A Letter to Neale

Sep 09, 2022

Reader Question:

Dear Neale...How do I help my troubled teen niece spiritually? We have a major crisis involving her in a possible bad cult?????   I am a devout reader of yours and I love everything that you write and I have a knowing in my heart and soul of the truth you write of. I want to use that to show her how to find herself again.  It is in all of us, and I need more guidance. Medical care hasn't worked. It's her soul. Please help. Thank you. 


Neale Responds

Dear Dawn...Thank you for writing to me.  Your teenage niece is going through a very typical process for persons her age: the struggle for individual identity.  Ironically, many young people fight to gain an individual identity by joining a GROUP.  This is because the group gives them an identity other than the identity they've been carrying around for years from their family of origin--which they recognize not as THEIR identity, but as an identity which has been, in a sense, forced upon them. Young people will do anything to throw off this identity (even if they wind up trying to find it again and picking it up again when they turn 30!).  

Joining a group that is as far away, in terms of its beliefs, from the young person's family of origin is one of the fastest ways of achieving, actually, two aims: (1) create a new identity; and (2) still have a "family."  In this case, the group substitutes for the family, playing the same role in the life of the young person by giving that person a sense of belonging, a sense that others are around who care, and a sense of not being alone in the world.

Nobody wants to be alone in the world.  Young people do, however, want to "get away from" the identity that has been given to them (whether they wanted it or not) from birth.  This is right and good, for every person must ultimately find themselves, and even if they return to their childhood family's identity, they will do so by choice, not by chance, and that will make all the difference.

So the first thing that you can do to help your niece through this difficult period is to understand exactly what is going on here.  This is a period that she must go through if she is to grow into a fully self-empowered person.  So whatever you do, I would advise you and others who are around her not to make her "wrong" for what she is doing or how she is acting.  Rather, encourage her.  That's right, encourage her.  Invite her to look deeply, very deeply, at what she is doing, and why.  Invite her to keep asking two questions:  Is this who I am? And...Is this the highest and best I can be?

Then, invite her to ask two more questions.  Tell her, these are the key questions of life.  There will never be two more important questions.  Here they are:

Where am I going?

Who is going with me?

NOW...Dawn...and this is terribly important...tell your niece, "Sweetheart, these two questions I have just given you must NEVER BE ASKED IN INVERTED ORDER.  You must always ask and answer the first question first.  If you change the order of the questions and ask the second question first, you will wind up going where you go in your life because of the company you keep, rather than keeping the company that you keep because of where you are going.

This is not a small matter.  People who decide on companions first, before they decide on direction, often never choose a real direction for themselves , or, if they do, they often never get to follow their inner direction and their inner dreams because the people with whom they are traveling through life  do not create the space for that to happen.

So invite your niece to ask herself these questions, Dawn.  And, of course, do all that you can to assist her on a spiritual level. Send her good energies every day.  Include her in your prayers and meditations.  You might even write her a short note, or send her a card, with encouraging and accepting thoughts..."You are special,"  "You are extraordinary..."  etc.

Finally, you may find it a wonderful idea to tell your niece about Conversations with God for TEENS , the CwG  book for younger people, available from Scholastic Press.  This text includes questions and answers directly related to the daily life of teenagers.

I wish you well, Dawn, and thank you again for writing.



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