TEACHING THROUGH STORY TELLING
A YOUTH & DRUG SEMINAR
PRESENTER: DR. ABRAHAM TWERSKI
- Traveling home after working overtime my thoughts ran toward a meal worthy of my day’s efforts, a meal that included a baked potato. Our family owned a microwave oven, so it would take five minutes for the potato to cook, less time than it takes to change from work to comfort clothes. Once upon a time that potato would have taken at least a half hour—even longer, considering the time it needed for the oven to preheat. My wife arrived home the same time as I did. That meant cooking two potatoes in the microwave, which would take seven minutes instead of five minutes. How frustrating, that extra two minute wait!
Technology provides an aura of instantaneous gratification, according to Abraham J. Twerski.
It was May, 1991. I was at a presentation on youth and drugs presented by Twerski, founder and director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center (Pittsburgh, PA). He shared his thoughts on the impact of 1991’s lifestyle in an advanced culture on the thinking of young people through storytelling.
During several similarly entertaining stories I wondered when he was going to “get to” his presentation—youth and drugs. To my surprise, I realized half way through his presentation that his stories were a way of introducing and disseminating information on the topic of the conference (sponsored by the Mercer County Juvenile Advisory Council, Inc.).
The point of the above story was the instantaneous gratification youth are exposed to and therefore expect. If he, a product of the depression, was frustrated by a mere two minute wait, how must today’s youth feel if they must wait for something they desire?
- When I fill my cup at a meeting, I just toss the cup, made of Styrofoam, into the trash. (paraphrased)
Today, so much is disposable a person doesn’t have to make anything work: if an item breaks, it’s thrown away. After all, the next item might work better.
- Fast forward to 2014: My cell phone becomes unable to perform the latest tasks, which is very frustrating, so I dispose of it in the back of a drawer after purchasing the newer model. It is quite frustrating keeping updated when things change daily. (my story telling)
The lack of permanence flows over into relationships, according to Twerski. The cup can be likened to a divorce, both representative of a disposable, throwaway culture.
Removing drugs from the streets is not the solution because more drugs are available to replace them. Arrests don’t help either. A major contribution of Mrs. Reagan’s “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign was to raise the question What else is there? A legitimate answer must be given to this question
One answer is there are goals, professions, and success.
But what happens if a person feels incapable? Or feels they have no resources? Or feels a lack of self confidence?
Again, fast forward to 2014:
- In my writing and photography I use a computer. I find computers have a mind of their own. As I typed this article my cursor took my words and inserted them into another paragraph two pages up. Then it jumped somewhere else, and I must sort out the mess in order to continue. My frustration level skyrocketed as I lost my train of thought. And my computer is gagging as I turn it on. In order to keep up I need to hire a trainer and replace my dinosaur equipment (only two years old) again, at a great expense. (my story)
Twerski noted that cooks throw potato peels in the garbage pail because the peels are trash. Youth with the above feelings often write themselves off from competition and may respond in one of two ways:
- By taking drugs or falling into one of 60 other addictions— these youth feel that they themselves are the garbage pail, so they dump the trash into themselves
- By overachieving: a fight to prove that they are not a garbage can. Overachievement is a compensation for a defect that exists only in the mind, and is done to prove to themselves and others how good they are. The overachiever, however, is rarely happy with his or her accomplishments.
For people like Twerski, who lived through the depression, live was a struggle. Today, there is not the expectation that life is tough, but that life is good. The attitude is: “If I’m not comfortable, something must be wrong. I’m being deprived.” Many youth believe this is reality, but it is not.
Youth fall into the trap of drugs and addictions because they believe they are inadequate in our advanced culture. It is necessary to show them they do have capabilities and skills.
The question remains: how and what can we do to make kids feel good about themselves? As of yet, there are no answers.
This was one of the most enjoyable and effective teaching seminars I attended during my tenure as director of the Family Support Program of the Greater Jamestown (PA) Area, a four year Children’s Trust Fund child abuse prevention program.
I not only learned about Twerski and his thoughts on youth and drugs in an advanced culture, but I experienced a great story teller, a method of teaching that I wish I could have utilized effectively. It is a good teaching tool.
I’ll end by sharing one more teaching-tool story on instantaneous gratification, one that illustrates why youth expect not to wait, and become frustrated having to do so:
Years ago I began using a camera. I would shoot a picture, wait until my roll of 12 or 36 pictures was complete, rewind the film, take it from the camera, take it to the store to be developed, and a week later pick up my photos. Then came along cameras that developed the picture in a wait of a couple of minutes. However, the pictures lacked quality and endurance.
Today I take a picture and with the push of a button have immediate access to the sunset, portrait of my cat, or flower. When the access button quit working I had to wait to download the picture into my computer. It was very frustrating not seeing that photo now. I could feel my blood pressure rise. I have now entered the world of the present, when I can expect my desires to be met immediately. Perhaps. But if the immediacy is not met, there is frustration. What do I do with this frustration? How do I handle it? Let me see, now, that picture I took of the bird on the feeder in my yard.
If I can do this, why must I wait so long for the results of my medical tests?