Having got your attention I apologize for the title. Can I share some thoughts with users of this forum?
In recent years, I have helped a number of young people who were experiencing adjustment problems such as self-image; orientation and relationships; parents and authority. These problems were evidenced by stress and anxiety within families (and a sense of incapacity and developing depression for the young person).
We all know that for some young people, painful experiences and bad memories exert too great an influence on their perception of the world around them and their place within that world. ‘Reality’ is not an objective assessment, it is a personal and often overly negative perception of experiences. Simply put, bottled up memories and associated emotions generate anxiety.
A can of beer always builds pressure when taken from the ‘fridge into a warm kitchen. While human behaviour does not follow the laws of physics, some learned behaviours are equally predictable. If in given circumstances behaviour is predictable, then it can be interrupted and changed. As individuals, we learn to cope for the better from our own experience or, when in difficulty, we can be helped by counselling.
But what of unforeseen events. If our can of beer taken from the ‘fridge is dropped or subjected to a hard knock then when we crack open the top, … ‘Boom’ … beer all over the kitchen.
So it is with bottled up memories and the gradual build of pressure in young people. A new and bad experience within a family, or within a new peer group such as ‘freshers’ at uni, can precipitate an anxiety crisis. Emotional beer is all over the kitchen.
In Japan, there is a culturally unique solution to such problems of young people. Parents can hire a ‘pseudo grandparent’. A trusted empathetic senior citizen, for the young person a complete stranger, sits and listens. Surprise, surprise the process of verbalising, explaining, trying to justify, and possibly reviewing, the experience is itself therapeutic. The pseudo grandparent asks questions, encourages the narrative and at strategic moments summarises, what he or she hears. “Am I understanding you correctly …?” By explaining their situation young people gain a badly needed perspective and a greater depth of understanding.
Young people seem able to speak openly to an empathetic older stranger with a degree of frankness and perhaps more honesty than they can with members of their own family. (I heard, “you’re an old person, you don’t have a sex life so I should explain......”). As a helper, the ‘grandparent’ listens and tries not to judge and may occasionally give advice. The ultimate goal is for the young person to view their ‘reality’ in new ways, to recognize options for the future where previously they felt dead-ended and trapped.
Could this work here? This is no substitute for GPs, SSRIs, and therapy for those with severe problems but when young people, or their parents, become aware of developing anxiety or are faced with a ‘beer explosion’, such a service could be available quickly, at low or nil cost, be timely and possibly of great value. Is this an opportunity for us oldies to help the younger generation? Could you talk frankly to a stranger? Would talking help? What do people think? And what might be included in a code of conduct for such helping relationships?