There is something my kids often say that, as a word person and a person who cares about people, really makes my wheels turn for a number of reasons. They say, “I can’t catch feelings anymore” or “I don’t want to catch feelings anymore.” This phraseology makes me wonder at what point in language this transition happened, where we don’t just have feelings but they are actually something outside of us that we actively cling to, that we catch, that we can choose not to catch.
Mind you, I don’t think this is something my kids think about when they’re saying what they say; I think to them it’s just a saying. But I think it’s incredibly profound. And, also, a little heartbreaking that at 17, 18, and 19 they already feel finished with feelings.
I think in turning the language about feelings around they’re really giving themselves more control over the feelings. Or, at least, bolstering the illusion that we can control our feelings. I mean, there must be something to be said for this because my therapy homework at the moment is to practice changing my own language about thoughts and feelings; I’m not to say, “I feel angry,” instead I am to say, “I’m noticing I’m having the feeling of anger.” Apparently this “noticing” provides some distance from the feeling. In the words of my therapist, “if we find ourselves attached to a thought that is hurting us, we can detach from it, kind of like velcro.” She calls it cognitive diffusion. And, I think, by saying we catch feelings, this younger generation is performing some form of this cognitive diffusion. They have this experience of emotion as something that doesn’t control them, it is something that either happens or doesn’t happen to them and they get some say in that. It seems this generation has already intuitively mastered certain therapeutic concepts just by evolving their language and worldview.
While I hate that my kids have experienced so much pain in their lives already, I marvel at their strength and resilience. They have a sort of resolve and wisdom that I think often goes unnoticed by older generations because we get stuck on this, “kids these days” mentality. But, we would all be wiser if we took the time to really experience kids these days, to really listen to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it because they’re kind of brilliant. And humbly so; they haven’t yet realized their own brilliance. It’s an instinctual intelligence for survival and depth, perhaps a consequence of growing up in a post 9/11 world. Or, perhaps a result of growing up in a world of free-flowing knowledge. I can’t even begin to posit where their awesomeness comes from but they are awesome. They get things.
When I set out to write this blog I hadn’t intended for it to become an ode to the younger generations but maybe it should be. As I’ve been immersed in their writing for the last several weeks I find myself marveling at their knowledge. I have to overlook the horrific grammar (because they are used to phones which autocorrect for them) but when I make the conscious decision to do so, I see so much knowing there. They have already learned so many of the hard life lessons. The future looks bright people. I’m telling you, if you find yourself stuck in a certain perspective, ask a teenager what they think. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.