Spiritual Mentoring & Association With Elevation of Lower Self in Adolescents

Abstract

Today’s adolescents are facing novel challenges such as identity crisis, social media pressure, unattainable expectation, and unique social dilemmas. The purpose of this conceptual model is to create a comprehensive map teaching adolescents how to develop a healthy relationship between the lower self (materialism), and the higher self (spirituality). Transitioning from middle school to high school encompasses a great deal of change, which may lead freshmen students to experience stress and negative pressures from external factors (D’Zurilla & Sheedy, 1991). The study has shown (Rawlinson,1990; as cited by Jack & Miller, 2008) that self-awareness is a conscious process of self-understanding and knowing one’s level of strengths and limitations and severity of emotions that could ultimately impact an individual’s behavior in various situations. Navigating through these high waters requires certain social and emotional skills in addition to higher levels of spiritual intelligence and aptitude. Using spiritual mentoring training and clinical observation assessment, the mentees will participate in a modular training structured on elevating self-awareness and the appreciation of their less recognized higher self. The 50-minute sessions will be done bi-weekly for 10 weeks and will end with a final clinical observation to assess the training’s efficacy and effectiveness.

Introduction

The Volatile State of Adolescents – Biological changes in the brain of early adolescents (aged 13–16 years) are extreme and unpredictable, which makes transitioning to adolescence challenging for both parents and child. Stanley G. Hall, a prominent figure in the field of Western psychology, considered adolescence as a biological phenomenon driven by hormonal changes causing mood swings, argumentative outbursts, and erratic behavior. A major contributor to understanding adolescent development (Hall, 1904; as cited in Arnett, 1999), Hall stated that adolescence is a period of “storm and stress,” thus explaining the moody and argumentative nature of their behavior. Siegel (2014) describes adolescence as an important period of emotional changes that lead to new and complex ways that information is processed (Siegel, 2014). He believes that during this period of development, the inner sense of “who we are” and “what we can be” erupts, creating a sense of identity that continues to evolve throughout adolescence. Hall and Siegel offer a one-sided and one-dimensional perspective on the volatile state of adolescents citing biological factors; however, this rigid point of view has been challenged throughout the scientific, religious, and spiritual world.

 

In 1925, Margaret Mead conducted her research challenging Hall’s view on the biological contribution to the havoc state of adolescence. Mead’s goal was to explore whether the American adolescents’ experience is globally biological, traumatic, and universal as the ‘Storm & Stress’ debate had previously claimed. Her findings (Coming of Age in Samoa, 1928) showed that the pattern of adolescents’ behavior particularly females are not the same as commonly believed in the Western culture. Her research showed that non-western adolescents perceive this transformation as an achievement. Based on her findings, Mead concluded that adolescents’ behavior is culturally and environmentally driven. Mead’s contradictory perspective on the state of adolescents’ development is an indication that the Western scientific findings are dismissive of the role of cultural values, practices, and overall perception of life’s purpose and meanings.

 

Formation of Relationships – As part of a developmentally important milestone, early adolescents are learning to build close relationships with friends and romantic partners (Arnett, 2013). However late adolescents gradually discover the significance of emotional and psychological relationships aspects of the relationship. Harry Sullivan (1892–1949) emphasizes the progression of interpersonal tasks that adolescents need to accomplish to achieve a sense of security and reach maturity. To develop such relationships, one needs to develop a healthy identity arising from self-awareness, learning effective interpersonal skills, and eventually reaching a spiritual self-elevation. To function as an adult in society, all these skills are a necessity to navigate peer pressure and the transitional process to high school. These techniques are not innate and require social-emotional learning, while developmental hurdles such as personal fable and imaginary audience might be interfering with the entire process.

 

A Distorted View of Self – Adolescents struggle with egocentric views, personal fable, and imaginary audiences, which refers to being overly concerned and preoccupied with superficial views and perceptions of self. Elkind and Bowen (1979) state that adolescents are obsessed with how others view them (imaginary audience) and project an air of invincibility (personal fable). Many adolescents hold personal fable ideas believing that they are special and unique, so much so that they do not perceive life’s difficulties as non-grata. This superficial view of self, over-shadows the necessity to seek a deeper meaning of self. Consequently, adolescents’ self-centered and egoistic characteristics contribute to risk-taking behavior and problematic outcome (Jack, 1989).

