The Millennials in the consulting room

The main themes that the millennial cohort brings to therapy.

New generation and it’s discontents

If you were born between year 1981-1996, and respectively are 22 to 37 years old, you belong to the generation Millennia. This is obviously not an exact science, but an approximation, considering the changes in our society and changes of the individual in it. Without getting too much into the particular features and common perceptions about this age group (there are millions of articles online that you might find useful), for the purpose of this post, I will speak about what is my experience of clients that come to therapy.

For some reason, our generation was also termed “Lost generation”. Lost in what sense? How are we ‘more’ lost than the previous generations? To date, I have seen a good number of people in my practice, appertaining to this generation. I believe that this predicament will never be solved, we will only construct our own opinion on the matter, looking through our own experience of life around us.
I do have to say, that I became particularly interested in this generation of my clients (not just because I am one of them), because each session is potentially a deep enquiry, a wealth of questions and existential dimensions.

I will outline some of the main themes, and what these might be saying about us and the particular times we live in.

Problem 1: I can’t decide on anything

You might have an excellent education, went to the top schools, and managed to build a high profile career. Getting yourself on a property ladder, and maintaining a satisfying romantic relationship. Yet, each time, you have to make a decision or choose “the right thing to do”, it feels that it is too much of a task.

Our generation is possibly the most well educated and informed than any other generation before us, however, this is not always an advantage. The Tiranny of Choice (which is an actual title of a book by a renowned philsopher Renata Salecl) (Salecl, 2010) as the name itself points out, abundant choice does not make our lives richer and better, more satisfying. The fact that we have to filter so many options on daily basis, is making us profoundly unhappy, and often leaving us quite insecure.

Problem 2: I never say No

The question that I always found helpful dealing with this problem, is: What is the value of my yes, if I can never say no?
Inability to say no, derives from our deep longing for acceptance, to belong. It might be that the fear of isolation is particularly acute for a millennia, since parents have invested significant ampount of resources to offer the child a best possible condition to suceed (and also be happy). This is a tremendous pressure and saying no might just perpetuate the feelings of guilt that are so deeply seated.

Problem 3: Will I ever find the right person?

Problem 3 is closely linked to problem 1 mentioned above. To make things even more impossible, we can consider the tiranny of choice, called online dating and social media. What is becoming increasingly clearer is the effects of constant online presence, where we are able to construct our fantasy life, including our ideal “right” other. The competition on the market has never been more demanding. Millennia striving for perfection and excellence in virtually all areas of professional and personal life, certainly plays a big part in our love life. Not finding “the right one” is seen as a personal failure.

Problem 4: FOMO

Fear of missing out, FOMO is possibly the most wide spread form of anxiety in today’s western world. I think we were all affected by this category of fear at some point. I would like to point out again to the role of social media in generating fomo, namely, as soon as you pick up your phone, the possibility of becoming anxious in the next 2 min, has instantly increased to 99%. What this fear of loosing precious experience and profound emotions show, is perhaps how very disconnected we have become from our own sense of self. Our desires and dreams.

“Falling in love, finding your passion, are attempts to locate, to picture, to represent what you unconsciously feel frustrated about, and by.”
― Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

The book by Adam Phillips Missing Out is worth of attention, discussing all the above in attentive detail.

Text by Dorotea Pospihalj

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