While dusting on a Saturday, I turned on CNN hoping to find something interesting to watch. Lo and behold, Christiane Amanpour's piece "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden". I found it so interesting that I put down the dust rag and watched.
She was interviewing a whole host of people who knew Osama Bin Laden, grew up with him, worked with him or perhaps were related to him. In the process she peeled away the layers of a terrorist and showed the human that had grown up in Saudi Arabia as a child of one of the wealthiest families in the world. She helps us travel through his childhood, on to college and eventually, by 21 into the desert to live the life of a religious ascetic who, influenced by extreme fundamentalists eventually became one of them and then, the leader of them.
Because of my background in early childhood development and counseling, I'm always interested in how early childhood influences manifest themselves in our adulthood. I know childhood plays a huge roll in the choices that one makes as an adult--yet most adults are not aware of and rarely connect how a specific childhood experience results in a future adult choice. Much of the design of the Life Puzzle has been to help clients see this connection so they can reassess choices from a 'whole adult' instead of 'yet formed child'. (And please let me be clear--we are not 'victims' to our childhoods--we can not use our childhoods to excuse our adult behaviors--only to explain them.)
As I watched Osama Bin Laden's childhood journey, it became obvious that his 'edges' and thus SELF development were highly influenced by many outside sources. He, like many of us in childhood, was deeply unsure of his SELF. In the quest to remove this anxiety, he allowed outside 'systems' to fill his SELF. He's not unusual in this--but unfortunately, the outside systems that poured through his still to be formed edges/SELF were overpowering and essentially usurped a healthy loving SELF. Today, his SELF promotes death and destruction as he serves an outside system (fundamentalism/terrorism) to which his SELF is now beholden.
At one point, his family approaches him and requests that he return home and abandon the fundamentalist/terrorist path. But it was too late, he'd handed his SELF over to the religion. Like the child who had joined a cult, he could no longer hear his family's love and support. He rejected them outright--because to walk away from fundamentalism/terrorism would feel like walking away from his "true self"--though in truth, he'd abandoned his full SELF formation long ago.
When we hand over our SELF to any institution--religion, marriage, work/money--on the assumption that in doing so our SELF will be fulfilled, we instead end up with the exact opposite. It provides a quick fix, but prevents us from truly tapping into our inner SELF which takes much longer to achieve--fully into our 30's and 40's. . Sadly, Bin Laden had handed his life over by 21--and has remained stuck ever since.
I thought, while Osama Bin Laden's case might be the extreme, the reality is, this happens to many of us in our late teens/early twenties. I recall talking with a gentleman who shared what a close call he'd had that might've ended with him joining the Chicago Mob! He was 18 and as we all do at that age, he needed money. He had a friend whose father was in the Mob--and his friend was willing to introduce him/help him get a job. While that entry level job would have paid well and been rather benign, in truth, it would have set him on a path that would take him deeper and deeper into the Mob. It would've been a no way out path in a very short amount of time. As he said, "I was insecure, under a lot of pressure and I'm looking at guys driving fancy cars, wearing great clothes and flashing big bankrolls of c-notes!" "Falling into step with these guys looked like a successful route--only then my friend pulled out a gun and it jolted me back to a reality that the solution for my insecurity offered not only cars, clothes and money--but also death." I thanked my friend and walked away--but what if I hadn't?"
I think today of Osama Bin Laden--what if he had returned to his family? What if he had been able to see that he was using religion to fill his insecurity of SELF. What if he'd been able to see the massive levels of destruction these choices would make?
Most amazing to me is how often people with poorly formed edges/SELF end up in positions of power. Their false SELF acts as if it is powerful, yet if you look under the false SELF, what you find is insecurity and fear of true self. By this I mean, when you have a whole SELF, you respect your body and other people's bodies (thus murder/death is only in self-defense), you are aware of and in charge of your emotions, you make conscious choice and accept the consequences--while respecting that others can make choices that you do not agree yet you do not insist they choose as you do, and you honor that you are greater than no one--but no one is greater than you--and you are focused in seeing love in all. Clearly, Osama Bin Laden's edges are missing--but Christiane Amanpour's documentary gives us a glimpse as to how this happened. Again, this documentary is not an 'excuse' for his behavior, just an explanation.
I wish all teens had the opportunity to see the Life Puzzle as a framework for a healthy SELF. It might prevent situations whereby insecure teens turn into rigidly controlled/fear based adults who harm the world.