Literature Review

Emerging research indicates that spiritually integrated approaches to psychological treatment have surprisingly shown a high efficacy compared to traditional methods. The power of prayer has been investigated at length leading to the conclusion of being an instrumental element of the psychological healing process. To increase the effectiveness of patient care, psychologists today need to be more sensitive to the role of religion particularly spirituality in clinical practice. Evidence shows that many programs that promote personal growth using spiritual training help individuals to draw on their divinity resources while reconnecting to their higher self (Pargament, 2013). Adler (1931; as cited by Maloney, 2006) refers to laying aside selfishness and embracing human responsibilities as being possible in societies that fit well with Faith and spirituality. Jung’s theory, although theological in nature, also characterizes human awareness as a multilevel process that is a transformation of abandoning the ego, the animal self, while embracing the spiritual higher self (Jung, 1938).

 

Taking the perspective of the Baha’i Faith, McCullough and Larson (1999), accentuate the power of meditative prayer to reach the inner vision of truth and the emergence of the spiritual self. Baha’i prayers in nature carry a message of wisdom, spirituality, and love that can be instrumental in the healing process as being meditative, colloquial, and intercessory. This type of praying is used when guidance on making life decisions is needed and involves reading from the writings of Baha’u’llah or other religious texts (e.g., the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Bhagavad Gita). The mentor must be well versed in enlisting a variety of religious scriptures and prayers that will be used as resources for the mentee in assisting their inner self-elevation and transformation. Research has shown that self-esteem is inversely correlated with people’s general materialistic values, purchasing expensive brands, or valuing material possessions (Richins & Dawson, 1992; Mick, 1996; Chaplin & John, 2010; Isaksen & Roper, 2012). A meta-analysis of 15 correlational studies that included self-evaluation as an indicator of well-being, mainly based on Western samples (Dittmar et al, 2014) indicated that materialistic values are negatively linked to selfappraisals. That is, they concluded that higher levels of materialistic values are associated with lower self-evaluations.

Description of the Proposed Mentoring Program

In 2017, The Palomares Spiritual Empowerment Program (PSEP), a three-layer mentoring structure was conducted in the Pomona Unified School District with outstanding results, not just in the lives of the students, but more so in the lives of the facilitators who participate in the program. The benefits that the facilitators obtain The PSEP is a Baha’i-inspired approach to spiritual empowerment distinguished by special attention to the principle of the oneness of all humanity and mindful of the diversity of needs of the students individually and collectively for an integrated educational approach and strategies in the application that focuses on the inner powers and strengths of each student. Skill building in the area of multiple intelligences enables students to better serve their community and the greater global village. By developing competency in self-reflection, students will learn critical thinking skills in asking life-changing questions and setting goals for self-improvement. The proposed mentoring program is inspired by the previous success of the PSEP emphasizing the role of mentee and mentor in addition to the mutually beneficial self-awareness and self-improvement (Geula & Jafari, 2017).

 

The Mentor’s Role – All humans are spiritually connected and the mentor plays an integral part in guiding the mentee to find and embrace their spiritual self and reach a loving state that will transform into action. To do that, the mentor must be an expert in facilitating the process to help the student reach an impactful level of cognitive and emotional awareness. Because all individuals are connected spiritually, such a therapeutic relationship can also be seen as having many positive, transformative benefits (Maloney, 2006).

Proposed Mentoring Program Structure – Introduction on the Entailing Five Steps

Step 1 – Active Listening

Listening actively is the most basic skill the mentor will use to create a positive, accepting environment that permits open communication. By using active listening skills, the mentor establishes trust and interest in the mentees’ interests and needs. Active listening is an integral part of posing incisive questions (Kline, 2020), and also a part of an effective mentoring program. Examples of active listening include:

 

  • Show genuine interest in what the mentee is verbally and non-verbally communicating and reflect on the important parts that were captured.
  • Nonverbal language (making eye contact) will show the mentee that the mentor is attentive and interested. 
  • The training environment must project peace and love of humanity, curiosity for knowing, and working in collaboration, while background noise and interruptions and interruptions are contained.
  • Allow ample time for listening and making appropriate use of stories, activities, and metaphors.

