High school students' anonymous comments about Wonder Anew

Terry Barrett, photographer. One in a series of realistic, unaltered photographs of surfaces of the ancient walls and doors in Italy. 
From the Wonder Anew website. 

I offer the 8 open-ended Wonder Anew questions to anyone who would like to unravel and gain clarity about a personal difficult experience. Sometimes I work with high school students and at the end, I ask what they think about the experience.

Briefly, the experience looks like this:

I begin with a short meditation before I suggest that they write answers to the questions. I tell them the process is an opportunity to hear themselves and gain clarity about their difficulty. Writing responses usually takes two 50-minute periods, on separate days. Students write anonymously. Sometimes I read their responses and add additional open-ended questions that may help. Some students create artworks that reflect an aspect of their writing.

Just before I leave, I ask two questions: 

Are you likely or not-so-likely to use the questions to explore another difficulty? What have you learned about yourself?

My impression is that high school students benefit from knowing that problems are a part of life and crave a chance to express and process them. When I suggest that the problem isn't the problem, the problem is their response to the problem (Satir), I see curiosity in their eyes.

Their comments fascinate me, and reveal something I believe—adversity is a gateway to insight. In other words, our problems have something to teach us.

LIKELY – 68%

“I have many feelings that I just push aside, but writing them down on paper really opened my eyes.”

“Writing the answers relaxes me and let’s me think about my patterns with less emotion.”

“I realized how much stress I actually have and how I really need to find time to relax. It is all right to relax.”

“I need to calm down about school.”

“I worry too much about things that are not under my control. I need to stop and think things out before reacting to them.”

“I discovered that stress = anger.”

“I have learned that I try to be in everyone’s favor but sometimes that’s not possible. Now I just try to be me and go with what I believe is right.”

“It’s hard to change other people’s minds. It is nearly impossible at times. The solution sometimes is to just let the predicament go.”

“Meditation is a challenge, but slightly liberating.”

“The answer to my problem (how I would work with it) became more clear because I waited a day and didn’t rush to answer that question.”

“I hold things in for no apparent reason.”

“I didn’t really meditate, but I did sit by myself and breathe. It was calming and I intend to do it more.”

“I learned that I am an introspective person and able to look deeply at myself.”

“It was eye-opening to analyze my own issues and to try to help myself. I learned that I am too concerned with others’ problems and that I let others’ issues trouble me too easily.”

“By writing, I learned that others also have very complicated issues and I have found that they sometimes take it out on me.”

“I didn’t learn anything about myself so much as I realized the extent of traits I already knew I possess.”

“I learned that I feel inadequate with free time. When I sit still or meditate or when I’m doing nothing, I think I am wasting time.

“It felt good to put my emotions and situation into words, almost like a rant, and then I realized that my difficulty isn’t what I thought it was.”

“I learned that self-realization can be a communal effort.”

“I learned a lot about how to deal with my difficulty rationally.”

“The answer to my problem became more clear as I stopped to think and write about it”

“The questions help me evaluate the situation.”

“These questions were beneficial to how I thought about my problem”

“Wonder Anew helped me dig deeper into my personal feelings”

“Interesting and personally insightful.”

“I learned that grades and performance dictate my view of myself.”

“The question process made me sit and think about what is bothering me and to realize what is really on my mind.”

“I learned that I can’t blame others for my faults.”

“Using the questions allowed me to get on better terms with my dad. I learned to calm down and think of nothing. I learned that I can be cruel at some points but also capable of sharing my feelings. I got to see my problem with my dad from my dad’s perspective.”

32% - NOT-SO-LIKELY, and their comments:

“I have learned that I don’t like opening up at all. I am logical and practical. I am extremely skeptical about the efficacy of this process. This might work for people who are artistic and imaginative, just not me.”

“I am incredibly stubborn and this process was very long and I really had to think to come up with answers. The meditation honestly made me more tired than I already was so yes, it was calming.”

“I prefer not to talk about my problems.”

“I did not enjoy this process. I did not enjoy meditation. I learned that I’m not very forgiving.”

“It is hard for me to keep still, but it was all good. It was hard for me to write about my issue. I’ve learned I’m mostly negative. And that other people have problems too, similar issues, not just me.”

“I learned that I do not like meditating essentially as it just makes me think more.”

“I don’t really like meditation because I always try to take advantage of every second of life and look at the fruits of my life so I don’t see a purpose for it. The process of writing answers to the questions was good once I took it seriously. I learned my current situation isn’t as bad as I thought it was and I take my life for granted. I also learned that other people have greater problems than me and would probably enjoy living the life I have.”

“This was interesting, unusual, and relaxing. I learned that my problem is all in my head.”