Outcomes at BaMidbar: Part 1

In a blog post in early December, I discussed the role outcomes will play in our program development process.  As a mission-driven program, it is essential we have a vision of what change we hope to make in the world, and that we create programming with that end view always in mind.  In the next few blog posts, I’d like to dive into those identified outcomes, and share a little bit more about why they matter and how they’ve shaped program development.  Our four key outcome areas are: strengthened self-concept, skill development, interpersonal competence, and family functioning.  Today, I’d like to discuss the idea of strengthened self-concept in a bit more detail.

Self-concept, in a nutshell, is our personal understanding of ourself.  This includes how we view our strengths and weaknesses, and our own understanding of our behaviors, abilities, and values.  Self-concept is not just about how we see ourselves in the now, but also encompasses how we define who we want to be, as well as how we see ourselves in the context of others.

There is a text in the Zohar (Zohar Va’era, 2:25b) telling us that when we were in Egypt, we lost the ability to express our own stories.  During that time we were literally slaves to another person’s narrative.  When we left Egypt, we spent forty years in the midbar.  It was there that we began our national story telling and created our new identity.  The midbar is a wilderness, but there is a second meaning – to speak – דבר.  We went into the midbar to find our own voice and to write a new narrative as a people.

At BaMidbar, we want to give our participants a chance to write their own narratives – to redefine how they view themselves, what they think they’re capable of, and their ability to achieve that vision.   In the wilderness, our participants will have a fresh start.   They will be in a new and unfamiliar environment, free of the constant cultural stimuli experienced in today’s world.  The wilderness is humbling.  It invites vulnerability and decreases distractions.  Within these powerful surroundings, we will maximize opportunities to build self-awareness through individual therapy sessions, journaling, meditation, tefilot, and solo experiences.  Participants and parents will have the chance to share their story through impact letters, and then rewrite that story through the course of the program.  Self-concept isn’t how others view you; it’s how you perceive yourself.  Similarly, an individual’s story is not just what happens on the outside, but also encompasses what that person is experiencing internally.  We hope to help participants and families bridge that gap between external behavior and internal experience, to better understand each other’s perspectives.

Through increased self-awareness, greater understanding of emotional response, and strengthened sense of identity and values, we hope to to promote healthier emotional expression and strengthen participants’ motivations and sense of purpose, while encouraging belief in a positive future.  By focusing on self-concept as a key area of growth, we at BaMidbar want to help participants become the masters of their own narratives.