chapter  4
21 Pages

As generations speak

Generations, like cultures, create shared rules of engagement. From a psychoanalytic point of view, what has most often been considered meaningful about generational differences is how they reiterate Oedipal struggle. The "portentous domestic encounter" became an explanatory lens through which to understand suffering and civilized life. A phylogenetically inscribed parricidal motive—the universal feature of mental life Freud once referred to as the "shibboleth" of psychoanalysis#8212;is recapitulated as personal destiny and generational conflict. The psychoanalytic account of development suggests that to fit in one must first accept where one don't. Growth demands an acceptance of difference#8212;sexual and generational. Freud had compelling reasons for privileging the Oedipal moment. Generational dialogue is not about how parents and children of any age consciously speak to one another. Nor is it solely about how an isolated individual manages anxieties. Rather, generational dialogue is the process by which shifts in generational relations are mutually negotiated, both consciously and unconsciously.