Monthly Article Archives: June 2005

The Search for Islands of Competence: A Metaphor of Hope and StrengthRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

This is my last article until September. I hope the next few months prove relaxing and satisfying for you. I also hope that you will set aside time to reflect upon the theme of this article, namely, the importance of identifying and reinforcing the strengths and beauty in each child and adolescent as well as in ourselves. As many of my readers are aware, more than 20 years ago I introduced the metaphor “islands of competence” in my workshops and writings, a metaphor that my colleague Dr. Sam Goldstein and I continue to emphasize in our books about resilience. I conceived of this metaphor while listening to the words of youngsters in my clinical practice, many of whom were struggling with learning problems and had experienced a great deal of frustration and failure in their lives. Some of their comments were riveting, capturing a profound sense of helplessness and hopelessness. A sample of their statements includes: “I was born with half a brain. Do you know how to fill in the other half?” “I feel stupid. I feel I will never learn.” “I think I’m not smart enough to ever get a job.” “I can’t think of anything that I

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