Saturday, August 14, 2010

Changes in Attitude

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.Generally speaking, and I am speaking in generalizations, preoccupation with a sense of personal identity came into vogue with Baby Boomers. For the most part, the Great Generation seemed more secure with the presumption of identity than with its pursuit. Having endured the true economic and social hardships of the Depression and then diving headlong into war, for them life was, quite honestly, simpler or at least, more straightforward.

Issues of survival usually preclude examination of the deeper ones related to meaning and purpose, as Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs graphically illustrates. Concern for self-actualization, though not always, tends to follow after more basic needs have been met, and is not the typical company of economic hardship and war. Having said this, it's important to point out that the Great Generation also produced Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, as well as a host of works by reflective thinkers and psychologists.

That's why I say, in general, because there are always exceptions. Nevertheless, the average member of that generation seems to have been able to move into career and family without a great deal of interior discussion about who they were and what they were about. Because of their care and sacrifices, Boomers were free to take a closer look at life and ask questions that appeared superfluous to mom and dad.

I think this was one of the major contributing factors to the generation gap between Boomers and their parents . And this is why I mentioned yesterday that I didn't believe Field of Dreams could have been filmed in 1945. The idea that one had to discover "who" they were and think about relationships that people took for granted was a completely foreign one. Why look for an identity that ought to be self-evident? It wasn't merely a matter of language, it was an entirely different mindset.

Ironically, while Boomers can likely be credited with coining the term "issues" and experiencing them with respect to personal identity, meaning, and purpose, I think Generations X and Y will have an easier time of it than we did. The reason is, they had our parents for grandparents. While we were busy rebelling against the Silent Majority, our children naturally became its students, and just as naturally accepted many of the values held by their grandparents that we were so quick to reject.

As a consequence, to the extent Boomers encounter a generation gap with their children, it may seem oddly familiar. Coping with this turn of events depends on how well we've reconciled ourselves with the worldview of our parents. If we're still fighting old battles, dealing with children could be troublesome. But if we've attained a measure of peace with the older generation, relating to the next one's changes in attitude could turn out to be a whole lot easier.

(GNU Free Documentation image via Wikipedia)
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