In many childhood games, kids often take on the characteristic of a favorite animal. They may tell their parents they are a dog, a cat, a fish, or a bird. This animal association actually aids child development. As children are encouraged to take on different characteristics, they begin to learn about themselves, actualize their strengths, and develop self-confidence in their abilities. Some children naturally have characteristics of a fish- they can swim fast, are agile, graceful in movement, and have an uncanny ability to hold their breath for a long time underwater.
As children learn in which areas they excel, they are encouraged to continue to grow and develop those traits. Yet what if your child is a fish, but you or society tells them they are a bird. Or what if their strengths are in fishy areas, but deep down they desire to be a bear? What happens when who you are is too closely defined by what you do? Michael Jordan was a phenomenal basketball player, yet he also played at the pro level in baseball and is a very good golfer. He was a fish, a bird, and a bear all in one. The coaches recognized his large repertoire of talents, and yet were able to help him focus and excel in one area.
Much anxiety and low self-esteem arise in children because many fishes are living as birds and vice versa. And when a fish is surrounded by birds, he naturally begins to feel inadequate, because he cannot fly. He begins to hate his beautiful fins and gills and wish for feathers. He may even go see a plastic surgeon who can clip his fins and sew some feathers into his skin so he can at least look like a bird, even though he will never fly.
A famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein states “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
There are too many negative consequences that arise from fishes that try to become birds. And how many birds allow their feathers to become wet and caked in mud while they wade and drift aimlessly in ponds and streams? Their talents and accomplishments as fish or bird may never be shared with the rest of the world. They may grow tired of trying so hard to fly that they give up and remain stunted in their growth. Lastly they may mutilate or self-destruct because the true essence inside of a person must seek its own expression. It cannot be denied. If repressed, it will implode.
So either it will manifest as beauty as it was meant to, if allowed free expression. But if repressed, it will still find expression. But it will be distorted, disguised, and perhaps manifest as ugliness, death, or destruction.
Is your child using drugs as an excuse to hide and run away? To perhaps feel powerful by doing nothing. Encourage them to engage. Can they remember a time when they were happy? What were they doing? When did they feel most powerful and alive? Maybe start the conversation by asking—if you could be any animal in the world, which animal would you like to be and why? Listen to what they say. If they say nothing, tell them your favorite animal and perhaps relate a story of a time you expressed an animal nature.