The Strange Case of The Cranky Young Teenager- Part 2

Posted Aug 25 2017 07:00 AM

By Anand Satheesh

People often think of the senior citizens in our society as the ones who should be being cranky about everything, while the youth should be the ones who are much more carefree. We expect the older people to be the ones who feel weary with life, while the youth should be the ones who are filled with vitality, and approach each day with vigor.

We expect the old people to be complaining with their friends about everything, while the youth should be having fun with their friends and looking to the future. Our image of an old person is the “grumpy old man” or the “cranky old woman”, while we think about youth as being the exact opposite; carefree and craving the future.

However, it seems the exact opposite is true. The senior citizens are the ones who are carefree, and seem to have the most zest for life. They delight in the simplest of pleasures and are enamored by life’s wonders. The senior citizens are the ones who tend to have a perpetual smile on their face, and contrary to the stereotype of the “grumpy old man”, few are ever cranky about anything at all.

On the other hand, go to any high school during lunch break and look at the conversations that take place. All of them involve teenagers being cranky about their lives, complaining about everything with their friends and looking as if they are absolutely done with life. It seems we need to replace our stereotypes of the “grumpy old man” and “cranky old woman”, with the “cranky young teenager.”

The statistics also support this. 94% of teenagers report feeling overwhelmed in their lives. Also, according to the Stress in America Survey, teenagers tend to report higher levels of stress than adults, and experience higher degrees of stress than they themselves believe is healthy. Stress has been shown to be a major cause of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as physical problems, including unhealthy weight gain, and chronic fatigue. All these things have been shown to shorten lifespan as well as quality of life significantly.

A huge cause of all the stress in a teen’s life is the education system. The average teen spends about 38 hours a week on their education. You are considered to be in a full time job when you work 40 hours a week. Teens have the equivalent of a full time job on their backs once they entre high school. This is often a lot for any adult to handle, so how can we expect such a young person to juggle such a commitment.

The greatest affliction our youth face today may not be any physical disease, but rather a life that is literally driving them into the ground. One of the biggest reasons lies with the teens themselves and how they relate to each other. Friends have become almost like psychotherapists. Go to any high school and listen to the conversations that are going on. Almost every single one of them are making some sort of small talk, often complaining about various things, such as grades, teachers, fatigue or anything else.

A psychotherapist is basically someone to whom you go for catharsis; you vent your troubles to achieve something resembling a normal state of mind. There is more to it, but that is the main part of the process. Teenage friendships have become the same thing. They continuously complain about various things, accomplishing little more than vomiting their troubles all over their friends.

Constantly complaining about problems does nothing to solve them. In fact, it only makes the problems bigger, and takes away from your ability to find solutions. You become more problem oriented, rather than solution oriented. Problems only get solved when you talk about solutions and executing those solutions, not by talking about the problem. The problem should only be talked in relation to finding the solution.

Being solution oriented turns problems into opportunities for growth, because in finding a solution, there has to be growth in some way; you have to go somewhere beyond where you were before. If you remain the same, then you won’t be able to tackle the new challenge. You have to evolve in relation to the challenge.

Being problem oriented simply makes problems into burdens, and makes them even less likely to be solved. For example, if I am trying to find my keys after I have lost them, it does not help me to go to my friends, and start complaining about how my keys are lost, and the terrible state in the world and myself which caused me to lose the keys, or even about all the bad people who could have stolen them for whatever reason.

In essence, I talk about everything except the steps to take in finding my keys. That does not help anybody; your friends have no idea where the keys are, and if you are just complaining, they cannot help you find them either. All you have done is released some of your negative feelings about losing the keys without actually finding them.

However, this is exactly what the majority of teenagers are doing today. They may see a bad mark, and they go complain to their friends about why they got that bad mark, and how the teachers are “hard markers”, and a million different things unrelated to how they can get better grades.

Constant complaints drain your energy, and fill you with negativity. Most people have acclimated to this state of negativity within themselves, and they do not think of themselves as being in a particularly bad spot. However, the truth is that you never really know how bad you feel until you get rid of the negative influences in your life, such as nagging complaints, and feel how free you become.

Many also accomplish this catharsis by engaging in drug use and drinking. Statistics show that 78% of teens have drunk alcohol and 81% of teens have been offered with illicit drugs, with 42.5% of teens having tried them. These drugs only do harm to teens, but teens engage in them because they want to escape from all the stresses that life puts on them.

In this process of catharsis, none of the parties involved grow in anyway. All they do is dump their baggage on the other person, while the other person does the same. It is like a potluck where everyone gives each other their trash, and in the end all parties end up with even more trash on their backs; their own and the trash from all the people around them. The friendship is largely aimless in terms of growth, as both parties actually act to keep each other right where they are by using each other as tools for catharsis.

When you stop using catharsis to escape from your problems, and instead develop yourself and focus on the solutions to your problems, you instantly feel so much better about life. There is a sense that you can overcome your challenges. When you are problem oriented, you simply keep your problems as they are. By becoming solution oriented, you eliminate complaints from your life, and also ensure that your problems become opportunities for growth, rather than a burden.

Friendship should not be about catharsis. Friendship is not taking someone from 0 {Feeling like crap} 0.5 {A normal, mediocre state that most people are in}. True friendship is when the relationship between two people takes them from 1 {A good life}, to 2,3,4 or even beyond a 100. A friendship should make both parties involved better in some way than they would be without each other.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” In this, we can find the essence of what it means to be a friend. It means to offer the best of yourself to others, and to encourage them to offer the best of themselves to you, so that you both grow together.

There is no sense of trying to use the other to fill some sick hole you have within yourself. The other is a complete being whom you improve through your love, and vice versa. There is no place for sick catharsis and psychotherapy here. It is about your relationship blooming, and causing your gifts to flower as well.

The friendships between most teenagers are like beggars trying to give money to each other. None of them have much at all to give, and are unwilling to give up whatever real wealth they have, only giving away certain useless things they do not want to keep. Teenage friendships have become like drugs, where the other is used simply to escape one’s troubles, just like a drug is used to escape one’s worries.

True friendship is like two rich men forging a partnership that makes both parties far richer. Both of them have wealth by themselves; it is not like they particularly depend on or need each other. However, the alliance between themselves leads to far greater wealth for both of them. They are not dependent or independent, they are interdependent. It is an overflow; both people are already full of life, but they make each other into something even more through their relationship. Everything they do for each other is an overflow from their full cup of life, not some attempt to get something out of the other.

The first prerequisite for true friendship is that both parties are self-reliant, that they do not need each other for anything. Both of them have their own purpose, and can exist without the other. However, even though they are great without each other, their greatness is increased exponentially when they engage in friendship.

Teenagers need to learn to have friendships like this. This is only possible if they start to engage with each other with the intent of providing real value to each other, not to simply, “hang out”. There needs to be a certain sense of a “deliberate friendship”, where teenagers are very clear about what each person has to offer in their development. This clarity is important as you can only truly improve when you are clear about what you are trying to improve. Every interaction has the aim of providing some sort of growth in both parties.

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