The Meaning of Life Part 2

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Co-authored by Adele Fawcett BA

I have been concerned that the selfie loving, millennial generation would end up reckless, irresponsible, narcissistic, immoral and hopeless. A generation of frivolous wanderlust, tattoos, and Instagram addiction.

But I was wrong because they have taken us boomers by surprise with their pragmatic idealism and altruism, thus robbing us of the opportunity to feel superior. They seem to be interested in helping others and are less aquisitional, preferring  experiences to accumulating, and to being as much as becoming.

My contemporaries have been justly accused of subtracting the youthful idealism of the 60s and worshiping the “greed is good” philosophy of the 80s.

This new generation is beginning to internalize the ideals of social justice and environmental conservation. Though they may not be acting out the way boomers did, they  prefer to have careers based on ecological sustainability — whether it is in business, politics, engineering or science. They are learning to work within the system and desire to have employment that contributes to the  changes they envision.

In a previous entry  I described a young fellow with  anxiety  who suffered existential dread. His preliminary conclusion was that for him helping others provided meaning and purpose.

A young lady I am currently working with  is tackling the anxiety provoking existential issues of meaning,purpose and value, rather than  the death anxiety, dread and nothingness fears the fellow in Part 1 struggled with. Her concerns parallel Ericksons stages of development described as identity formation and societal role, followed by intimacy vs isolation-the exploration of romantic relationships. This covers late adolescence to early adulthood.

At the ripe age of 30 she is burdened with a Type A  character structure which renders her efficient, perfectionist and reliable but anxious and impatient in dealing others as well as her own identity formation-who am I and what matters in life. She is acutely aware of the empty meaningless value systems of her surrounding culture, “..the survival of the planet depends on moving away from consumerism and consumption and nationalist separatist ideologies that perpetuate our differences rather than focusing on  shared common concerns. A culture where fossil fuels are expended in search of box stores that perpetuate the pursuit of “betterment”- more things, bigger houses, accumulation of money for its own sake. That takes away from discovering our true selves and contributes to anger and fear.”

She is exploring her spirituality in the service of transcendence and so she is searching for what I previously described  as the causa sui project.

She is discovering her idealistic altruist nature-the hard wiring cornerstone of humanity…. “we need to focus on political engagement and efforts towards caring for the marginalized, exploited and disenfranchised and becoming compassionate global citizens”.  Naturally she admits to utopian thinking but is very passionate about her socialism…”people before profits” and “community before corporations”.

Of course she is pragmatic enough to know that her best course of action is to channel her ideals into a productive course of action. Having a degree in sociology and several years at managing a health and nutrition centre have afforded her a social conscience,  ‘like I am contributing”, but also “earning enough to take care of myself and accomplish my goals”.

Her question in therapy is “how do I be the change I wish to see?”

She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and need for approval as well as concerns around vulnerability and safety compatible with an anxiety disorder. These are the personal stumbling blocks that the therapeutic process will attempt to remedy using the methods of CBT free her up to make rational choices and facilitate her career goals and  her identity actualization. Her intellect, motivation and capacity for insight virtually guarantees success.

Then we can address the next Ericksonian stage of growth love and intimacy. But that would be another essay.

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