Last week, I began what seems to be turning into a BodyMindSpirit series, which is in turn being fed by clients and by some of you, who drop me a line. So, let me paint you a theory, and then get down to it.
The Boomer Generation, I sense, is fuelling part of the crunch, as they have fuelled pretty much everything else has since the 60's. (I know there are tons of you out there, reading Into the Centre and belonging to one of the "younger" generations. Please, bear with me. I know you're sick of the Boomers, and I understand, even though I am one.)
The Boomers are the first generation in history to dictate the way the world works. It's a numbers thing.
So, what's been happening is "the generation-izing" of entitlement. For the Boomers, the status quo has never been acceptable. The Boomers drove, and continue to drive the economy. You can see it in advertising. And in medical research. I mean, "Botox?" Imagine if, 20 years ago, someone had written, "Soon, people will be injecting botulism into their faces to look younger." Or take "Depends." Fashionable incontinence underwear. I wonder what people leaked into before the Boomers "came of that age?"
Anyway, the Boomer theory goes like this: "The Boomers are not satisfied with the status quo. What was considered normal for our parents, (like ageing) is now considered to be 'the enemy.'"
Again, take Viagra. So far, the profit is 1 billion. Because the Boomers "invented" impotence? Nope. Because the Boomers refused to settle for limp noodles.
Of course, since this is Into the Centre, there will be a paradox. The paradox is this: despite the "me, me-ness" of the Boomers, the stuff being invented or thought about or discussed or posited is valuable. What it isn't, is selfless. (I had a doctor tell me once that drug companies aren't in business to make money, but rather to help people. Right. On the other hand, all drugs, including the profitable ones, do help people.) So, the paradox: boomers are self-concededly demanding the marketplace cater to their desires - yet what is invented to cater to them is also valuable.
Now, the other side of the other side of the paradox, (Hmm. A three-sided paradox…) is that dependence on drugs as "solutions" is a two-edged sword. Take Paxil and Prozac. Both are what I call "lifestyle" drugs. Both are meant to take away "depression and anxiety," which seem to be rampant in Western Society. This, despite the fact that researchers agree that only 6 % of the population have actual brain chemical imbalances. The pills "cover over" the symptoms of helplessness and anxiety that comes from confronting both our mortality and our disappointments.
So, rather than deal with the anxiety at its root, as we discuss here, the Boomers have pushed for something that will make the bad feelings go away. As we always have. In the 60's it was pot. Since the 60's we've taken over the drug industry, and have come up with "legal pot." One little pill, and reality fades into the background.
I gained a new client this past week, a 16-year-old with major anxiety and anger, all bottled in by prescription drugs. Prior to this, she self-medicated with "downers" such as alcohol and painkillers. (Get it??) At 16, she already has an ulcer. We (the Boomers) taught her to do this.
Now, interestingly, one downside to Paxil and Prozac is a fairly high incidence of decreased libido, up to and including impotence. Many, then, are the men who take both Paxil and Viagra. One to get up without dealing with the issues, one to get up, period. Needless to say, a woman's version of Viagra is being developed.
We'll loop back to sex in a minute. Let's shift to work for a moment, which replaces sex for many as their principal turn-on. Money and power have been co-mantras for Boomers, and this has certainly filtered down through the generations that followed. This weird focus is captured in the 80's bumper sticker, "The man with the most toys when he dies, wins." Problem is, many are actually dying early.
Some die decades before their bodies.
I thought this was captured quite well in a brief e-mail I received this week:
Gad, but you really do get confused about dates and time when you don't work! I don't think that I have ever been truly cognizant as to "time" while I was working. You got up on Monday, you came home, you worked till Friday and behold! You had a weekend! That "special" time that was almost a "holy," something that we had dreamed about for a whole week. Forty hours we gave up to dream about Friday. Forty hours of our lives clock, ticking, and ticking and we dream about Friday!
How incredibly sad that our life passage is judged from Monday till Friday! How weird, that all of us, across all nations, spend our lives waiting for "Friday." Or the "great weekend" which turns out to be - in reality - just a day that we don't go to "work" but still a day where we "work." We cut grass, we "re-do" the house, we invite friends over for dinner and "work" to make an enjoyable evening - instead of letting life absorb us and enrich us and take us past "work." We "work" as we get ready on Sunday to go back to the office to tell everyone what "a great weekend" we had. But that is yet another type of "work." Make it sound good, or "we" sound unfulfilled, in some sad way, we feel bad. Funny how we make life turn out, isn't it??
