In recent years, as a result of the global pandemic context we have had to go through, we have been assaulted from all directions with more or less sophisticated medical terms. So many of us are already familiar with notions like: radiography, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), pet scan, CT (computed tomography). Although these are all imaging investigations, they are not identical. Each highlights the characteristics of a certain specific area of an organism. In order to have the clearest possible image of what is happening with that organism, it is necessary to certify the information from all these areas.
Making an analogy, it can be said that the CELLULAR project initiated by VAR Association aimed at making a “radiography” of the “organism” composed of the generations y and z “cells” (aged 20-35) in the context of the present- day Romania. The image of this “radiography” is punctual and refers to a group of young people from Iași and Bucharest, exponents of the generations I’ve already mentioned. So the research proposed by VAR strictly analyzes these two groups, from the perspective of their needs, the existential problems they face and the areas of interest they tend to turn to.
As an active observer of this research, I analyzed together with the implementation team some directions that concerned the selection of the group. There was constantly a team work aimed at objectifying the process of the entire project as accurately as possible.
The stages of the research took place on different levels:
2. Selection of objects, stories and therefore the target group
3. Conducting the creative workshops
4. Analysis of the materials provided by the protagonists as a result of the workshops
5. Writing two directions and scripts (Iași and Bucharest)
6. Staging two performances with professional actors from Iași and Bucharest who reflect the characteristics of the generations y and z
The research is the “work in progress” type and it will continue even after the theatrical performances take place, after collecting the impressions of the audience witnessing the cultural events in Iași and Bucharest.
From the very beginning, there was a certain strictness in the selection of the participants, not only according to the criterion of age. The authenticity and coherence of the stories that accompanied the objects “donated” by them were taken into account too. Apart from these aspects, the subjects’ motivation and willingness to participate constantly in this project was aimed throughout its development. Therefore, it wasn’t enough for the “donated” object to be just interesting or its story to be exciting, but the balance tilted towards a set of conditions that the candidates had to fulfill. The “donated” objects were only pretexts for what was to come. They represented symbols that predominantly hid sad stories related to delicate moments in their personal life (breaking up with the loved ones, depressive or melancholic states, accidents, crucial moments). Only to a small extent were the stories characterized by an optimistic and confident note. A group profile has already been created…
Once the two groups from Iași and Bucharest were formed, the creative work sessions coordinated by the teams of specialists within the project began. From the beginning, there could be noticed a difference in the action and dynamics of the two groups, which made the approach different according to the identified needs of each group. Whereas the group from Bucharest was very responsive and active, the one from Iași was characterized by slowness and introspection.
After identifying these particular characteristics, the next activities were chosen according to the needs of each individual group. The extroverted group enjoyed experiences that involved artistic expression challenges based on activities that contributed to the group’s cohesion, the protagonists being given the opportunity to work as a team, being attentive to their needs as well as to the others’. There were drama therapy techniques based on corporality, screening and role, improvisation, drawing, photography, film and collage. The introverted group had sensory experiences that involved individual meditation and introspection. The generation y and z “cells” were already going through the first stage of differentiation.
It was interesting to notice that during the creative workshops’ sessions we identified similar needs for the two groups. Analyzing from the perspective of the needs, stated in Maslow’s pyramid, in both groups the needs on the first two levels (physiological and safety) seemed to be satisfied. The individuals of these generations seem to be interested in a life that offers them experiences of personal development, the material goods being secondary.
The most significant need turned out to be on the third level, the social one, the one which involves the need for love and belonging. It includes the emotional romantic relationships, friendships but also interpersonal relationships, connecting with the fellow and with more or less extended groups. The phenomenon of loneliness was evident in both groups.
It was debated that online socializing is an alternative to combating loneliness and that there is a social pressure to do it. However, it is considered to be an artificial one that in fact does nothing else but distance the individual from his nature as a human being, ending up in exposing false faces of his own person, out of the desire to meet the expectations of potential discussion/relationship partners. Deepening in loneliness is done by adding the “masks” that the society asks for. The more the individual feels burdened by wearing these “masks”, the more doubtful and socially invisible he becomes. One creates his own spectacular but false faces, fact that can gradually bring him emotional problems that alter the mental health, to a lesser or greater extent. Once joining this vicious circle and in order to face reality, the individual can, for sure, become the victim of any kinds of addictions (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sex, psychoactive substances). Being the prisoners of their own addictions that have fear and sadness as a substrate, they can reach pathological thresholds of depression and anxiety.
Analyzing from the perspective of the “Attachment Theory” and the types of attachment identified among the adults who were part of the two groups, most of them have insecure, avoidant, fearful or disorganized attachments.
Based on their stories, the interactions we had and the recorded materials, we identified some of the main causes from their early childhood: neglect, physical and emotional abuse, early separation from the primary attachment figures. It should be mentioned that these generations were bugged by the massive migration of their parents abroad for work, a theme found both in the group from Bucharest and the one from Iași. So in a group characterized by an insecure attachment base, creating trust-based relationships is just a utopia. Exceptions can only confirm the rule. In this context, the feeling of loneliness appears as a natural consequence. It comes from the inability to create long- lasting and high- quality attachment with the others, without having an “internalized world vision model” based on trust. Long- lasting couple relationships are very rare in the two groups and the idea of starting a family and having children does not seem to be a priority.
The result of the workshops was a matrix based on the principles and conditions of achieving a secure attachment by: establishing and limiting a secure environment and space, a predictable structure for conducting the workshops, well-defined time, tolerance, respect and accepting all the authentic manifestations of the protagonists, without judging or criticizing their actions, guided by the rule: “nothing is wrong”. The idea was to create that sense of “unconditional acceptance” that everyone needs in order to feel free to explore and express themselves.
The awareness of the need to be loved, listened to, understood and accepted was prominent in the group from Iași. If I had to translate this need I would say: “I need to express my gender identity freely without being restricted and judged, I need to show the way I am and express myself as long as I have a favorable environment to do it and not a hostile one.”
In both groups there is a desire to break away from the customs, prejudices and traditions of the past and a modern approach to life, based on technology. Fearing the artificial intelligence has not turned out to be at alarming levels, on the contrary it is accepted as an interesting challenge in the vision of these generations. They consider important to know how to adapt to new situations, being ready to face change at any moment. Although the present has proven to be a fragile one in the context of the post-pandemic, the war close to the border and the financial crisis, it is considered to be the most precious moment in life. Most of them emphasize the present, the “here and now,” even though they struggle with their past illusions.
The desire for self-knowledge makes the members of the two groups value personal experiences of any kind more than gathering material goods. Because no one teaches you how to be yourself, the solution is to experiment, look for information, document yourself and day by day build the best version of you. Self-centeredness was evident for both groups.
As an observer of the entire experimental process carried out throughout the whole project, I can conclude that although the two groups from Iași and Bucharest belong to the same generations, they have similar needs, but the way they express them is different. The problem- solving strategies are also different for the same type of problem.
Even if the “radiography” shows a fracture, the hope that the healing cells will help it, is real. In order to increase the chances of healing, they need support, a tolerant society and the courage to access the 4th level of Maslow’s pyramid which involves the need for respect, recognition and self-esteem.
an article by Magda Cernea, psychologist, audiologist, drama therapist