Beards on Boylston: risk-taking and resiliency

This past weekend the city of Boston hosted a rolling rally, a parade that on its surface was a celebration of the inconceivable rise of the Boston Red Sox; however, it was clear that this was also a celebration of the city of Boston, rocked by the tragedy of the Marathon bombings in April. I’ve been lucky enough to have attended some other “rolling rallies” and post-championship parades in Boston, but this one felt different. Sure, there was silliness in Papi’s ad hoc rapping and some goofy beard-pulling. But there were also somber moments at the famed finish line, and some survivors of the attack in April were spotted in restaurants along Boylston Street, celebrating both the rise of the Sox and their own recovery thus far. This made me think about resiliency and risk-taking. The spectators lining the streets of Boston this weekend demonstrated that many people in our city have begun working through the traumatic events of April. For some, this may have been part of an exposure therapy-like opportunity. Exposure therapy involves consulting with a therapist to practice engaging with a stimulus that causes fear or anxiety. While exposure therapy is a more controlled form of risk-taking, the importance of taking appropriate risks in order to grow, heal, and move forward is part of a common experience.

Working with adolescents, I find myself considering risk-taking frequently. Adolescents, after all, are in the stage that Erikson described as being marked by an evolving concept of identity. Part of that evolution involves taking risks, “trying on” different identities to see which one feels right. Part of counseling adolescents is helping them navigate the risk-taking process. We may not run a cost-benefit analysis with the help of specific metrics, but we do discuss potential outcomes and the consequences of risks taken in the past.

I had a French teacher in middle and high school who, in addition to being an inspiring educator, had an adage that has stuck with me these many years: qui ne risque rien n’a rien. In English, this roughly translates to something akin to “He who risks nothing has nothing.” I have used this as a teacher myself, and now, as a student at MSPP and a clinician at my practicum, this motto drives my daily interactions. Learning to take appropriate risks, whether for personal growth or as part of a therapeutic plan, is a necessary skill. Just as making the decision to swing at a particular pitch is in some sense a risk, so is making the decision to participate in class or, even, to enter therapy. But if I’m to learn something from this weekend’s events, it may be that swinging at that pitch has the potential for some pretty amazing results.

 

NPR article on “Teaching Kids to Take Healthy Risks”: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126608357

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