The problem with Holden’s life and with so many others is that nobody is listening. Parents who turn a deaf ear to their teens have forgotten their own pasts, and by ignoring their own painful childhoods they are missing what are teachable moments. They can make a difference if they look outside themselves to see how they're affecting their children. Connecting demonstrates acceptance, creating a way for their children to fit in on their own.
Holden like many others of his age realized he had no control in life. The life-altering loss of a loved one gave rise to reoccurring thoughts of the trauma, a symptom associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His moods from that point on went from manic to depressed, which were associated with a bipolar disorder.
His mistrust for all phony adults gave rise to paranoid delusions as he saw these faceless unfeeling shallow beings surrounding him, pressuring him to be like them.
At this point Holden could only think of escaping the torture of his life, which led to a suicide attempt, the ultimate cry for help.
Finally he got his parents attention but instead of hugging him they had him committed to a mental hospital where his account of his life prior to his commitment originated.
One way of decreasing Holden’s sense of alienation would have been for his parents to understand him, to see that just because he’s a young confused kid who desperately needs direction it doesn't make his a bad person. He’s only one of countless lonely young souls in transition, searching for a reason to exist, to establish a personal identity to find a way to fit in to an adult world that makes him pay to enter.
The Psychology of Teenage Angst
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) is a timeless story of a disillusioned teen, Holden Caulfield, who struggles with alienation when he tries to fit into the adult world.
Growing up with a strict father and emotionally distraught mother leaves Holden emotionally unattached to his parental role models clouding a vision of the world he is expected to inhabit.
Holden internalizes the perceived rejection and externalizes his anger and frustration in rebellious behavior against authority figures.
This back-and-forth negative emotional pattern manifests into self-sabotage, ending his tenure at a series of expensive prep schools his image conscious father exiled him to.
Beyond feeling guilty and alone, his self-imposed rejections were cries for help, a desperate need for his parents to see him as flesh and blood and not as an invisible being that just takes up space.
Unfortunately, like many other young people, Holden’s cries for help fall on deaf ears leaving him to model the parents behavior in his own life.
His only real emotional family attachments were to his siblings who also ended up vanishing from his life due to their untimely deaths. He felt alone and isolated with nobody to turn to, to relate to, to
Holden was suffering anidentity crisis asking, “Who am I? Where am I going?” The thinking conjured images of his place in a phony image conscious society filled with untrustworthy adults who tried to stop his entrance into their world.
Holden’s transition from the simple thinking of childhood with expectations of being loved to the more complex thoughts of a cold, unfeeling adulthood created confusion, disillusionment leading to depression.
Dealing with his self-imposed depressive state left him alone and isolated. The loss of his beloved sister represented the loss of childhood innocence, which in his mind hadn’t yet been tainted by the world of adults. If he only could “catch her in the field of rye” he might have saved himself from the brink of an nervous breakdown where logic is trumped by emotions washing over a persons ability to see clearly, to discern fact from fiction. In such a state the imagination works overtime embellishing images of worthlessness and self-hatred.
“That's the whole trouble. When you're feeling very depressed, you can't even think.”
- J.D. Salinger, Writer