This, of course, is not a paean to joblessness. This is a paean to seeking meaningfulness, in the face of the angst of dying. I wrote about this a while back and quoted Efran, Lukens & Lukins, in Language, Structure and Change, as quoting Maturana, "Life is a purposeless drift." To which I added, "but not a meaningless one."
How many Boomers have realized they can't have everything, and have "settled" for endless hours at work? This choice, which is socially acceptable and even encouraged, means life is measured in dollars, promotions or "visibility."
I was doing some corporate training this past week, dealing with a group of managers. I asked them, before we meet again, to take a couple of 20-minute periods to go to their workplace and simply sit and see with "soft eyes." Their norm is to see with critical, micro-managing eyes. I was not suggesting one over the other. I was adding in the skill of seeing the bigger picture, without attributing meaning to it. (Again, see Language, Structure and Change.
One guy called and wondered if I could do this with him, as he'd tried it and lasted 10 seconds before he'd created a list of 32 things that were "wrong." He wants to step out of the loop, and doesn't know how.
Life, as we've made it.
Back to sex. Boomers like to think they invented sex. They didn't. But hey, keep the illusion. They did create "free love," and that's the result of the pill. Women have claimed their orgasms and re-claimed their bodies. Tantra and other exotic sexual practices have become mainstream. And yet.
I've been working with a couple that are going to separate. He's been into control for a long time, and she has had enough. He came in to get me to persuade her to stay in the marriage (not my job) and she just wanted to talk. Both mentioned that sex had dwindled to nothing some years ago. They blamed an illness he has. As I'm into studying and talking about sexuality, this interested me. I mentioned andropause, which, of course has been around forever, but has now flowered (and gained the name andropause) because of, wait for it, the Boomers.
Testosterone decreases in males, and when it drops too far, all sorts of symptoms arise: depression, fatigue, irritability, reduced libido, aches & pains, sweating and flushing and decreased sexual performance or erectile dysfunction. Clinics are sprouting up everywhere. (To read more about this, do a web search on andropause.
Now, men have been dealing with this for ages, and it was simply assumed that, as you got older, sexual desire waned. (Of course, when it waned for the man, the woman was supposedly also "out of luck." Patriarchy looms its ugly head…) Now, tests are available for testosterone deficiency, and hormone replacement therapy can bridge the gap.
My client was tested, and was "way low." Two weeks of pills and poof!, up he arises. They spent the weekend bonking. After a seven-year dry spell. Seven years. Why? Because men are shy about going to their doctors and talking about it. So, he protected his ego, and she agreed to go along. Finally, she woke up. As did he, but only when she threatened to leave.
She's still leaving, and laughed when I said she'd discovered that, in her middle age, she is still "horny and wanting to get laid." She's decided to look after herself for a change. And he will have his job, his pension plan, and "happiness one day, when I retire."
I'm beginning to look at affiliating with a clinic in Toronto that deals with andropause, as it "fit" three clients out of 13 sessions this past week. This low-grade lethargy and depression has been termed the "male mid-life crisis" for decades, and precipitated divorcing "the wife" and marrying a cute young thing, or buying a sports car. Now, thanks to Boomer curiosity, there may be another way.
All of this stuff, above, is just a bit of a rant. I want to continue to explore how life might be lived with satisfaction and peace and joy and also passionately, erotically and sexually. The legacy of the Boomers, for the later generations, is an openness, a willingness to talk (for some people…) and a willingness not to settle for the status quo. For good and for ill, this is the way of the 21st century.
Again, we suggest exploring life (whatever your age) with a qualified and "tuned in" psychotherapist. Use Body and Breath work to come back into your body - to begin to feel again. Stop letting "that's just the way it is" keep you from wholeness. Press the limits of what you are capable of, at work, at home, in your interior moments. If your partner is distracted, unwilling, uninterested or just stuck, do it for yourself.
Maybe it's time to get over ourselves and our resistance to being human. Maybe its time to find a better path. And maybe that path is part modern science and part mysticism and part Bodywork. I know this for sure. Leaving "well enough alone" ain't gonna cut it.
After all, we're a long time dead.