Many young people had suddenly — around 2013 — embraced three great untruths:
- They came to believe that they were fragile and would be harmed by books, speakers, and words, which they learned were forms of violence.
- They came to believe that their emotions — especially their anxieties — were reliable guides to reality.
- They came to see society as comprised of victims and oppressors — good people and bad people.
Liberals embraced these beliefs more than conservatives. Young liberal women adopted them more than any other group due to their heavier use of social media and their participation in online communities that developed new disempowering ideas. These cognitive distortions then caused them to become more anxious and depressed than other groups.
In CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] you learn to recognize when your ruminations and automatic thinking patterns exemplify one or more of about a dozen “cognitive distortions,” such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, fortune telling, or emotional reasoning. Thinking in these ways causes depression, as well as being a symptom of depression. Breaking out of these painful distortions is a cure for depression.
What Greg [Lukianoff ] saw in 2013 were students justifying the suppression of speech and the punishment of dissent using the exact distortions that Greg had learned to free himself from. Students were saying that an unorthodox speaker on campus would cause severe harm to vulnerable students (catastrophizing); they were using their emotions as proof that a text should be removed from a syllabus (emotional reasoning). Greg hypothesized that if colleges supported the use of these cognitive distortions, rather than teaching students skills of critical thinking (which is basically what CBT is), then this could cause students to become depressed. Greg feared that colleges were performing reverse CBT.
The universities and social media are creating a generation of mentally disabled cry babies. A can’t-do culture is developing.