In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 28-29, 2012) entitled, What’s Wrong With The Teenage Mind?, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Alison Gopnik ascribes much of the troubles modern teenagers have in coping with the world to the teenager’s brain. Ms. Gopnik attempts to understand teenage behavior by way of localized pathways in the brain such as “reward centers” and ” control systems” that underlie certain behavioral functions.
That the brain is involved with the teenager’s behavior or that the interaction between the teenager with the environment is important in the kind of behavior that is exhibited goes without saying. These statements about the brain are insufficient to explain the erratic, dysfunctional behavior of many teenagers today.
What is left unsaid is the effect that the dramatic changes that have occurred with the transformation of Western society from authoritarian to anti-authoritarian and the mechanistic-mystical world view that accompanies it has had on the lives of everyone, including and especially teenagers. The breakup of the past authoritarian social order and its underpinning, the authoritarian family based on sexual repression, has been replaced by a social order that is even more inimical to life than its predecessor. To make matters worse, all that was painstakingly gained in psychiatry in the past, including the knowledge of human psycho-sexual development (the disturbances in which account for much of what is troubling teenagers today) has been completely thrown out in the practice of psychiatry.
In fact, the practice of psychiatry today has regressed to where it was over 100 years ago when the subjective workings of the mind was equated in a one-to-one fashion with the objective operation of localized brain functions. Modern psychiatry is as far away from understanding the problems of teenagers as it was then. Meanwhile, thanks to our anti-authoritarian social order, the level of social pathology manifested by everyone including teenagers has escalated to a far greater extent compared to where it was then. These social developments can only be understood as a direct manifestation of higher levels of emotional plague activity in today’s world.