The cult of safetyism dates only to about 2013. That was the start of an era in which it became worryingly common to hear that, on this or that elite campus, speech was being classified as a harmful substance. Today, some of the youngest crop of graduates from those top colleges are overreacting to casual remarks at the office and marching on to Human Resources to file formal complaints. Phrases associated with safetyism — snowflake, trigger warning, safe space — became clichés almost as quickly as fake news did.
As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt point out in their book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, the Right has exaggerated the extent of the problem — most members of the post-Millennial generation sometimes called iGen are perfectly normal and functional human beings. Nevertheless, the shift starting in 2013 was measurable. There are some fragile young people out there, and what they’re suffering from overlaps quite a bit with the symptoms of persistent anxiety or depression. Haidt and Lukianoff have some advice on how to stop your children from becoming as breakable as potato chips.
Advanced snowflake syndrome may be new, but the treatment for it isn’t. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a guide to breaking bad mental habits that the authors wittily trace back to the late-Roman politician Boethius, who faced a problem even worse than an offensive Halloween costume: He was awaiting execution when he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy in his jail cell. …
… The evidence that CBT works is “overwhelming,” the authors say, citing research that shows it as about as effective as Prozac-type drugs for treating anxiety or mild-to-moderate depression, but with more enduring benefits and no side effects. It amounts to locating errors in one’s thinking by running through a checklist of questions. To reduce anxieties, drag them into the light.