A funny thing happened to me late in my career: I woke up one day and felt the spirit of our global future, and it exhilarated me! For over twenty-five years I had enjoyed a vibrant private practice, researching and writing books and articles on my discoveries and experiences. Then, about ten years ago a glint of something new and different entered my practice, and my world; a 17-year-old college student named James.
James (not his real name) was an extremely bright young man, yet terribly tortured within. He was on his second leave from his freshman year of college. Severely depressed, he was cutting himself regularly and using recreational and pharmaceutical drugs to excess. He had attempted suicide and ending life had become an obsessive loop in his thinking: There is no place for me here—what’s wrong with me?
Before coming to me, James’ concerned parents brought him to several psychiatrists and explored inpatient treatment. He felt they treated him like a freak and was untrusting of them all. He found no relief from their ever-changing diagnoses and treatments. Following his intuitive grasp of the worldwide web, he somehow found his way to me and insisted that his folks let him come and see me. At first, I saw the same presenting symptoms that my colleagues did. Then, once his parents were out of the room, a rarefied brilliance began to present itself. As I closely listened to him, sharing beneath and beyond his symptoms, his circumstances began to make sense to me. In retrospect, I now realize I had begun to “hear” him, and not with the traditional psychotherapy ears.
I realized that if I were in James’ shoes I might be having the same responses. He was a sensitive and introspective young man. Although he was handsome, smart, and possessed a keen wit, he didn’t fit in with his peers. He found the world around him stifling. Every mysteriously constructed sentence he spoke carried an underlying message about our broken society and the level of dysfunctionality it presented: I don’t like this world, I don’t fit into it and I don’t want to.
As I listened deeply to James, I heard him make references to philosophical readings most young people in my time were never exposed to, or so deeply inspired by. He had his own original perspectives on these respected writings. We rapidly developed a trust together as I witnessed his interests in a way that none of his peers or family could, causing him to feel a little less alone. He took beautifully to the focalizing method allowing the body to heal from the inside out, organically. This felt more natural to him than the pharmaceuticals he was directed to ingest. As he began to feel better and improve, he continued to explore his innate interests.
He finally had someone interested in hearing about his deep learning and the weighty conflicts he felt concerning the existing culture. I was able to be supportive because his ideas were now becoming life affirming and fascinating.
We worked together a few years. His natural sense of humor returned. By this time, he also had won the support of his parents and a few friends that could relate. He was now clearly on a journey that was the opposite of self-destructive. Before moving on from our work together, he recommended two of his friends to me.
Around that same time I began to acquire more clients in the 18- 30-age range. To my astonishment and delight, each of them, in their own unique way expressed a similar dissatisfaction with the present state of the world, and a desire to discover how to “make a difference.”
These similar-aged clients and their repeated success with focalizing methods brought my ‘research mind’ into sharp focus. I began to review and study all I could find on this so-called ‘millennial generation’. I am still feeling exhilarated by the process of helping these individuals find their unique identity, and the sparks of newness and possibility it produces. No two millennial ‘identities’ are alike: While each young person in this emerging group seem fundamentally at odds with specific aspects of society (most notably those that are harmful to the earth and to their own human well-being), they are passionately devoted to certain pursuits and passions they have found which offer hope for global healing and restoration and for more satisfying lives for themselves as well. This is a record of my growing perception of this previously cloudy phenomenon, a global adaptation of the human species to rapid change, presented in what for most of us will be a new light.
Most young adults today who are like James, find themselves equally unable to articulate what they are thinking and feeling, and equally unaware that they are not alone. This can make them feel they are defective, and under a cloud of isolation and shame, default to self-destructive behaviors.
Millennial observers thus far are not inclined to “unify and speak with one voice.” It is not a “movement” as defined or understood by previous eras or media chatter. It is a generation, plain and simple, but it is “moving” in a new direction, with a collective sense that we don’t have all the time in the world to figure out where we need to go as a species. There is an instinctual desire to resist all attempts to steer or exploit this moving, as some feel this generation may be the last to have the freedom to find a better way. Therefore, diversity and individuality are highly valued along with intergenerational support.This is an enormous phenomena we’ve yet to fully embrace. These insights offer an intergenerational promise that there is still hope of finding a more meaningful and sustainable way to live in society and on this planet.
A young man we’ll call “Jake,” shared: My generation feels we may be on a collision course with Mother Earth, because 1.) the global economy continues to base itself on the “oil dollar,” and 2). fossil fuels are destroying earth’s ability to support human life and therefore 3.), we must change our economic models or become extinct.
Millennials are putting the pieces together in their own way, and getting concerned, perhaps feeling a sense of responsibility, a “calling” to respond to these dire equations with effective action, artfully and with passion. This in itself is not an “identity,” but the feeling of “reading the writing on the wall” is almost universal among this growing cohort.
What is the calling of this emerging generation?
When I asked some of my younger peers what the ‘face’ of their generation looked like, I received a wide variety of “observations” about identity. Here are some of the key concepts summarized as bullets, to be expanded on in future articles.
- We are united by our common characteristics due to the nature of the times we live in.
- We know how the Internet feels about something—
call it the pulse of an entire planet— and we react to that.
- We can’t imagine a world in which we do not have access to most anything instantly, and realize the dangerous or contributory power for change that gives us.
- Our time and effort go into our digital reputations, art, and new perceptions. Our spending habits also reflect this.
- We crave results instantaneously, and while having limited attention spans we have a much wider array of knowledge than previous generations.
- We have a strong understanding of ‘brand.’ Because of social media, everyone has their web series, or cooking channel, or home-made craft store.
- We live in constant stream of text messages, through snapchat, insta, fbook, and other medium and this has its big pluses and minuses.
- In the high-speed digital age it’s harder to connect in person, yet we do connect in a different, briefer, more complex way that keeps us on our feet and consistently learning. What and why we are leaning all this, including the conflicts we have no idea. Yet, there is an overarching comfort that we are on the edge of something, and that feels very right and mysterious.
All of us will benefit from the collective energy and creativity which millennials will surely express when given the opportunity. We all have a role to play in the process of ensuring that they have the support they need in taking full ownership of our collective brighter future. If this article has ignited your interest, explore the Millennial Energy Project at www.theinstitute.org or be on the lookout for future articles. Our species and our planet will be in a much better place if we can shape-shift along with the emerging paradigms of this profound cultural transformation together.
The author’s journeys and discoveries are in his books and articles at www.michaelpicucci.com