Thursday, May 20, 2010

Does Generation D Listen to Emotion?

This morning Mike Dorning joined those of us who have been reflecting on the bleak job prospects facing the Class of 2010. Link here.

Now that the Class of 2009 has finally gotten jobs ... waiting on tables, there is not much left for the Class of 2010.

Discouraged and demoralized these new graduates are not just facing a difficult job market. The lost wages and the lost opportunities are likely going to impact their careers for decades to come.

Dorning also raises an issue I discussed in my last post on the topic (link here), namely the extent that the millennial generation (those born after 1980) supported President Obama. In the last election this group went for Obama 62%-30%. Now some of them are beginning to wake up; their support for the president has declined to 55%-37%.

But this leaves the larger question open. If we are going to label this group Generation D, as some have done, what does the D stand for?

Some have suggested that D stands for "digital," since the millennial generation grew up in a digital age and is far more tech savvy than any of the preceding generation.

But maybe D stands for depressed and demoralized, given how depressed these students are at places like SUNY Albany.

This morning, however, I received some anecdotal information, to the effect that Generation D is far more reliant on psychotropic medications than any other groups of Americans. Maybe D should stand for: drugged.

Surely, this is dispiriting. To think that the millennials are the most drugged generation, not in the sense of overusing banned substances, but in the sense of using medicine to control mood and emotion.

We are not talking about someone depressed being prescribed anti-depressants. The members of Generation D use drugs to maintain their moods, to keep their emotions in check, to get to sleep, and even to stay alert and awake. This goes well beyond the proper use of psychiatric medication.

Generation D stands out for having made psychiatric medication an integral part of everyday life.

To its detriment, I would say.

Whatever good these medications do, they can easily be abused. It's one thing to treat pathological depression and anxiety disorders, but it is quite another to use pills to stifle normal emotions.

The irony is rich, indeed. For more than a century psychotherapy has worked long and hard to help people to get in touch with their emotions. Now we are at a point where young people are using medication to repress their emotions, to distort them, and ultimately to ignore their messages.

I cannot help but think that if therapy had taught people how to deal with emotion, Generation D would not be demanding prescriptions for drugs that can repress them.

It is a bad day indeed when people listen to Prozac more than they listen to their own feelings.

Many of you know that I have very little sympathy for therapy that tries to help people to get in touch with their feelings. When I say that we need to learn how to listen to our feelings, I am referring to something else.

When you are walking down a dark street and feeling a premonition of danger, you can either search your memory for a past trauma that might explain why you feel afraid, or you can accept that your anxiety probably means that you are in some potential danger. In the first case, you would introspect and rummage through your past memories. In the second, you would take action to deal with the potential danger.

Therapy tends to favor the first approach; I favor the second.

Emotion is trying to tell you something about reality. Listening to it means directing your attention out of your mind and toward the real situation that might have provoked the emotion.

Emotion may not be telling you what to do, but it does tell you that you probably need to do something.

Normally the members of Generation D would be feeling some considerable despair and anguish over their future career prospects. If they heed their emotions they will be doing something to deal with the problem. If they have repressed their emotions they might feel complacent, to the point of saying that they can move back in with Mom and Dad and wait it out.

Consider this: during the 2008 financial crisis the administration point man was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. And Henry Paulson was a Christian Scientist, which meant that he could not take medication to deal with the emotional turmoil the crisis provoked in him.

As we know from his memoir Paulson was, at the time, consumed with anxiety, to the point where he would have to excuse himself from meetings in order to go to the rest room to vomit. And we know that he also had trouble sleeping.

There are two kinds of anxiety that accompany a crisis. In the one case you might feel anxious because you cannot grasp the reality of the situation. For many people the financial crisis was simply too complicated and too intricate for them to understand fully. In the other case you might feel anxious because you understand fully what is going on and the situation is very, very bad indeed.

Let us place Henry Paulson in the latter category. His gut reflected his understanding of the danger the financial system and the country was facing. When he proposed the TARP program to deal with the crisis, he was listening to his emotion.

This does not mean that the TARP was right or wrong. It shows someone listening to his emotion and concluding that the crisis he was facing needed quick and decisive action.


Ralph said...

In the linked article, the 24 year old engineering student is worried, and it is not a surprise, for the information you gain in school can quickly decrease. If 100 apps doesn't get a civil engineering graduate a shovel ready job, they have reason to not only be depressed, but maybe scared.

Sometimes it feels like we are in free fall. The markets are in turmoil, the unemployment numbers are always "unexpectedly" high, government scandals seem to be bubbling right under the surface, NK is threatening to go to war, Iran may have a nuke and use it, Europe is in disarray, and our leader is now focused on AZ and immigration. Not working with AZ, but in working against AZ, even going so far as to drag Mexican leaders into the domestic debate as an ally. I didn't even mention any natural disasters (I don't even know if Obama acknowledged the flooding in TN).

I think we have a first rate third rate government and it's driving everyone nuts.

