their behavior, hard to justify sticking with them. But once they can believe that they cannot push you away, they can begin to focus not on protecting themselves from rejection, but on taking that leap of faith to begin the process of healing.