It will be a while until we really understand what fundamental changes have been created by this extraordinary chapter in all of our lives. What is for sure is that we have an anxious generation of teenagers and young people who have had more time than ever before to be introspective, to turn their mole hills into mountains and to be wracked with worry and angst. Never has the generational divide been wider. Extended lockdown has been mixed, in a potent brew, with the toxic introspection of social media, and has led to many young people feeling trapped within their mental space. Over 200 years ago the mystical poet William Blake talked of industrialisation causing ‘mind forged manacles’ that citizens were struggling to escape from. Industrialisation has been replaced with technology, but never has the concept of self-enslavement been more relevant.
Blake’s concerns were that industrialisation was taking away the natural freedoms that each person should have; the cyber revolution has given young people the impression that they are eternally free whilst simultaneously locking them in the prisons of their bedrooms and their egos. Vygotsky said that, ‘It is through others that we become ourselves’ and that this is how young people are socialised and is how they learn. As we emerge fully from lockdown it will be the full socialisation of our young people that will be one of our biggest challenges. We will need to help them to understand themselves, their place in the world and how serving others is a crucial way to beat anxiety. It will be by reintroducing concepts of community, society and service that will help young people escape from their own fears and anxieties; schools will be a crucial part of this challenge. As we bring this year to a close the psychological challenges of this period of time are only just beginning.