Why do teenagers get so alienated?

pripra197 asks: I’m 14 and for the past few months, I have begun to realize everything wrong about everyone around me, including my parents. Everything wrong about them is suddenly showing and the people I thought were perfect or really nice are suddenly showing all of the really bad parts about themselves. For people that I don’t really care about, it’s ok, but suddenly the people close to me seem like they are not the people I thought they were. And it’s really frustrating. I constantly feel like I’m being bad by judging them, but as much as I try, I can’t control it. All the bad and annoying parts about my dad and my mom are showing through and I sometimes get really mad about what they do and act more annoyed and impatient. They yell at me for it and call me all kind of labels like “she’s so impatient” and “she gets so annoyed so easily” in front of all my relatives. Sometimes I become really sad and just like to stay away from my family. But they have a label for that too. Some of my closest friends have become less close in my heart and it always feels like they need to change but I can’t do anything about it.

Hi pripra197 –

Well, here’s the good news and the bad news.  What you’re going through, every person in the world has experienced, once they’ve been teenagers.  This isn’t just normal, it’s REQUIRED.

It makes sense when you think about it.  It’s essential for young children to be able to trust the world around them.  Part of that includes believing that their parents, their teachers, and anyone else they count on is kind of perfect.  Yes, they might be bothered that one teacher is mean, or that their mom forgot to pick them up at school, but still they will hold onto this general attitude that “I’m safe because I can depend on these great people.”  Then, when humans become adults, they need to have a strong sense of human nature, and the strengths and weaknesses of other adults.  But how does one get from that romanticized extreme to that sophisticated intelligence?

They have to go through being teenagers!

They have to wake up one day and say, “Wait, I disagree with every single thing my dad has ever said!”  They have to think, “Everything that teacher is teaching is a lie!”  They have to think, “All my friends are ugly and shallow and dumb!”

And what this ends up with, and I mean in everybody, is “So I’m all alone, no one’s been through what I’m experiencing, and no one understands me.”

Now on one hand, sure, every life is different.  No one ever has experienced exactly what you have.  But in general, this thing you’re going through – with all its alienation and confusion – is absolutely universal.

There might be other aspects that come with it too.  You might start questioning the religion (or lack of it) you were brought up with.  You might become strongly opposed to the politics of your family or friends.  And you almost certainly will start liking music that your parents can’t stand!

Some adults will think you’re completely nuts, or horrible, because of this.  As far as I can tell, these are very strange humans who’ve forgotten that they went through the same thing!

Some other adults will condescend to you, laughingly smiling “oh pripra197 is just going through a phase!”  Well, sure you’re going through a phase – ALL of life is phases; they’re going through a phase too!

Some others will see this as an opportunity to take advantage of you – to get you to buy drugs or join a gang or give in to them sexually, or at the very least to become something of a jerk.

And some adults will treat your new level of maturity with a great deal of respect.  They’ll know that you won’t always feel the way you do now, but they’ll also know that this is a sign of maturity, of greater intelligence, of depth.  These are the best sorts of grownups for you to hang out with these days.

And yes, of course, there are also dogs who will fit that last category.  Like me!  And others who see your changing and deepening nature, and think “Wow, that’s really cool!”

And yes, in time, your sense of all these people will deepen further, and you’ll be out of this really tough time you’re living in now.

One day, when I was pretty young, Handsome was putting me into his car, and accidentally, he slammed the back door onto my tail.   OWWWWWWWW that hurt!  But more than the hurt, I was absolutely shocked!  He’d always done things only to help or teach me – why would he do this?!  He was horrified too, and checking to see if he’d injured me, hugging and kissing me, saying how sorry he was…   And I looked at him and realized, just as you’ve realized with your parents, that he’s not perfect!  He can make mistakes.  He loves me, he’s always doing what he thinks is best, but sometimes he simply blows it.

I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It changed my whole view of reality.  Today, when I get into his car, I’m always excited, but I also remember to pull my tail out of the way before he shuts that door – just in case he times it wrongly again!

In effect, pripra197, you’re just in the middle of learning to pull your tail out of the door!

I’ll leave you with one very wonderful quote, from the 19th-century humorist Mark Twain (yes, these problems have been around forever):  “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

It’s all going to be fine, pripra197.  It’s just a great adventure you’re embarking on… commonly referred to as The Rest Of Your Life!

Go For It!


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