Adolescent need for stimulation:
A Quest for Understanding
To complete this assignment successfully, you should:
A man's reach must exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?
What makes adolescence such a notable, rich time in the human life span? Rice, in the text, speaks of many complex issues and areas that contribute to the internal landscape. Still, something is missing, in capturing what the adolescent is about. Consider the evidence on the need for stimulation in the following passages.
A rich man was once reported to say that the best way to become a millionaire was to keep the same wants. How many times have you set out to "get something" and it was the getting that was the real treasure? Once you have the best friend, the highest golf score, the perfect apartment, the ideal job, what occurs? I suppose one way of thinking about this is that there is a lot of gypsy in the most staid of us. We are seeking -- seeking, seeking, seeking. As Maslow's Hierarchy depicts, once we satisfy needs on an elemental survival level -- things like food and shelter, we move on to a different set of needs -- safety, security, and thus upward. We don't keep our wants -- we satisfy them, only to see that we are not really satisfied. . . and then we look for new vistas.
After spending the day with friends at the Fair, a teen comes home, washes up to eat and chats on the phone while consuming supper. Supper and phone call completed, laments, isn't there anything else to do? Can we run into town and see what's happening at the arcade?
Walking into her daughter's room is almost painful for June. The TV is on with Teddi clicking through stations while she pets her dog. Black lights wink on and off, a lava light cascades in the corner, the stereo is blaring and the computer screen shows games at the ready.
John, Mary's father, decides to quit fighting for control of the phone and gets another line for the family. How can just one kid stay on the phone, nonstop? His frustration boils over into thinly veiled sarcasm about the phone line being an umbilical cord, saving up money for an ear implant, asking if the phone company is offering a kickback.
The premise of this reading is the idea that adolescence it one of the clearest markers of an ongoing, desire or drive to fulfill a human need that is little discussed -- the need for stimulation. Wexler (1991) discusses it in his work on adolescents: Adolescence is a period when the need for stimulating experiences is overwhelming, sometimes almost insatiable. This natural craving sets the stage for drug and alcohol use, new sexual experiences, joyrides, fighting, stealing, doing things on a dare, or taking wild physical risks (p. 5).
Jung speaks of the need for stimulation in his archetypes and uses the notion in his discussion of introvert and extrovert More recent brain research agrees, suggesting that some people are highly stimulated through a personal chemical cocktail -- and can be satisfied with the stimulation that surrounds them. Others, more extroverted folks, seem to need external stimulation. This chart discusses some of the ideas involved in Jung's ideas.
From observation, it appears that adolescence may be a developmental stage when extroversion is a need. The next figure shows the list of needs established by Maslow(1962) and those established by Glasser(1992).
Glasser speaks of fun, but neither theory recognizes the importance of stimulation. Erikson (1964), a theorist who speaks to the adolescent condition in his book, Identity Society, views adolescence as a time when there are major changes in the way life is viewed, and as a part of that world view, he believes that the pressing needs are myriad and as a result, the needs of the student alter. This is addressed in a previous reading, PEPSI for Early Adolescence. The chart that applies follows:
Erikson's work suggests pressure to satisfy needs for
accomplishment - the ability to do things well and feel competent, even widely recognized (fame)
understand self and gain a personal sense of direction and purpose
separate and individuate from adult expectations while honoring self
try out new roles and ways of being without monitoring or recrimination from others
personal ways of organizing and explaining life and having that personal stake honored
validation of intelligence, insightfulness
experience sexual roles and act on urges of infatuation and sexual drives
gain support for sense of omniscience, expressed as bossiness, self certainty, parenting parents
An additional study (Csikszentmihalyi and Larson, 1984)provides another perspective on youth. To determine what teen lives are like, these researchers gave pagers to 75 teens, called them at random through the day for approximately one week. The random pages were followed by teens recording their thoughts and feelings when contacted.
The study found that the average teen's life is split three ways with nearly even amounts of time spent at home, in public and in the school setting. This sample of teens spent more than half of their time in the presence of or speaking with peers, while the time in the presence of family members was 17%, even though home 42 % of the time. In effect, though home almost half of the time, nearly 3/4 of the time in the home was spent in some form of solitary pursuit.
The emotional roller coaster effect was very clear with these teens. Many experienced a see saw of ups and downs, from one extreme to the other, often within a 30 minute period. The authors drew several important conclusions from these patterns.
Students were constantly bombarded by disappointment between what they wanted life to be like and what was actually occurring.
Discouragement and disappointment were frequent states for the youth, and they often countered these negative emotions by seeking thrills or behaving in ways that provided immediate gratification and resolution of the anxiety
Confusion and uncertainty were frequent feelings for the adolescents.
Peers provided support, anxiety, stimulation, discouragement, solace and despair . . often in the space of one social outing.
The activities that helped students become focused and centered were highly disparate. Most students had a way to calm themselves, regain focus and balance, but they were usually personalized actions. Some students turned to sports, some to TV, to video games, substance abuse. The form of self soothing was consistent across one student, but varied widely across the study. Further, the place adolescents opened up had most to do with the amount of safety to do so without recriminations or fault finding. Some were able to spend quality time with peers, some with parents, some only seemed to be at peace when alone.
these notions about adolescence affect schooling and the roles of student
Csikszentmihalyi, M and Larson, R. (1984). Being adolescent: Conflict and growth in the teenage years. New York: Basic Books.
Glasser, W. (1992). The quality school (2nd ed.). New York: Harper Perennial.
Maslow, A. H. (1962). Toward a psychology of being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand Co.
Wexler, D. B. (1991). The adolescent self: strategies for self-management, self-soothing, and self esteem in adolescents. New York: W. W. Norton.
E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
Course developed by J'Anne
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