No Feelings: Why This Generation Has So Much Trouble Being Vulnerable
My first biggest fear is death. My second, you ask? Talking about my feelings.
I hope you see the imbalance here. I mean, the only thing on the face of the planet that scares me more than talking about my feelings is DEATH.
In other words, I would do anything else except DIE if it means I don't have to be emotionally vulnerable.
Emotional vulnerability might mean admitting to the boy I've been seeing for over a year that I love him. It could be telling a friend that she hurt my feelings by not coming to my birthday dinner.
Just the thought of being open about my feelings -- especially the ones that don't make me out to be the coolest, most chill girl on the planet (which I am, duh) -- is terrifying.
Opening up to people is absolutely petrifying for me. I'm not sure that I would even know how to go about showing my emotions. This is mostly because I don't have any practice.
But I'm not the only one who suffers from this crippling phobia. For more reasons than one, our generation as a whole has a hard time letting itself be honest about feelings. I tried to figure out why this is.
We're heavily medicated.
According to the 2014 US Behavioral Health Barometer from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2014, adults aged 18-25 had the highest percentage of alcohol dependence or abuse.
They also abused drugs most frequently. When examining the results of a survey that assesses the nation's drug habits and mental health, one quickly realizes that our generation is by far the most f*cked up.
Too tired to go out? Have a bump. Nervous for your big date tonight? Take a shot. Not having enough fun at the club? Pop some molly. Anxious about the big day at work tomorrow? Try a bar.
No wonder we have so much trouble being open with our emotions. We aren't even giving ourselves the chance to feel them.
Our culture encourages us to “keep it casual.”
Hangout spots everywhere -- movie theaters, bars -- remind us that we live in a hook-up culture. Romantic comedies feature characters who fall in love despite being regularly too busy or rebuffed to develop any sort of emotional attachment.
After seeing one of these films, you might go home with a guy you thought you had a great connection with ... only never to hear from him again.
To top it all off, you have no room to complain. To everyone else, all you did was "hook up." Your night together was "casual," and as the "cool girl," you're supposed to respect that.
We all feel the pressure to be that girl from rom-coms, the one who's too cool to care. Popular culture has taught us that she's the one who wins every time.
She ends up with everything: the career, the friends, the guy, the dignity. The problem? This girl doesn't actually exist.
And we're all left pretending like we don't give a sh*t about things we in fact really (like, really) do give a sh*t about. Caring isn't cool. Or so we're made to think.
We hide behind our screens.
A 2012 study published by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that “the mere presence of mobile phones inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust, and reduced the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.”
Furthermore, the study found that the these effects were “pronounced if individuals were discussing a personally meaningful topic.”
No matter how casual hook-up culture is or how heavily we self-medicate, we're still gonna have those difficult conversations. And when they happen, we won't be able to hide behind screens.
We're too busy to feel.
The 2015 Future Leaders Index found that “Two-thirds of Australians aged 18 to 29 say they are busy often or all the time." I think we can agree that the phenomenon is felt stateside.
I don't even consider myself to be a particularly busy person, and I still scramble to find 22 free minutes to watch "Broad City" at the end of the day.
In his 2012 New York Times piece “The 'Busy' Trap,” Tim Kreider writes of young Americans: “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
These questions might be "What am I doing with my life?" and "Am I happy?" Give your mind an idle minute, and they'll creep in.
Instead of answering them and facing the inherent emotional baggage, we stay busy-busy.
When the f*ck am I going to have time to consider whether or not I'm happy when I'm trying to make sure I pass my grad school classes AND get promoted at work AND keep my body in great shape AND maintain my relationships (all while trying not to pass out from exhaustion at any given moment)?
There's no filter for your feelings.
In December of 2014, Instagram hit 300 million active users and an all-time popularity high.
That's A LOT of people putting A LOT of time into whether to use the Amaro filter (because they're too tan) or Hefe (because they're too pale).
The app defines itself as a “a free and simple way to share your life and keep up with other people.”
So let's think about this for a second. THREE HUNDRED MILLION people now express thoughts, feelings and emotions through snapshots filtered to perfection.
But real-life thoughts, feelings and emotions are complex. You can't simplify your overwhelming sadness by presenting your confidant(e) with a black-and-white photo of an empty beach.
You can't simplify your (real-life) love for this guy by posting a picture of the two of you deeply gazing into each other's eyes in front of the Eiffel Tower. And this is scary.
What if people don't accept our true feelings for the ugly, complicated messes that they really are?