Path to Nibbana 15 :
Ven. Dr. Mirisse Dhammika thero
I have discussed stress among school children and its various aspects in Chapter
One, and in Chapter Two I explored stress coping or reduction programs and
strategies in schools.
I have discussed how modern adolescents face school, environmental and societal
problems, and showed how these lead to overwhelming stress in school children,
especially in high school children. Most stress reduction strategies for
adolescents target their schoolwork, relationships with each other and to a
certain degree teacher attitude. I also explained how adolescents succumb to
feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem, how this kind of stressful
situation may lead them to even commit suicide. It appears that while some
children thrive under stress or cope with stress, others, which may make up the
majority, suffer from it. For the latter, stress may take over their lives,
resulting in physical, emotional and behavioural problems.
This tragic situation is becoming worse among school children in contemporary
society. An appropriate example which I have discussed in Chapter One was the
shooting and multiple-murder case at Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado.
This incident clearly demonstrates how young students can succumb to stress in a
devastating way: unbearable emotions and feelings such as anger, jealousy,
hatred and lack of positive relationships with their parents, teachers and peers
all conspired to drive the victims of stress to the tragic killing and suicide.
When young people have strong “uncontrolled” feelings such as anger and hatred,
they may react with negative behavior, harming themselves or harming others.
These negative emotions are often due to lake of positive relationships with
other, which may lead to helplessness or insecurity, and even clinical
depression. In extreme cases, these impel youngsters towards self-destructive or
violent behavior against others. Kabat-Zinn notes:
Feeling threatened can easily lead to feelings of anger and hostility and from
there to outright aggressive behavior, driven by deep instincts to protect your
position and maintain your sense of things being under control. When things do
feel “under control”, we might feel content for a moment. But when they go out
of control again, or even seem to be getting out of control, our deepest
insecurities can erupt. At such times we might even act in ways that are
self-destructive and hurtful to others. And we will feel anything but content
As mentioned earlier on more than one occasion, “deepest insecurities” are not
just psychological problems that individuals suffer from. They can have profound
ethical and social consequences. Therefore, there is all the more urgent need to
help our students cultivate a strong and positive sense of self. As I explored,
there are various programs and activities in schools and outside the schools as
well. In Chapter Two, I related Swick, Hoing and Abood’s key insights about
making a strong self-image within a school population. Those suggestions are
based mostly on external “control” factors of a stressful environment in
schools. These are valid and important suggestions. However, as I have argued,
since the stress prevention factors that students can have most direct control
over are in their own minds, these stress-reduction programs could benefit from
one additional component: cultivation of the mind. It is for this consideration
that I introduces and explored the two Buddhist mediations.