Even though it may seem like they are happy, children worry all the time. They worry that there might be a monster hiding in the closet, a giant crocodile that might eat their cookies, or rooster that might take them away in the night. After having these horrible thoughts, these children come to us in the middle of the night to seek refuge from the endless cacophony of horrible situations that their brain is analyzing.
Of course, when this happens, we believe that it is best to take them in our arms and inform them that everything will be okay and the world would never even consider doing the harm that they have so vividly imagined. We are not the only ones that succumb to propagating this message. Doctors and schools also assure us that: “teachers know the way”, “there is no need for panic”, “it will heal up in a couple of days”, “its just a scratch”.
We assume that through optimism we make them more adaptable and tough and in some way preparing them for the cruel world that awaits them. While this is not a bad approach, can we not imagine what would happen if the boy did not find his way back home or if the story did not end happily ever after? We are inherently so afraid of scaring children that we do not realize that we might be making them more afraid by shielding them from what is truly terrifying.
The Stoic philosophers in Ancient Rome found a more effective way to achieve calmness. They do not convince themselves that bad things do not happen because they happen all the time. Instead, they think to themselves that while terrible and horrifying the situations that we imagine are, they can be endured. They can be analyzed and conquered in our minds. They should not be pushed back into the farthest reaches of our thoughts. They should be confronted and looked in the eye.
We must accept that there are not always happy endings, but in the midst of accepting this, we can maybe create one.