The Breakfast Club — yes, the movie — teaches the common mistake we make with fear.
The Breakfast Club Kids
Every high school has a clique of kids who sit at the back of the auditorium during an assembly, or in the back of the classroom, whispering among themselves. They are the “The Breakfast Club” Kids. (If you don’t get that reference, you need to watch the movie.)
The Breakfast Club Kids — let’s nickname them BreCKs — act like they don’t want to be noticed, that they are too cool for school. In truth, they crave the attention. Their whispers are just loud enough to turn heads from the other students. Their behavioral tics are conspicuous, designed to attract attention.
Energy Follows Energy
Everyone — both teacher and the other students — is at least partially distracted by them. Even if we cannot hear their whispers or see their body language — slouched down in their chairs, rolling their eyes, their facial expressions — we feel it. Energy is contagious.
Sitting in the back of the room, the BreCKs create disruption. They pull the energy to the back and distract the focus from the main lesson. Classroom time becomes all about them. This is their goal; it is a subconscious yearning for attention.
How A Wise Teacher Handles the Breakfast Club Kids
The challenge for the teacher is how to redirect the focus back to the front of the classroom.
What does the wise teacher do with the BreCKs?
Kick them out of class? No.
Send them to detention? No.
Expel them? No.
A wise teacher knows that the best way to eliminate the distraction and the energy leak is to put the issue out in the open, in full view. The wise teacher moves the BreCKs to the front row of the classroom. She makes the BreCKs visible.
This is what they desired, even if they didn’t know it consciously.
The Irony of Making Disruptors Visible
While sitting in the front row, the BreCKs are much less likely to whisper among themselves. They can’t collude as effectively. And even if they still engage in some disrespectful behavior or over body language that displays their indifference, they don’t cause the same disruption that they caused from the back row.
Because the rest of the students are no longer turning around to look at them, the BreCKs don’t pull the energy away from the front of the room.
Why Banishment Doesn’t Work
Why not just put them in detention? Or kick them out of school? If you remember the movie, you know why this doesn’t work. (If you have never watched this movie, you really must. It’s a classic.)
Banishment strengthens the BreCKs. In the exile of detention, what was once a set of individual disruptors eventually transforms into a cohesive unit. As they overcome their differences and find common ground, they become a strong, united force. They gain strength in their collective outrage over being suppressed by the powerful forces trying to control them.
The more you try to suppress the BreCKs, the more powerful they become.
Whatever you try to control actually controls you.
The Dynamics of Our Inner Classroom
In the classroom of life, we are both the students and the teacher. We aim to learn, create and explore as we direct ourselves on our path of purpose and meaning.
The students of our “inner classroom” include our inner wisdom, compassion, empathy, kindness, trust, vision, creativity, self-worth, acceptance, forgiveness, and connection. These students face a challenge of distraction from the BreCKs sitting in the back row, whispering just loud enough to divert attention and focus from our path of purpose.
The BreCKs of our inner classroom are our fears: the inner critic, self-doubt, judgment, anger, self-aversion, cynicism, comparison, and expectation.
You Cannot Eradicate Your Fears
Like the principal in The Breakfast Club, our instinct is to banish our inner BreCKs: expel the fears for good, or at least put them in a long detention. Lock them up. Show them who’s in charge.
This is a mistake.
Banishment doesn’t work with our fears for the same reason that it doesn’t work with human beings. Any attempt to reform our fears by suppressing them only makes them stronger.
These are truths:
- What you resist, persists.
- What you seek to control controls you.
- When you refuse to look at something, to truly see it and hear it, it will rise up stronger and stronger until you have no choice but to confront it.
What We Make Visible Can No Longer Distract Us
Our fears are the parts of us that are calling out for attention. Like a child who acts out, our fears disrupt because they want to be seen and heard. Our job, as the teacher, is to remove the distraction from our inner classroom so that the other students can thrive.
The best way to tame our fears is to name them. Acknowledge them; call them out by name when they show up. Seek to understand them. Embrace them. Put them in front of you, where they no longer pull the energy away from your true path of purpose. Make your fears visible.
Whatever you do, don’t forget about them.
Did you know? Back in a previous life, I wrote often about the hidden messages in movies. If you like this, you’ll love this piece on The Wizard of Oz.