There’s an interesting paradox connecting emotions, lack of emotions, and avoiding emotions to recovery. Many of the 23 million people needing treatment for substance abuse each year in America are “millennials”. Millennials are young people between the generations of Generation X and Generation Y, their birth dates span the early ‘80’s to early 2000’s. Called the Peter Pan Generation, among other things, millennials catch a lot of slack for not measuring up to what other people believe is the measurement of adulthood. Indeed many millennials begrudgingly refer to responsibilities as “adulting” and resent the whole notion of it.
Part of the refusal in avoiding responsibility concerns emotion. Though millennials are described as self-involved and self-interested, they are mostly apathetic. Apathetic means to be uninterested, indifferent; having or showing little to no emotion. Nobody, unless they are diagnosably psychotic, is incapable of showing emotion. However, it is easy to confuse those emotions or, in the case of millennials, suppress them. Why do millennials suppress their open expression of emotion? Somehow they believe feeling things just isn’t cool. Instead of feeling, they only feel apathy: the feeling that you get when you try not to feel anything at all.
Emotional suppression usually leads to problems; health problems, spiritual problems, and physical problems. More than likely, emotional suppression will result in emotional explosion or some other manifestation. There could be a coincidence between emotional disregard and substance abuse in the millennial generations. Many millennials turn to binge drinking and recreational drug use to either allow emotional expression or further deny it.
Inherently, there are contradictions to trying to be void of emotions. First and foremost, feelings are unavoidable. Emotions are part of our consciousness and what makes us a unique species as human beings. Whether avoiding good feelings or bad feelings, actively trying to prevent any feeling will result in losing an opportunity to feel other ones.
On a deeper level, most people, including millennials, hide their feelings to avoid getting hurt. Vulnerability is an unspeakable word because it puts us at risk for suffering emotional pain. By controlling our emotions, we feel we can control the world. Each day we are faced with endless probability of risk and hurt. Trying to act like none of it is possible rids of us the one thing millennials especially are striving after in any other way they can: authenticity. When we don’t step up to the flow of life, which includes emotional expression, we do not authentically live it.