Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Nowhere Boy

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 24, 2010

     Elvis saved John Lennon. Aunt Mimi saved John Lennon. Musical talent did too. The ingredients of resilience-positive identification, devoted caretaker, inborn skills-gave John Lennon a chance to get beyond focusing on and repeating the tragedies of his early childhood. If he had ended up behind bars, no one would have been surprised. He was angry, he was confused, and he was not a particularly good student.  Those characteristics could have led to a life of hateful behaviors and aggression. Instead, he made art; he lived his dream. Retrospect is cheating, I always feel. Anyone can look back and say “aha” and take one aspect of his childhood and say that that circumstance gave him the power to see a future; the power to pursue his dream. Clearly, it is a constellation which makes young angry adolescent males turn around into thriving adults, and it is a constellation which makes them go down a path of uncivil behaviors. Father Boyle seems to understand this, and as such, he hopes for each young man, each with painful pasts, that they can bounce back to wholesome living. Devoting one’s life to a developing child goes a long way to helping them see their personal power. At the same time, that child needs to grab on to role models outside of his family so that he can imagine a life which makes sense to him. Finally, he needs some basic talent to apply those skills to his chosen field.  John Lennon went from nowhere to somewhere-the universal dream for ourselves and our loved ones.By saying that those three ingredients were the key to John Lennon’s success is speculative to be sure. Speculation is that first step to a deeper understanding of resilience. Looking retrospectively, however flawed that may be, helps us to ask: why do some kids get beyond their traumas, and other kids get buried by them? I would like to know.

3 Responses to “Nowhere Boy”

  1. Shelly said

    Can you offer some suggested answers to the question you asked in your last line? Biology? Home environment? Role models? Mentors? Peers?

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      The biology part is about finding a child’s skill set and then letting it develop. In John Lennon’s case his skill set seemed to be a combination of musical talent and stratospheric ambition. His home environment, although troubled in many ways, also gave him some stability in which to take chances with his dreams. Society, Elvis in this case, gave him a role model. His social network and his charisma gave him the ability to draw people together and help them become a team, a band. Again, retrospect is easy. Could you look at John Lennon at 15 and know that he would become John Lennon. I doubt that.

  2. Suzi said

    Yeah… me too!

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