Updated: Oct 13
The circumstances for the YAA - I will hencforth refer to Young Person - today is linked to the parental generation for the continuation and disruption of ongoing circumstances; our circumstance spans generations.
I Am Me And My Circumstances…
This is a quote from the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. The intent is to recognise responsibility for not only ‘me’ but also the lived-in circumstances. This is a more holistic living with a wider social responsibility. This also counteracts adopting the helpless position of circumstances being out of ‘my’ control. Circumstance is the sense of fate but inevitable fate. With responsibility within the constraint of fate there is freedom to choose and mold our destiny.
If I Do Not Save It, I Do Not Save Myself…
There is a need to accept a structure and we each have the choice with this; a choice that also is a responsibility to accept, change or modify the structure. Out of this you save the structure and save yourself.
The Young Person is responsible for acknowledging the parent structure and consequently accept/reject, maintain/adjust, and sustain/change to their own (geneational) structure. This is about accepting circumstances and composing the destiny. Thus, a key feature is growth for the Young Person is recognition of the parent structure. Sadly, it is this parent structure that has become diffused and undifferentiated leaving the Young Person lost and blind.
The Young Person does not know what the ‘It’ (Circumstances) is that needs to be saved, thus is not able to ‘save myself’.
Just as we each had rebellion in our own generation there is a requirement for rebellion in this generation. This is not about a cultural or social rebellion that I am talking about ( although it is possible to detect trends at the cultural and social level) rather it is rebellion with the immediate presenting authority and structure of the Young Person, i.e., (most usually) the parents. A rebellion is about un-connecting from the authority and structure. The purpose in this is to enable the Young Person to create their own connections, i.e., to have their own choice and empowered action. This is part of the new world for the Young Person where they learn to ‘fly the nest’.
Intergenerational Parenting Structure
What I wanted to illustrate was each generation has been viewed poorly by the previous; the parenting in each generation has an almost essential need to be disapproving – if not for an individual, certainly for the generation… As I said in Part 1 this series – ‘it’s not like it was in my day!’. This also prompts the ‘you have never had it so good!!!’ syndrome. Such talk lacks actual meaning since the Young Person has not the relative experience of the parent. What it does have, though, is a structure of the parent the Young Person can relate the parent to. The parenting structure supports a relational process with the Young Person. *
To appreciate the predicament of the Young Person today it is (isn’t it always) best to view what came before. In saying this I am recalling the various films that explored the teenager generation in differing decades – in the 50s how emerging rock music was ‘the work of the devil’; the 60s music bursting conventions and challenging the status quo; for being abhorrent with its sexuality; into the 70s there was anti-establishment and a reactionary culture. The 80s were fraught with nuclear anxiety and sexual fluidity and the 90s anticipating a new millennium and the advent of access to computer technology and social media. This millennium is built on rapidly changing social dynamics and an unprecedented level of exposure of personal and global experiences.
What has happened generationally is responses and assimilation of the social order of the day. The twenty years from the 1950s were focussed towards the dignity of the capabilities of the person and came out of the shadows of Freudian analysis. The likes of Rogers and Perls along with all the psychotherapy movements sought to give greater trust to the individual experience. Typical of this period what was voiced was the desire to be free and spoken against a backdrop in which family stability was very much in place and intimate relationships were long lasting. The strain of these (conventional and strong) bonds and the desire to be free left little opportunity to realise how far the pendulum towards freedom would swing in the period of the technological society; the 1970s to the 1990s.
The 70 to 90s were a period where there was strong pressure of successful parents yet without the support for the Young Person attempts to be someone of their own. These Young Persons were expected, and so developed a presentation, to be more than good and their illusion actually hid a sense of being a fraud; it was an act. Lack of support for their own sense of being created an ambivalent and dissatisfied Young Person. Affirmation came through artificial satisfaction through ‘recreational’ drug usage and group experiences. Intimacy with another person was ambivalent whilst the search for self focussed on one’s own solitude. Therapy moved to the relatedness between therapist and client – the relational approach exploring what goes on here, between us. Parents, though, were absent
The adolescent period of growth is one for which the Young Person is seeking relationships; is looking to renew their understanding of their situation in terms of self support and the support in their environments – and this includes the reliance and testing of the strength, rigidity and flexibility of their significant others; parents and family. The testing is the rebellion of the Young Person.
Unfortunately, 21st century living, is, for the young, increasingly lacking the relational support that had provided previous generations with a greater sense of social and family and group cohesion. This is not a negative view or label, merely observational of the changing dynamics; generational dynamics of change that have always been, and will no doubt, continue to be. There is very much a technological dynamic that did not previously exist.
The outcome is that the Young Person lacks a clear definition of the authority and structure against which to rebel. The clear definition has previously been the parental relationship. Mostly this parental generation has been amenable and support of the Young Person to express and be as they need to be and as such there is less disagreement – less of the ‘you need to be …’ from the parent. The Young Person is faced much more today with the supportive ‘you can do anything you want’ parental advice. This suggests the affirmation of the Young Person yet is false; the affirmation needs to be a response to the actions of the Young Person. So, the impact of ‘you can be whatever you want’ very much results in anxiety and worry of how to fulfil the parental expectation, and this expectation forms the authority and structure against which the Young Person is to rebel; ergo, the Young Person rebels against ‘being anything’ and instead is nothing. The cohesion of the previous generations is not there to un-connect from.