Ask Deepak: How to Help an Adult Child Find Meaning
By Deepak Chopra
April 21, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: My son is very interested in understanding the ego and the journey for knowledge of self. He is 20 years old and has a struggle with the spirituality aspect of some of the books he has tried to read recently. He has a very strong and deep passion to find and have more meaning and purpose in his life. What books would you recommend for him to help him learn how to quiet the ego voice and understand his true voice? Thank you very much for your suggestions. — Julee B., Camano Island, Washington
I can feel readers smiling as they await whether I will recommend my own books or bow out modestly and point your son in another direction. Yet I am not in a position to do either. First of all, I've never met a 20-year-old who had a passion for overcoming the ego. I have to wonder if his mother is projecting this great interest onto him, and if so, does that mean the young man is in some kind of trouble?
I wish your letter had given me more clues about the specific situation. Because it doesn't, here's a general reply. At 20, adolescence is giving way to the beginning of an adult identity. Everyone experiences this as a difficult time, but it is also full of curiosity and casting about in all directions, sometimes aimlessly. If your son is confused and without direction, support him by listening to his questions and offering emotional empathy, rather than spiritual advice. He needs to bond with someone at the level of his inner doubts and conflicts far more than he needs any book.
As the presiding adult—you don't mention whether there's a father in the picture—it's up to you to maintain a fine balance between interfering and guiding. Most 20-year-old males don't want a mother's guidance, so my instinct says you should stop being the mother hen and let your chick wander. However, if you sense real trouble, in the form of addiction, emotional problems or anything on that order, don't be passive. Step in even if he resists. The early 20s are a critical time. Those young adults who confront their problems at this stage will lead much better lives than those who cannot ask for help and wind up drifting. I hope this general answer helps. As far as reading goes, your son should keep looking until something strikes a chord. The books we find by chance usually make the deepest impression.