Step 2 – Asking Incisive and Powerful Questions

This step will guide the mentee to utilize their natural cognitive internalization process while being guided by carefully formulated powerful questions. These questions are rhetorical and hypothetical in nature thus the possible answers are not the goal. However, with an effective line of questions, the mentor can help the mentee navigate their internal quest and eventually focus on goals and objectives. In her book, ‘Time To Think – Listening to ignite the human mind), Nancy Kline (2020) refers to incisive questions as questions that first remove a limiting belief and then address the goal(s). The effectiveness of a life coach is in asking the right questions to help their client focus on setting and achieving goals. The premise of this training starts with asking the right question so that the journey of self-discovery and spiritual uplifting development can start.

Step 3 –Self-awareness and Reflection

Jung’s (1938) psychological theory describes human awareness in a series of levels that will lead to self-actualization, where the final transformation leads to the liberation of ego discarding the material self, and elevation to the higher self. Such humanistic-existential theories highlight the nature of humans to be ideographic and harmonious, where Faith and spirituality are combined with self (as cited by Maloney, 2006). Adolescents’ biological brain focuses on the developmental frontal cortex that utilizes hypothetical thinking and complex decision making, thus it is capable of using metacognition and critical thinking skills. Metacognition is a higher level of cognition that involves thinking about one’s thinking referring to the process of planning, monitoring, and assessing self-understanding. To use metacognition, one must be aware of their thinking development, learning modus, and the process of becoming a thinker and learner (Chick, 2013). To achieve a successful selfawareness phase, the mentor must guide the client in using their metacognition skills.

Step 4 – Spiritual Higher Self Attainment

Using the Five Pointed Star Technique (Geula, 2004), the individual has to first identify their overall experience is not a factor of what happens but a factor of what they think about what happens as confirmed by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The Five Pointed Star is based on CBT, social cognitive processing, where the psychology of self-control and emotion regulation are melded into behavioral interventions and, eventually, emerged as the multifaceted, widely applicable, extensively practiced, and well-researched cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) of the present day (Benjamin, 2011). The Five Pointed Star, a tool for integration of CBT and Spiritual Empowerment was designed by Keyvan Geula; A licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist in California. The Star was used initially to map one’s understanding of the Baha’i Writings in the exploration of one’s spiritual powers in daily prayer, meditation, reflection, and action.”

 

Through the process of the Five Pointed Star technique (Geula, 2004) technique and CBT, the individual has to first identify their spiritual barriers and distortions. The use of the Five Pointed Star helps the individual identify the thoughts that serve as wind under their wings or as the cognitive burden that brings the bird down in the prison of one’s lower self. The exploration of the degree of distortion of self-image is crucial, but the exploration should, at some point, refer to how distorted selfperceptions affect an individual’s ability to attain harmony in their relationships thus fulfilling their life’s goal and spiritual realization. Using this technique, the mentor shares mystical stories and stories of resilience, courage, wisdom, spiritual insight, and heroism from all cultures to help the students recognize that their reality is their thought and spiritual self-recognize their spiritual selves and learn the lessons of human capacity and ability to be luminous vs dark. Later the prevalence of the practice of CBT. In summary, the five-pointed star addresses important elements of self-awareness and self-actualization journey. These elements are Sense perception (imagination/memory), Thoughts, feelings, Intensions, deeds, or actions (Please see, Star of Understanding explanation video:

