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Plenary Session II
Lost Boys: Pathways from Childhood Sadness to Adolescent Violence
Dr. James Garbarino
Jim Garbarino told conference participants that "the issue really isn't our good hearts, or whether we are powerful or powerless-it's really what we know and what we understand." "To do good practice," he stated, "we need to be willing to commit to a deeper understanding—to accept the intellectual challenge, but also to accept the political and cultural challenge."
"All children have universal needs," Garbarino said. "They have universal physical needs, such as food; universal psychological needs, such as acceptance; and also universal spiritual needs. Human beings need to know that they live in a meaningful universe." According to Garbarino, the most important thing we can do in working with horribly traumatized and brutalized individuals is to link them with a larger structure of meaning to help them come to terms with their suffering. The ability to make meaning of suffering is a real turning point in healing.
Garbarino also discussed the "circle of caring" framework, where the concept of right and wrong applies to those within one's circle of caring and not to those without. He noted that those who commit violent crimes tend to have a very small circle of caring and suggested that a goal of rehabilitation should be to expand the circle of caring.
How does one do this? Garbarino identified three key elements to build on: (1) the amazing power of love, and tapping into whatever love/nurturing exists in their past or present; (2) the worth, competence, and talent that children have; and (3) deep cultural resources for dealing with grief, trauma, and suffering—the myths, rituals, and heroic stories that inspire us.
"We have all of these resources," Garbarino stated. "While we may think of the psychological resources first, ultimately the deepest and strongest resources we will have to bring to bear are cultural and spiritual resources that give a sense of meaning, that transcend all the ugliness in life, and that lead to transformational grace and rehabilitation."