Should we Blame Boomers for Millennial Trauma?

Do you feel anxious about the state of the world, and misunderstood by older generations? Were you born between the 1980s and the 2000s? You are probably experiencing Millennial Trauma. It’s horrible to feel that nobody gets you, especially when you didn’t ask to be born into such a stressful world. So, if Millennial Trauma isn’t your fault, whose fault is it?

What is Millennial Trauma?

Millennial Trauma, like other forms of Generational Trauma, manifests over time. It can include:

  • Prolonged sadness
  • Feeling burned out
  • Depression
  • Experiencing negative thought patterns and behaviours.

    I see these as the natural and genuine side effects of living in today’s world as a young adult. As you know, Millennials (or Gen Y) grew up in a digital age, with a focus on sensitivity and building awareness of global problems. And coincidentally, Millennials are most directly impacted by those global problems, especially financial instability and climate change. Millennial Trauma is the result of having to be at the frontline, trying to fix problems that were not of their making.

How do Boomers impact Millennial Trauma?

If, like me, you read the news (Twitter) a lot (too much), it feels like there’s a new cancellation, online pile-on or dig at “entitlement” every day. And it seems like the Baby Boomers (those born during the post-WW2 peace period of 1946 to 1964) deliver the most vitriolic attacks.

The Boomer vs Millennial war has stepped up a gear, exacerbated by the spread of generational stereotypes. Whether it’s a viral tweet or dinner table discussion, we’re more likely to remember polarised negative attacks. This skews in our minds an idea that these worst takes are how all Boomers feel.

For example, doomscrolling Millennials will see a Boomer say that they don’t believe Millennial Trauma is a real condition. That’s gonna sting, but it isn’t the whole story. Millennials happily talk about how their problems make them feel. And these are large-scale problems that cannot be solved by one person, or even one generation. Boomers never had the luxury of self-analysis or the internet, and so they literally didn’t know about many other people’s concerns. They sometimes can’t and sometimes won’t process the level of information in a week that Millennials consume before breakfast.

Similarly, it’s easy to think that all Boomers refuse to acknowledge their role in the creation of wealth division, enabling problematic behaviour and climate change.

The truth is that Boomers as individuals are not to blame for such wide-scale issues and are trying to defend themselves against attacks from Millennials using tools made by and for Millennials (like the socials). Although past economies were well, booming, Boomers weren’t without problems, and many of those haven’t been resolved. Plenty of Boomers used ‘benign confrontation’ like marching for nuclear disarmament, fought for racial equality and tried to improve the world for the LGBT community.

Are Boomers the cause?

I believe that blaming another generation for perpetuating Millennial Trauma can be dangerous, as it buys into the idea that Millennial Trauma has simple causes and solutions.

Millennials and Boomers are living on the same planet yet live in a different world and it’s hard for anyone to compare lived experiences. A 40 year old has not lived the same life as someone who’s 23, yet they’re technically both Millennials.
Although Boomers did not cause Millennial Trauma, they can make it worse. However, they rarely deliberately set out to cause Millennials pain. Boomers are also survivors of Generational Trauma, especially in the realms of negligent or bad parenting. And they’re not as equipped as Millennials for dealing with their anxieties by sharing, having felt that they must swallow their sadness and move on.

Questioning rules, oversharing and managing the constant access to other people’s thoughts are all new skills they’re learning. Millennials and Boomers both love communication but do it differently. Boomers feel this is most effective when face to face. Millennials prefer the safety and control of online conversations. Hurt feelings happen as these two different generations speak different languages.

How to lessen Millennial Trauma

It is possible to work through both Millennial Trauma and the Millennial vs Boomer conflict. Here are some tips:

Frame language:

Framing the language used to describe our feelings is an important part of dealing with any trauma. It’s easy to forget that the word Millennial was originally coined as a positive description of the ‘next great generation’. And ‘Okay Boomer feels careless and out of touch, by asking Boomers how they feel.

Find common ground:

Millennials and Boomers can get along better by sharing similar experiences. One key area that they both experience is ageism. Boomers deal with jokes about the onset of senility, while others tell Millennials that they haven’t had enough experience to hold any opinions. Both generations are sensitive when blamed for events outside of their control.

Empathy and Gratitude.

Millennials can imagine that if they had an abundance of opportunities, they’d try to grab them with both hands. Boomers may tell Millennials to ‘get a job’ because that’s what they were told. Millennials no longer have to strive for the Boomer prescriptive objectives – find a job, make money, fall in love, get married, have a kid, buy a large family home. Economic instability and extreme poverty can affect all generations. Although it’s not a level playing field, Millennials have advantages that Boomer never had.

What to do next

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about the future and to think ‘Okay, Boomer’ when an older person makes a dig about a world they don’t understand. However, if you’re suffering from Millennial Trauma you can speak to a therapist.

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