How do you build confidence in a teenager to help them stop comparing themselves to others, get over possessiveness, and find themselves? Here is the solution that presented itself for this seventeen year old young man: become a ten meter long flying green snake! Now this solution probably wouldn’t work for you or me, but that is not the point. What is important is to recognize that any young person can access exactly the visual and experiential metaphors that they need to get them in touch with the attitudes and aptitudes that they need at the moment to grow to the next level. Let’s hear what this flying snake had to say!
Snake: “I want things to be mine! I’m big, green, and live in the jungle. I fly! Sometimes I like to fly very high above the ground and sometimes very close to the ground! I eat mice! I grow bigger and bigger! I’m five meters long! I could reach ten meters! I wrap around Steven’s girlfriend to keep her MINE!!! That’s how I demonstrate my possessiveness. I personify Steven’s possessiveness. I don’t intend to kill her, but it could happen. I am letting everyone know that she is MINE! However, when I am wrapped around her I lose my freedom; I can’t fly and I can’t catch and eat mice!”
“If I could change in any way I wanted I would stop wrapping around things because I can only be free when I don’t. I will need to find a new meaning for my life, like following my inner compass and make the best out of myself. I would then do what I like to do and what makes me feel good. If I were to transform in such a way I would score myself a ten in confidence because it’s my choice and because I’m a huge flying snake! I would be a ten in compassion because I have my inner peace; I like to help other people to find theirs by teaching them to be independent and self-confident. I would be a ten in wisdom because I fly and I oversee things; I have objectivity. I don’t waste my life wrapping around things trying to possess them any more! I am a ten in acceptance because I don’t really care about others because I have everything figured out for me; what others do is their business. I am a ten in inner peace because I score tens in all other categories! I also score myself ten in witnessing because I don’t need to interact; why would I? I do what I want to and others do what they want to… ”
“If Steven scored like I do he wouldn’t try to possess anyone or anything any more because he would agree that this prevents him from living his own life and his own life is the only thing he is in charge of. If I were in charge of his life I would not be possessive because it doesn’t make him happy. Instead, if I were him, I would concentrate on what I want to get out of my own life instead of trying to possess other human beings because I think that they are the key to my happiness. It would be good for Steven to become me when fearful thoughts about Sheryl’s past and being with other guys come into Steven’s mind I would tell myself that this won’t work for me for my whole life because I will never be able to control other people. I would simply refuse to think about it. I would instead discipline myself more, catching thoughts about Sheryl that were fear based. He also needs to become me when he feels small and weak and lacks self-confidence.”
“I have come into his life to let him know that he could have my confidence.”
Steven: “What I heard myself say is that the snake represents my self-confidence and my ability to accept it. My possessiveness keeps me from listening to my inner compass. Wake up! It’s helpful when you change!”
Notice what Steven told himself. First, that experiencing himself as possessive is a lot like being a suffocating snake, one that squeezes to possess, based on a lack of self-confidence. Therefore, he gave himself a powerful, relevant way to experience his possessiveness and how it is caused by his lack of self-confidence. Secondly, he told himself that this choice limits his freedom. He can either lack self-confidence and be possessive, out of fear, or he can be free. Therefore Steven gave himself a powerful reason to change, one that would be more effective than most reasons that he is likely to get from any therapist, friend, book, or teacher. Third, he gave himself a lot of excellent reasons to make this change: he told himself that if he did so he would increase in core qualities that are important to him and that he believes are important to a happy, successful life. He also gave himself a method or strategy for counteracting fear-based thoughts of losing his girlfriend, which undercut his self-confidence.
Steven still has to do the heavy lifting of remembering to become his snake, to consult it, and to experiment with its recommendations to see if they are indeed helpful. But he has given himself a diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. He has accessed his own internal physician and inner compass, as well as gained a powerful new emerging potential that can help shepherd him through the challenges of his young adult world.