The Social Butterfly: Transforming the Teenage Soul Series Part 3

Part 3: Beliefs behind Boston

In the wake of the Boston Marathon Tragedy, two suspects were quickly identified. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a former champion boxer, was the clear leader of the operation. Yet Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, also known as Suspect #2, is the one who seems to be on everybody’s mind. Why? Because at only 19 years old, Dzhokhar has committed one of the worst terrorism assaults on American soil of this century. How, and Why, could a teenager commit such a horrible atrocity?   

Throughout all the numerous reports on Dzhokhar’s interrogations, it has been noted repeatedly that his brother Tamerlane influenced and recruited him to participate in the bombing plot. Clearly, at some point in his journey, Dzhokhar became fully immersed and decided to partake in his brother’s radical activities. Was this his true sense of self? We’re not sure, but certainly this was not his highest sense of self.

The reason why I’ve decided to include this topic in this series is because it has everything to do with teenagers handling social sway and group dynamics. The level of immersion that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had with Tamerlan’s ideology was very, very, deep; so deep, in fact, that he lost the light of reason. The influence of his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had become too ingrained into Dzhokhar’s physical, psychological, and (this hurts) spiritual perspective for him to remain uninvolved. Whatever “dream” Dzhokhar had, supposedly to finish medical school and become a doctor, became overshadowed by his fixation with this terrorist thought. With his brother’s strong presence, Dzhokhar’s own presence seems to have been completely overshadowed. With Dzhokhar’s situation, I realized that his social dynamics could be broken down into a simple formula:

Immersion + Influence = Extremism (aka Complete Loss of Choice)

This same level is not only reflected in the Boston Bombings, but also in the lives of teens across the world. This group extremism can manifest itself violently in gangs, or it can appear much more subtly in athletics, Greek life, and other cliques. Gang activity and its influence on teenagers can be seen in the cities of Chicago, London, Cape Town, and even Beijing. In both small villages and vast megacities, teens are falling out of grace and falling in with the wrong crowd. And, like every parent fears, teens are making decisions that are extremely opposite of their highest potential.

My question for teens, and especially for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is simply this: what group is so worth being involved in that you lose yourself? If it is simply a matter of trying to be “cool,” it is not worth it. If it is a way to be “fun”, it is not worth it.  If it is the best attempt to be “popular,” it is not worth it.  The Self – the mind, the body, the spirit – is the beautiful manifestation of your consciousness. Why dilute it with someone else’s ideas to create a darker vision of an inferior version of you? Teens have the choice, and they can choose Who They Are in the context of every situation.

Some teens, however, still don’t believe that they have power in their choices. Using the equation from above, there is a way to incorporate choice into those beliefs: through the power of detachment.

          If you are in a situation where you cannot avoid the influence, choose not to become immersed. You can observe the beliefs and actions of the group, but decide not to become involved if the group’s direction does not match the direction of your own moral compass. Giving healthy distance will keep immersion from becoming over powerful.

          If you are in a situation where you cannot avoid immersion, decide not to become influenced. Deciding to act as an individual within a group is not an easy task, but it is manageable. Remember your core beliefs, and your sense of self, will keep you on your path.  

          If you are in a situation where you have experienced both high levels of immersion and influence, make a conscious effort to detach yourself from the situation as frequently as possible. By taking a moment of step outside the group/gang/ideology, the activities and beliefs of the group/gang/ideology can be reviewed holistically, or as a whole. Through analyzing what’s really being said and what’s really going, it becomes very clear on what is truly happening, and whether or not you want to fully embody the group’s purpose in your own life.  

With this in mind, we can stay true to our own physical, psychological, and spiritual beliefs. Instead of falling under the influence, we can choose to be guided by our own self in our own decisions. Having the awareness to know who and what is in control of the group, and possibly you, is vital in remaining centered with your own state of being. With this in place and present, the world can make sure that there will never be another Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at

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  • I don’t know what to say. You are a gift to the newsroom, Laura. Wow. What a great writer you are. You just are. And, so young to boot 🙂 I just want to say we are what we say we are, as you point out. We can call ourselves part of a group, or we can call ourselves outside a group. Yet, either way, we are defining the self as something, something that
    is either “for” or “against” something. Whether or not we’re for it doesn’t really matter.
    What matters is what we are in the heart, the truest heart of God I Am. We are associated with that heart, even by our attempt to disassociate from the group that knows itself is the
    heart of life itself. If we detach from a group, we become more energetic, not less, simply by focusing on that which we are not. Therefore, the energy, the energy the men who did those bombings in boston or anywhere, is the same energy that says, “I am not this. I am not this culture. I am not this victim.” It says, “I am going to be something else,” and that something else can either be wonderfully weird or not, depending upon how powerful one creates a sense of true identity, an identity that knows its heart lies within its self. All life is extremely powerful, since all life creates a highly charged, emotionally highly charged energy just by being love sweet love. The trick to create more love is, as Eckhart Tolle, so pointedly
    shares in The New Earth and The Power of Now, is to not to so much as live a
    group as it is to detach from the identification with the group thoughts and do
    so without emotion. In fact, this is the way to meditate. Notice the thought, but become the witness aware of the awareness that is aware of the thoughts passing like a parade. Notice the thoughts and allow them to pass by without attaching any emotion. That’s the way to meditate. Notice the group but retain identity as outside the group, maintaining a real True

    Identity is the way to know one’s Truest Self. God is a being of light, and that being of light is the light that asks all of humankind to ask Who Am I? And, when we do, we begin to open, open, open the mind, the mind that somewhat limits itself when it attaches to a group. A free mind is an open mind, and that is the high end of creation. If one is so attached to a group, one loses one’s truest identity, for one is not free to be unique. All life is both unique and individual, yet part of the Collected Creation of All Love. Do we create bombs because we attach too much emotion in detaching from a group that was limiting the self, the identity one created as a Self? I think your post asks these most poignant questions I’ve seen on this blog, and, heck, I could go on, but, truthfully, I need to get back to my book, but, gosh, girl, I just want to say, I am a writer, and I know one when I see one, and you got it. You just do.

    Love to you, love, and good luck. I know you don’t need it. Hi Ho He 🙂