Step 5 – Assessment

The traditional assessment tools will not be very effective for this type of training, since the participants are not being evaluated for psychological or behavioral divergence. To prevent any formation of the mentor’s subjective views or assumptions, a clinical observation measurement consisting of a nonjudgmental, neutral, passive stance would be appropriate to allow rapport to develop and permit the mentee and the mentor to disclose information (Rogers, 1961;1995). In addition, a biopsychosocial assessment is recommended for measuring mentees’ spiritual growth because it takes into account the whole person (Maloney, 2006). Furthermore, it may be useful to help clients conceptualize their difficulties in terms of the spiritual, moral, and transcendental/teleological elements of their lives. Some mentees may be struggling with the initial exploratory phase of becoming transcendence, and religious teleology may be important to explore, given that individuals are called to examine their place in the world, their ultimate purpose, and their connection to others (Maloney, 2006). To ensure progress, efficacy, and degree of mastery, the following criterion must be observed by the mentor and administrators:

  • Use clinical observation assessment to establish progress,
  • The approach to training the participants is based on the Vygotskian theory of scaffolding and zone of proximal development. This approach considers a step-by-step teaching methodology (scaffolding) while examining the degree of participant’s learning as a gauge to determine the next level of mastery building.
  • Training to be administered as a self-exploration journey,
  • Mentors to establish rapport with the mentee to establish a holistic integrative process of education (considering the students’ spiritual, intelligence, and humanity).

Conclusion

The intuitive knowledge and spontaneous flow of consciousness can lead to a true understanding of oneself and spiritual transformation. The religious universal concept of having been created in the image of God explains that the higher self and Godlikeness are essential for an individual’s mental well-being. To reach this higher level of self, a variety of developmental achievements are required such as metacognition, self-awareness, reflection, and seeing one’s highest identity about their humanity. Metacognition, the ability to self-reflect on one’s expression of humanity helps the individual to reach self-awareness and eventual reflection. Using metacognition, one will reach a higher level of learning, cognition, and thought process that elevates the learner from simply thinking to the strategies that help deeper learning occur. This self-reflection tool helps individuals to question every essence of their learning experiences such as perception, planning, thoughts, feeling, deeds, and intentions. Adolescents’ brains can use metacognition and critical thinking as the frontal cortex develops towards maturity and complex decision-making. These essential skills are necessary in understanding the futile and frivolous material world and moving towards the higher self. Using a Five Pointed Star as a tool, the mentor assists the learner in realizing and celebrating their spiritual self. A state of mind that all religions agree to lead humans towards a better self. World religions share a common perspective that human beings are wonderers looking for answers and the meaning of life. It is highly recommended that to attain peace of mind and tranquility, individuals must embark on this journey of discovery and self-actualization. In other words, the many Revealed or Lord’s prayers such as the Baha’i prayers are divine templates of thought that lead the way to the realization of spiritual or Godlike-self attaining qualities such as power, beauty, or benevolence.

 

Following the 5-Pointed-Star Model, the mentor will ask a series of Incisive questions that elevates the mentee’s sense of self, perception imagination, thoughts, deeds, and memory. This exercise aims to help the individual get in touch with the inner self, where one stores their deepest thoughts of loftiness/lowliness, glory/abasement, and spiritual wealth/poverty. Hypothetically, most adolescents have not yet learned or taught this technique of self-discovery; therefore, the mentor must take their time in making sure the discovery has occurred before moving to the next level. In conclusion, to achieve a state of the higher self, one must purposefully seek self-awareness and spirituality, which are essential life skills particularly if learned before an adolescent enters adulthood. This skill is not innate and requires purposeful and spiritual training that a learned mentor can provide for the mentee. The learned mentor must poses these specific skills before they can help the mentee complete their journey.

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Dr. Jafari completed her dissertation on the topic of organizational changes and their impact on employee development which offers a different view on the human and cultural aspects of American organizations. Additionally, in collaboration with several elementary and middle school teachers, she is working on a privately funded research project focused on the transition from elementary to middle school. Her other research interests are the utilization of music and arts as a coping mechanism for ADHD children and the effect of daycare on infants’ and toddlers’ development.

A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 20 years, specializes in using the Bahá’í Teachings to identify theories, techniques, and approaches that produce the best results for her clients. She is the founder and executive director of the Center for Global Integrated Education, a non-profit Bahá’í-inspired educational organization.

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