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Elaine King & David Boulton - Self-Esteem 4
thread order - DB in blue, Elaine in black using red to refer to DB's earlier letter

-----Original Message-----

Sent: Saturday, March 16, 2002 6:02 PM
Cc: Gary David; John Vasconcellos;
Subject: Thanks Elaine!


Hello Elaine,
A great pleasure to read you again - I like how you have drawn us out - thank you Gary for passing her words along to me. I am in BLUE
----- you said ----
what particularly struck me was the following question in David's letter:
--how do we create environments in which children have the opportunity to learn to participate rather than be passengers in their feelings and thoughts?
That is such an important ingredient to a child's learning, and living, flow of making meaning out of his/her life. And the direction schools are now forced to take is its complete antithesis.
I just now received the further Self-Esteem correspondence, so my responses are becoming a little disjointed. But respond I must. I'm so glad you got yourself involved in this, since shame has always been such a missing link here. David and John agreed on a definition of self-esteem that said:
'I believe what you mean by the term self-esteem is simply: human nature free
from the self-disesteeming psychological reflexes we learn to modulate our
negative-to-self, feelings and thoughts.
"Negative-to-self feelings and thoughts" can  be accepted as important tools of self-learning by parents who are trying to learn that fact for themselves. 
YES, negative to self feelings and thoughts are natural - we can't stop having them any more than we can stop feeling 'ouch' when we stub our toe or skin our knees.  We can't make a child's environment free from the risk of injury and we certainly can't create environments free from the risk of negative-to-self experiences. What we can do is:
1) help people become aware of how critical this kind of learning is and how they could be more alert and conscious in their relating to children when they are going through negative-self terrain (wouldn't so abuse them here by their added shaming) - The greatest benefit of the 'self-esteem movement' was/is that it raises the 'general consciousness' to a sensitivity level in this area that it didn't have before and that we need.  Such is the stuff of John's legacy - taking on and bringing to a greater general awareness needed challenges.
2) we must help children grow through this great barrier reef by supporting their inside-out learning within the actual happening of negative to self feelings and thoughts. To do this parents and teachers need to have an inside-out orientation inversion - they have to stop thinking they have something to teach (out here from me/us) that is more important then how the child is actually participating in their learning (inside-out from within them) - it is I believe this very point that is the glue that holds together the framework in which the self-disesteeming assumptions take roots and get so well reinforced.
I believe so strongly that the child who is valued, not shamed, from day 1 for his or her (DB red bolded) every expression of affect, feeling and thought is the child who takes the "vaccination" of self-esteem with him/her into relationships with others and into situations that others may find to be "rejecting." 
Its not just the pervasive lack of being shamed. We will be shamed. We will experience shame regardless of other's intentions. The question is how will we learn to participate in our shame so as to not be co-opted by shame - to feel it and see it and know it without getting lost in or become subject to it? (same with fear and the other affects)
Granted, that child is not out there in huge numbers, but they are there, and their very presence may help the world understand.  I am not talking here about over-valuing (over-inflating their importance and accomplishments) or about "telling" them they are valued when they feel otherwise.  Once shame has begun to pervade their thought processes and resulting scripts, they need more help than "telling" can ever accomplish. YES!! I also believe this kind of nurturing self-esteem is so far superior to the kind they may work very hard to develop later in life, it is worth trying to "teach" parents who may not feel that kind of value within themselves.
Very little extra effort needs to be put into creating the right learning environment for children with self-esteem, because they carry that environment within them.
Elaine, I agree with your main intent here and I don't think in terms of 'children with self-esteem' - 'self esteem' is not a possession - this I feel is the trap the movement fell into and what makes it so vulnerable today. Children don't have self-esteem - children are more healthily who they are when they are not 'caught' within negative to self feelings and thoughts. As we can't prevent them from having episodes of negative-to-self feelings and thoughts the work is to help them learn how to learn through them when they are happening.
This is where we must focus much effort - without the right kind of learning environment we humans are susceptible to developing self-dis-esteeming assumptions (nuclear scripts). I think we need to develop an explicit awareness campaign and a working pedagogical scaffolding through which parents and teachers orient themselves and learn to respond to and resource children in their learning into shame - we need to explicitly intend to learn to do this - as a species, as a body politic, as a loving parent or as an ethical teacher.  We can't wait for the adults to change - this is how they will change. 
For those already riddled with shame and doubt, an environment of trust and acceptance becomes so big an issue, no school, as presently designed, can begin to furnish it.  So where do we start? And how do we begin to undo the damage that continues to escalate every day of a child's life?
We drop the past - the damage done is how they learned to process/manager their affects - the only way out is through learning when its happening - we need to create environments that are analogous to 'performance support systems' for learning-guide-resourcing their participating in negative to self feelings and thoughts.
I intend to look up the reference to the Rowntree study, but it's hard for me to even take seriously any study that tells us
"low self-esteem is not a risk factor for delinquency, violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, educational under-attainment or racism."
RIGHT ON ENERGETICALLY - I AM WITH YOU and your passion - AND - we must take it very seriously because what we are really attempting to do here is beyond political polarity if its understood deeply enough. They aren't necessarily stupid or uncaring - they are pointing to the holes in how 'self-esteem' is a, though helpful and relevant at the time, mislabel of what we are really trying to address: 'healthy inner well being' These anti-self esteem articles have their ground in the misattributions of what we really meant by 'self-esteem'. They are great learning opportunities if we don't attack or dismiss them - but come from a place more implicate and communicate back through them. I believe if we were in a dialogue with the 'other side' our values systems could come to agreement about our real intention. 
Nice to read you again - I can see that retirement is not diminishing your passion - thank you for being so alive and caring.

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