(This is part two of a two part series on Anhedonia, a term used to describe the loss of the ability to experience pleasure in activities that were previously pleasurable. Part one can be found at www.strugglingteens.com)
However, in saying all this, we understand that we live in a techno-world. We are not against electronics or medication. Balance and prudence are the keys. But, once anhedonia has done its debilitating work in a teen, a detoxification and therapeutic make-over should be what the doctor orders-not medication! We know from science and experience that outside stimuli changes body and brain chemistry. Stimulating a kid with the love, training, nurture, discipline, and truth of God's Word, will, over time, transform a troubled teen far more efficiently and effectively than medications. We see it regularly. This is why so many kids who come to Shepherd's Hill Farm on bushel loads of medication can leave medication free at the end of a year. It also confirms St. Francis's assessment on the condition of man when he said, "Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in You."
For the church, the implications of anhedonia are perhaps even more frightening. Kids will not, on their own, pull away from the immediate pleasures of 21st century adolescence long enough to engage the deeper things of life. They swing, like monkeys on a vine, from one exciting and pleasurable experience to another. Before they let go of one, they've already latched on to another. There is no margin to contemplate life's deeper issues. And churches are actually fueling this situation by turning up the wick on the entertainment factor in order to draw kids into the church. Consequently, this is one reason why the American church is now a mile wide and an inch deep. The average new convert to Christianity in the teen population stays 8-11 weeks before he moves on to something more exciting. Among other things, we believe anhedonia is largely responsible for this situation. Many parents have fallen into similar traps due to over committed lifestyles.
The mantra of the 80's, "He who dies with the most toys wins", has come home to roost. Now, our kids are playing with all those toys without us; because, we are too busy working to pay for them all. And the result is an anhedonic generation that is not able to perpetuate a biblical worldview to their kids. And George Barna's statistics bear witness to this fact; yet, he, nor Ken Ham, who authored the book "Already gone", know a thing about anhedonia. With this generation of young Americans so anhedonic, we will need a remnant of committed young people who still get it and who will be willing to stand firm in order to salvage and perpetuate the message of the Gospel. We will also need this generation to get it in order to perpetuate what our founding fathers and forefathers worked and fought so hard to build and preserve; because, not only are there frightening implications for the church; but, there are frightening implications for our American culture as well.
Today's Americans are a people who have little tolerance for pain. But, the truth is that we become weary of pleasure before we become weary of pain; because with pain you always have something to look forward to-which is the relief of the pain. However, with pleasure, when you just experienced what you thought would bring you the ultimate and it has let you down, where do you go from there? You go insane. This plays into the equation as to why kids are cutting themselves today. Isn't it interesting that a June 5th 2006 Fox news report disclosed that 1 in 5 female Ivy League college students are cutting themselves? This report came from two different Ivy League schools. The affluence of today's teens has too often offered them a vehicle for an endless pursuit of pleasure that has actually ended up with them experiencing more pain and more suicide than young people in poverty! It's just a different kind of pain. It's actually worse! Isn't it interesting that suicide is three times more likely to happen in affluent homes than in homes stricken with poverty? Education and social economic status aren't necessarily the clear indicators of mental, emotional, or spiritual health it was once thought to be.
Our educational institutions are teaching our kids what to think; they aren't teaching our kids how to think! And with the condition of anhedonia now being a virtually undetected epidemic in 21st century America, knowing how to think may not be a necessary component to American life any longer; because, only a free enterprise system really thrives with a thinking people. Anhedonia will actually be plus to a totalitarian regime.
The bottom line is that parents need to do more to shape their children's worldview; because if parents don't do it, someone or something else will. Why would critically-thinking adult parents give their kids the freedom to "figure it out for themselves" when the frontal lobe in their brains aren't even fully developed until they're 25 years old? Parents have 18 years to shape their kids' worldview in a positive way. It sounds so noble and politically correct for parents to give their kids this kind of latitude; but, in general, the parents who believe this are living in a fool's paradise. All the devotions, church, VBS, and Sunday school we send our kids to will be of little effect if we parents don't exercise the faith and insight to teach and live out our faith and worldview while limiting the anhedonia-producing and worldview-shaping stimuli that bombard our kids minds each and every day. Because, whether we realize it or not, there is a myriad of competing worldview indoctrinations going on through modern technology, and other venues in America today, virtually every minute of every day-and so much of it is toxic to the impressionable minds that are exposed to it. This is a call for parents to heed Deut. 6:6-7, "These commandments I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Talk about them when you sit at home; when you walk along the road; when you lie down and when you get up."
(Trace and Beth Embry are the Director and Assistant Director of Shepherd's Hill Farm, a Christian oriented residential outdoor program and therapeutic boarding school for struggling teens. They can be contacted at 706-779-5766, firstname.lastname@example.org, and www.shepherdshillfarm.org.)