“The western scientific notion of biological development, with its neat series of stages and normative benchmarks, forces the world of growth and change into a predictable linear progression of limited alternatives” (Skott-Myhre, 2008, p. 42). With these models of development, the individual is never complete, especially the child. There is always a lack or something that the child needs to be able to do or accomplish before they are considered mature enough to be able to fulfill the expectations of the next stage of the model. Erikson and Piaget’s developmental models provide an example of the development-in-time episteme, for they laid out a panoptical map of cognitive development and simultaneously offer educational practices. Therefore, we automatically anticipate problems if students are held back or if they skip a grade and are out of step with their age peers. Statistical age-based norms became the basis for bureaucratic practices but also became the classifications within which people must think of themselves and of the actions that are open to them (Hacking as cited in Lesko, 2001).
For the adolescent specifically, this predictable linear progression of developmental tasks has largely vanished into a description of pure lack that prescribes an indefinite withholding of the space of maturity. The adolescent is seen as incapable of completing designated developmental tasks not only on the basis of such biological factors as brain function and hormonal instability, but also on the basis of a lack of specific markers of skill development that might indicate passage into maturity (Skott-Myhre, 2008).
“Youth were defined as always ‘becoming,’ a situation that provoked endless watching, monitoring, and evaluating” (Lesko, 2001). Not in the sense of creative becoming, but a controlled becoming according to a biological clock and other determinants that indicate whether the adolescent is prepared to participate in the adult world. This is hugely problematic because it is condescending and contradictory to assume that I have nothing to gain from being in relationship with them. Accepting the messiness of individuality, non-linearity allows for me to engage with youth from their creative perspectives. Playing music, creating art, writing, conversations, quiet, whatever that moment becomes, so do we. Standing in the ‘doorframes’ and ‘hallways’ between traditional developmental discourses is where therapeutic work is most effective because it is not restricted by predictability and expectations. The things that can paralyze our creative potential, such as time and developmental trajectories, can also paralyze our potential for growth and healing.
When children or youth, refuse to meet these stages or to resist alignment of their expectations, it stagnates the individual at a particular stage and this has significant implications for educational, social and professional development into society. This act of resistance, according to Skott-Myhre (2008) is an act of resistance to domination premised in an increasing capacity to act creatively. Refusal clears space by negating any obstacles to creative assertion. This shifts the mode of refusal from act of the negative to an act of affirmation. As creative force rooted in the realm of affect, it collapses the developmental distinctions rooted in time as interval and opens youth as the force of pleasure to be experienced in radically different ways based on the different compositions of the body as it assembles out of the becoming world that surrounds it (Skott-Myhre, 2008).
Youth is the creative force of assertion through refusal that cycles across all ages of the body, like the return of the seasons across all ages of the planet. The seasons of refusal are responsive within their return to shifts in the live body of the subject that produce vastly different identities. The adolescent is referred to here as the pause in between childhood and adulthood. Being adolescent marks a break, a space between things (Skott-Myher, 2008). Like the space between the past and the future, it is in the present moment, that we create. Also this implies that even as ‘adults’ we can be creative, and live in these creative spaces, returning to our different identities at different times, allowing for more creative potential. We can enter this eternal point of production, becoming, at any point in our lives.
Ironically, we refer to ‘identity formation’, ‘identity crisis’, ‘identity problem’, specifically when talking about youth, as if it is necessary for development. It is really a struggle between dependency and independency. In order to develop, we need to be dependant first, have a crisis from which, presumably, our independent identity takes form. We have to have an identity crisis or disappear (Lesko, 2001). Presumably, it takes a lot of work to earn your way into adulthood. However, growth, change and becoming, are a part of the human experience throughout our lives. I do not believe it is effective or useful to have the attitude of ‘I have become’ because that position creates barriers in having meaningful, therapeutic and creative relationships with children and youth, depriving them the opportunity to grow and become in ways that we could never imagine or expect for them. We must focus on the multiplicity of identities. Opportunities should be idiosyncratic, creative, and spontaneous. Conversations must become creative, not communicative in nature, so that these identities constructed through that conversation can explore infinite possibilities of shifting identity (Skott-Myher, 2008).