Reframing What the Teenage Rebellion Period Is About From a Spiritual Perspective

In the beginning, starting around middle school and often continuing through our early twenties, a mysterious sadness begins rising in our consciousness, usually arriving in tandem with a low-level anxiety. Until we figure out the cause, we do our best to live with this feeling of, “Oh no, I’m getting pulled under.”

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyone to help us identify what this melancholy feeling is really about. Even at this early age, life can start to feel meaningless.

What’s been happening is that we’ve been falling away from our spiritual essence, our connection to the All-That-Is. While the forgetting begins as early as the age of two, it’s here, in our teens, that it reaches critical mass. Either we become “successfully” subsumed into the mundane world, or we act out in an attempt to stop the slide downward.

What we’re yearning for and acting out against can be summed up by a Welsh concept called “hiraeth,” a homesickness for a place we can’t quite name and can’t quite figure out how to return to. And yet, there remains a powerful and deep pull toward this returning. We know somehow that there’s no place like it, this place where we truly belong. We’ve become stuck in a place that we know is not it. And we can’t help but feel unsettled and perhaps even trapped.

That time in adolescence when we start to feel resentful, psychologists might frame as a rite of passage—the classic teenage rebellion period—where we thrash about along the path to individuation. In a manner of speaking, it’s the teenager saying, “I’m not buying what you’re selling.”

Because what’s being sold feels wrong. We don’t know what exactly the “wrong” is, but something feels amiss. Because something is amiss. Our complicated relationship with authority, sexuality, our need to be accepted by the in-crowd are a few of the symptoms that can muddy the waters to the larger fact that the root problem is that we’ve lost touch with our spiritual core.

Without that access to remembering our connection to the source, it’s beyond maddening not to be able to put our finger on the origin of unease, not to just know what it is. It can be like trying to recall a name that we know we know but just can’t pull from our brain. So we feel that we need to let it go, hoping that, in time, the brain will retrieve it for us. But, with this type of memory loss, the sting of the loss never really leaves.

For those of us who are able to retain some degree of remembering, it can be especially frustrating when others seem not only not to know, but also not to care to know. But this indifference is understandable. Because the more we become culturally acclimated, the more we forget what we know, the less that forgetting seems to matter.

When looked at from a spiritual perspective, adolescent rebellion can be expanded to be seen as a last-gasp effort to find the taproot to the essence of who we truly are and what we’re connected to. It’s a pivotal attempt to wake ourselves up and shake ourselves free from the grip this life of illusions has on us.

Some young people will try drugs and/or alcohol to help make a consciousness shift. The urge is to feel something different from “normal” consciousness. And to blunt the stress and anxiety that come with that “normal” consciousness. These methods of escape may seem at times to provide glimpses into the “something greater, something more meaningful.” But they don’t get us far enough. So the search continues.

Some turn to travel because travel literally throws us out of our “normal.” We find ourselves involved in a state of encountering, discovering, and fending for ourselves. There is a primal quality to being out and away like this, where we find it much easier to connect with and remember the spiritual. But no matter how far we travel, the journey doesn’t take us far enough. So the search continues.

There are numerous other ways, including art and music, that we use to try to break through this “normal” consciousness. But without understanding the underlying mechanism, they will all fall short. And the search has to continue.

If we don’t find the answers during the teenage rebellion years, we’ll be given a few more chances throughout our lives. Any type of trauma can throw us deeply into the search. Many will also experience some kind of mid-life crisis, where we can be smacked with the futility of the path we’ve set ourselves on. There’s also another opportunity around retirement age where we can press the pause button to reconsider why we’re here and what we’re doing.

And yet, even something as simple as reading what you’re reading here can help wake you back up, and provide you with the ability, the vocabulary, to say, “Okay, I think I’m starting to get it. I don’t have to live like this anymore. Yeah, I think I do remember some kind of deeper connection. And I think I kind of know how to keep this awareness, regardless of the external circumstances.”? We start having moments. The task is to stretch those moments out for longer and longer periods of time until that becomes our natural state of being.

?Life is still going to go forward. All the players are going to be who they are. Only we will have changed. The changing is a revealing. It’s not that we’ve become somebody different. It’s that we’ve become more wholly ourselves.

What’s happening is a stripping away of who we are not. It’s like a sunburn, where the skin peels and what’s left on the surface is raw and tender. If somebody touches it the wrong way, there’s a sensation of pain. So, yes, we can still have painful reactions because there is still the human piece that remains. But now that humanness is evolving more fully into compassion and understanding. It’s becoming less about trying to avoid the obstacle course and more about being present for ourselves and others. It goes far beyond this, but at its most basic level, it’s the promise of a life that offers a kinder and more fully awake experience.

In the meantime, there is a mixture of emotions that may need to be processed and released as we go forward. There may be some sadness that comes up when we think, “I can’t believe this got taken away from me.” Or “I can’t believe it took so long.” But this stage typically moves quickly into a feeling of compassion for ourselves that we were allowed to be lost for so long.

We can’t help but ask, of course, ‘If we knew when we came into this life that we were part of the All-That-Is, how was it possible that this awareness got taken away?’

This taking away wasn’t and isn’t done with malicious intent. It’s about social acclimation. It’s about being trained into the illusions of the time we’re born into. It happens to nearly everybody. And everybody who feels the need to remember will eventually find their way back. However long it takes.

There’s an extra bonus when we reach this clarity. We then have a gift to pass on to our loved ones. We will know how to help them stay awake and remember.

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