Anonymous said...

I think Becky hits on a great point.

These grads are facing a very "European" job market with European-like career prospects; without the European resignation and caginess to survive it.

With the "American Dream" assassinated, they are going to have to learn to get by somehow; by hook or by crook; by bluff, lying and dirty-tricks; all the stuff that comes more naturally to everyone else in the world.

The time of "making your own job" is over. Now you will have a job if you can screw someone else out of a job. To our credit, it doesn't come naturally to Americans.

As a civil engineer, take your crappy job as a banquet coordinatior for a hotel and then start, quietly, taking bribes to schedule banquets and for "extras".

This is how you survive, and thrive, with a first rate third world government.


Stuart Schneiderman said...

As you both mention, it is a sad situation. And the encroaching chaos seems to be the result of third-rate leadership.

Worse yet, as of Tuesday evening, the Pennsylvania Congressional election seemed to suggest that we are going to have that hopes for new leadership in November are fading.

Mark said...

This is perhaps a superfluous comment - which as Dr Schneiderman is aware should resound as a denegational way of saying it probably isn't really unnecessary - but the remarks offered by Becky and Gray suggest that they might not be familiar with Dr Schneiderman's pedigree. His bemoaning our 'fading' hopes of new leadership betray a bigger 'flip-flop' than that branded upon Arlen Specter, who he (conveniently?) touched upon. If you don't know what this means, compare his professed political views with those of Jacques Lacan, the man responsible for Schneiderman's name.

In any case, this isn't to turn a blind eye to either of your (childrens') predicaments. There is an undeniable surplus of book knowledge amongst the busboys and caterers, but is that because of an administration that's been in office for a year and a half (to say nothing of the fires they had to put out for their first 6 months)? In fact, maybe it would do both of you some good to sit down and actually read a book. Or then again you could pay Dr Schneiderman and he'll tell you what you want to hear.

Anonymous said...

His bemoaning our 'fading' hopes of new leadership betray a bigger 'flip-flop' than that branded upon Arlen Specter, who he (conveniently?) touched upon.

Wait.... Stuart Schniederman is really Arlen Specter? Or is he Jacques Lacan?

I don't get it yet.


(Why do people keep posting links to the wikipage on Lacan and thinking it is a wise or pithy comment?)

Mark said...

Hi Gray,

I'd be willing to bet that the recurrence of Lacan's biography here is due to the incredulity experienced by anyone who compares Dr Schneiderman's present politics to those of his past. Thus, Arlen Specter's being 'a Republican in name only' - which, as Dr Schneiderman grieved about, wasn't enough for the right to capitalize on - provides something of a parallel. Or, to answer your question directly: Dr Schneiderman is neither Specter nor Lacan, but a detractor of both. Is this is love-betrayal? Probably not.

Also Gray, have you actually read anything below the fold of that Wikipedia page?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'm glad to hear that someone from the Lacanian movement is joining the discussion. Welcome, Mark.

For those who are not familiar with the Lacanian movement, it functions like a cult. If you walk away from it the Lacanians feel threatened and they like to resort to ad hominem attacks to discredit someone they feel has betrayed them.

Maybe Mark thinks he is comparing me with Specter since I abandoned the Lacanians while Specter abandoned the Republicans.

Of course, Specter was acting opportunistically; I most certainly was not.

Specter sold out his integrity, as Henry Rollins quite correctly puts it. I regained mine by walking away from a cult.

As for my previous political positions, while I was with the Lacanians I did not make public statements about politics.

And as for grieving about Specter's being a Republican in name only, I didn't say it. Nor did Henry Rollins say anything of the sort in the comments I posted about.

I hope it is not too difficult for Mark to understand that both Republicans and Democrats can have integrity, but that ditching one's party because one is afraid of losing an election is undignified, no matter what your party.

Anonymous said...

I'd be willing to bet that the recurrence of Lacan's biography here is due to the incredulity experienced by anyone who compares Dr Schneiderman's present politics to those of his past

Zut Alors! Human growth on a blog devoted to human growth?!

You should give a try, perhaps it would give you something to do other than insult my intelligence and reading ability.


Mark said...

Hi Gray,

I'm sorry if that offended you. What probably comes across as disrespect is more likely an expression of my own surprise. This post, about generation D, was one of the first I'd read on Dr Schneiderman's blog, but now that I've read more I can see that I've probably said too much.

His characterization of the 'Lacanian movement' is disappointingly facile. I would have expected something more cutting, more original. Since we're operating on that level, however, some credit is lent to the narrative that says Dr Schneiderman was spurned by the Lacanians, not the other way around. But, then again, whatever.

Like all present-day cult-members, I don't consider myself to be of the 'Lacanian movement' just felt like the correct rubric to call Dr Schneiderman back to his integrity, as he highlighted. That is, mine were primarily political barbs, not personal ones. So please resume your conversation and I'll pledge to stay out of it.