Rose Wang, the psychologist who trusts God and dogs
by Rosa Wang

Prof Rosa Wang has developed teaching and psychological methods to deepen spirituality and communication in young people. "Dogs are very intelligent. They understand those who suffer from loneliness or autism.” She talks about young people and adults who get sick from anxiety over performance, and about the relationship with God and the community.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – Rosa Wang ( 老師) grew up in Pingdong (台灣 屏東 ), and went to school in the south of the island, then left her native village as many of her peers. As a student at the National Taiwan Normal University (師大), she realised that her path "already at that time, when I was young, had been prepared by God." After working as a screenwriter, she is now a teacher-psychologist.

She wrote several books. Her latest, which summarises her main cases involving the psychology and spiritual life of kids ( 孩子 心靈 有約), was a great publishing success. From dog therapy to extreme cases of applied psychology, many teachers are inspired by the educational method she and her team developed after years of teaching. Here is what she told us.

My faith comes from afar. My dad was from Beijing. He was baptised as a teenager. He used to attend the catechism taught by local missionaries. I was baptised as a baby. I grew up in the south, in Pingdong, and then went to study in Taipei, at the National Taiwan Normal University. I majored in history, delving into the history of the Jesuits in China. Why did I choose this topic? I was in contact with the Jesuits at the Tien Centre, and I had access to the documents. In the south we grew up with the Dominicans, then in Taipei I came in contact with the Jesuits. My university studies lasted two years; I finished a year ahead of schedule because I was hard-working.

After graduation, I started teaching at the school in Pingdong. I was a substitute teacher for a year. Then I worked for eight years for the Kuangchi Program Service (KPS, ) as a screenwriter. There was no internet at the time; television broadcast our only programmes, and we were on top. With our team, we wrote screenplays, then at night as we went home, we could hear the sound of our shows coming from our neighbours’ flats. It was obviously a great satisfaction; all of Taiwan’s TV production was made at KPS.

Psychology and spiritual life

After this wonderful experience, I went into teaching.

During my high school years, I had a senior teacher of Japanese culture who left me a great example. During class, he would make us sing some lullaby. This seems comical, but he had taken part in the war, and had suffered a lot. He had passed through three identities and three cultures: He was born Japanese, later became Chinese and finally ended up in Taiwan and was now teaching lullabies to us students.

In Pingdong I worked with the Dominican Sisters. Most of them were Spanish, active in the south of the island. The headmistress with whom I worked was very intelligent. She used to say that Education for life (生命 教育) was well established in the curriculum and other, more elaborate versions such as Psychology lessons and spiritual life (心靈 有約) would not have worked in Taiwan. In fact, she said it to get me to experiment with a new type of teaching and content.

We started with a proposal to include pupils aged 9 to 17 years. What did I teach in psychology class? It began from the assumption that God’s work is different from what we think. For this reason, I did not simply teach Education for life; instead, I taught psychology and spiritual life, which presupposed a richer context. It consisted of a full day experience, once a year in every class.

From the start, in order to address pupils’ problems, I used a simple approach, with understandable questions, like "What is your mood right now? What are its causes? What about the people you meet? How can you help others? "

Kids cannot choose their parents. What if they have problems with them? The main relationship is often with the mother, with whom kids spend most of their time. Girls grow up and become nervous mothers. Now with the internet kids, especially girls, communicate digitally and this can generate real or groundless anxieties.

Dominated by anxiety

I do not use this word by chance. Nowadays the main illnesses are linked in particular to anxiety (憂鬱症) and the frenzy for performance. How can we treat these cases?

There are cases in which we are not aware of the spiritual and moral dimension. Some kids who study a lot and have very good marks are nevertheless unhappy. If you do everything right and yet you are unhappy what’s the problem? If a student does well in school but is unable to communicate, at the end he or she is not happy. For example, this year, as usual, the school honoured the four best students and they had anxiety issues (憂鬱症). The 17-18-year-olds love to post dark photos full of anguish on Facebook and say that they express their inner world. If that is their inner world, who would want to communicate with them? It is a good thing that they have age as an excuse. In most cases this is a temporary phase.

Dogs understand those who suffer from loneliness

Teachers must instil confidence in young people, make them understand that in addition to the brain they also have a very important inner world. From what we see in our experience, we know that no one is psychologically independent; everyone needs protection and care. For this reason, what people cannot sometimes do, animals can. Dogs are very intelligent. They understand those who suffer from loneliness or autism. If, in a group of children, one is alone or by him or herself, the dog will go to them.

Dogs open hearts in children and teens. I remember especially two kids who were able to open up thanks to dogs. The first was a child who had suffered violence from adults; the second was someone very lonely. After a year with the dog, the ten-year-old changed a lot. Every day he talked to the dog, and no one knew what he told him. In the end, the child changed and started talking to people. In short, if the teacher is unable to solve a problem, it is best to leave it to the dogs!

The relationship with God and the community

A very important aspect to improve our life is a relationship with God. Without it one cannot really be satisfied. For this reason, the community, the parish, a life of generosity and shared happiness are essential. This can be done in many different ways. I remember one person who converted to Christianity after attending a funeral. "I too want a funeral like this when I die," he said. So he converted and joined the Christian community to have a beautiful funeral and go to heaven! Still, I believe I cannot presume that I can help others; at best, I can be an instrument to bear witness to the changes.

Regrettably, I also met profoundly selfish people, deeply bad, happy to make others suffer. In my life I noticed that sometimes God the Father ensures that these people come into our lives to make us make important decisions. I know that, because of evil people, I chose to take other paths, and I was glad of those choices. Then there are those somewhat stupid people who attract ill-intentioned people. Yet, experience taught me not to be in a hurry. After years of experimentation, I understood that I have to do a little less and leave more work to the Holy Spirit, because haste and earnestness attract the devil. The path of goodness takes time and patience.

(Xin Yage contributed to this article)