A Quest for Identity

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“There is a sense that each girl is learning who her real self is in this whole process.  It is exciting to see the growth in them.  Mission Mountain School is teaching them self-love and self-reliance and boundaries.”

masksMission Mountain School is a place where girls become healthy young women.  They come to us scared, angry, hurt, sometimes in poor health, distrustful of adults and needy.  They come to us caught in the inexorable march of time that physically changes them from children to young women regardless of their emotional, mental or spiritual development. 

But overall, they come to us seeking an identity.  For a variety of reasons, the process of growing up isn’t working for them. Instead of discovering their individuality and developing a powerful adult self, they find themselves trapped in a desperate lost world of adolescent fear, narcissism, pain and despair.

We ask the students at Mission Mountain School to create metaphors.  We challenge them to incorporate elements of their own lives into their metaphors. They invariably create stories that incorporate the significant milestones of their journeys to find their true selves.  They understand that they are describing what Carl Jung calls archetypes-- ”benchmarks of the soul in its journey to individuation.”

Numerous authors have written extensively about the archetypal experiences that adolescents move through in their quest for adulthood.  They call that adolescent journey the myth of the heroic quest.  The concept of a mythical journey into self is central to what Mission Mountain School is about.

The journey is often described in folklore with the following components. There is always a young person that is somehow in trouble—she may be poor in spirit, lazy, outcast or in some stories delinquent or criminal.

In the myth, she is always less-than in both self-esteem and in social standing.  She does not fit the main stream and is attracted to counterculture or subgroups.  She may have an unrealistic and inflated sense of her capabilities, or deficits, or both.

The young person is forced by circumstance or destiny beyond her control to begin a journey.  She usually is unwilling to start the journey and is impelled into it by a power greater than herself.  The journey is scary, fraught with mythical monsters such as dragons or unknown powerful forces, some of which are inherently evil or self-destructive to her.  The forces always relate to an inner conflict.  The journey is an extended one and at the beginning, the outcome is not assured.  In fact it often appears that she is sorely inadequate, unprepared and not likely to succeed.

At first she is motivated by the desire to avoid discomfort and makes decisions governed by fear, narcissism and self-interest. She is alone and isolated.  She feels and is moved by forces beyond her control.  After a time if she persists in the journey, she begins to acquire companions on her quest.  Eventually she acquires a mentor or guide and begins to understand that there is a spiritual component to her journey: it really is a quest. She has to actively participate or all will be lost.

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