Why Some People Are Doubtful and Others Are Confident

Have you ever spent time with a person who doubted nearly everything they did or how about a person who is confident in their speech or actions?  What if they grew up in the same household yet there this huge difference between the two of them?  How can this be?

Erik Erikson in his eight stages of psychosocial development explains that between the ages of two and four a child learns either confidence or doubt.  His second stage of development, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, recognizes the importance of the toddler to learn to do things or make choices on his/her own.  Too often, this time is marked by the toddler’s repeated statements of “I do it” or “by myself” as an attempt to gain what little control they can.  It is also marked by temper tantrums that seem to come out of nowhere, or do they?

The Psychology.  A toddler is trying new things such as potty training, putting on their clothes, eating without help from a caregiver or pretending to read a book.  They also like to mimic the behavior and attitude of the caregiver or other siblings in an attempt to learn more or do more on their own.  But if the caregiver insists on doing everything for the child because they take too long or don’t do it the right way, the child learns to doubt their own ability.  The child may choose mismatched clothing but the sense of accomplishment that they did it allows them to gain confidence.  On the other hand if the caregiver reprimands the child, they feel a sense of shame and doubt.

The Child.  As the child grows, this confidence allows them to continue to try new things and even though they may not do it right the first time, they have learned that they can keep working at it and eventually get it right.  If however they develop doubt, they may be fearful of trying new things, insist that others help them, or throw temper tantrums when there is too much control or too little control.  Either way, the child is not capable of controlling him/herself so they enlist the help of others using whatever means necessary including negative.

The Adult.  An adult who has learned to be confident is willing to go after the promotion, be bold when asking someone out on a date, or be comfortable in a room full of strangers.  An adult who has learned to be doubtful questions the logic of even the most basic level of decisions, seeks other domineering people to make decisions for them or is insecure even in parties where they know almost all of the people.  This trail of indecisiveness and insecurity can sometimes cause them to feel shameful unnecessarily even when they have not done anything wrong.

The Cure.  Once a doubtful person recognizes that they do not need to feel shame for their decisions, that they are entitled to make a decision and fail, or that they do not need input or approval from others they can begin to heal.  While an overly controlling caregiver can stifle the growth of a two to four-year old, the now adult child can gain confidence from trying things in a manner different from how they were once trained.  For instance, if the child was told they must match their clothing before leaving the house, the simple exercise of wearing mismatched clothing to the grocery store can become a new foundation.

One more thing to remember is that as a Christian you are not called to live a life of fear but rather a confident life secure in knowing that Jesus is your Savior.  It does not matter what tragedy happened to you as a child during these formative years, what does matter is that you realize you are not bound to a life of doubt and shame but rather a life of freedom and independence.

Watch this YouTube for more information:

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Feel Guilty Over Everything

You have met the guilty type: the person who feels bad over things they have no control over, the person who takes responsibility for other’s mistakes, or the person who can’t seem to rest because there is so much to do.  Yes, you have met this person and they may be staring back at you in the mirror.  Frequently thoughts such as “I should not have”, “I can’t believe I did this”, “I feel so bad”, or “I wish I could” plague their mind as they actually believe that everyone else thinks this way too.  These thoughts often paralyze them into hours or days of inactivity or worse senseless busyness.  But there is a better way.

The third stage of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development is Initiative vs. Guilt which occurs during the delicate years of four to six.  Taking initiative is the ability to formulate a plan, an idea, or a scheme and then begin the process.  It does not necessarily mean completing it however, this is a different stage of development.  Guilt is an emotion where a person feels responsible, takes blame, feels shame or remorse for something that has happened.  Although, it does not necessarily mean that the person committed the action.

The Psychology.  These years are associated with the preschool and kindergarten years for a child when they either learn to take initiative or to feel guilty when they don’t.  During this time, they are very interactive with play usually creating some type of random game or imaginary scenario to reenact.  If a child is allowed the freedom to play their own game or be imaginative without criticism, they learn to take initiative.  If not, they feel guilty because their idea was not good enough or was done the wrong way.

The Child.  As the child progresses, if they have learned to take initiative they will naturally take responsibility in other areas of their life as well.  They will want to learn and become more involved in their own basic care such as learning to cook (easy things), hygiene, academics, and sports.  If they have not learned to take initiative, they may be uncharacteristically shy about trying new things without constant approval from others, they may be afraid to share ideas for fear of criticism, and often refuse any leadership opportunities.

The Adult.  An adult who has learned to take initiative will handle change relatively well with an ability to formulate new plans as needed.  They have learned to manage themselves and maintain a sense of self-control.  However, the adult plagued by thoughts of guilt often takes on too much responsibility to mask their irresponsibility in other areas of their life.  They constantly feel bad for others and try to “help” others even to their own detriment.  Sadly, they are more than willing to subordinate their plans to others because their plan is never good enough.

The Cure.  Recognizing the guilty thoughts and calling it guilt is half of the battle.  The other half is counter-acting the thoughts with truth.  For instance, if a person feels guilty because they got a promotion over a coworker, they need to stop and recognize that they are not responsible for the decision, a manager is.  Moreover, perhaps the reality is that the guilty person, not the coworker, actually works harder and does deserve a promotion.  As long as the guilty person did not jeopardize their coworker’s chance at the promotion, there is nothing to feel guilty over.

The only time God uses guilt is to convict us of a sin.  All of the other times a person feels guilty, they are actually taking on more than their responsibility and risking their health and welfare in the process.  Realizing that Jesus Christ already bore the price for sin and He has already taken on the responsibility, eliminates the need for anyone to take on the sins of others.  Instead, the guilty adult must learn to shed the unnecessary guilt and begin to take initiative for the things they are responsible for handling.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Feel They Never Do Anything Right

“I can’t ever do anything right.”  While this seems to be an overgeneralization and certainly there is some evidence to the contrary, there really are people who do believe that they can’t to do anything right.  Perhaps you are married to someone like this, have a friend who says this frequently, a coworker who complains that nothing they do is ever right or you catch yourself saying those words.  And while arguing the points of the matter is unproductive, what does make sense is trying to understand where such thoughts may be coming from and how they can be changed.

The fourth stage of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development is Industry vs. Inferiority which occurs during the prime school age of six to twelve.  During this time, most learning is root memorization and children have an amazing ability to grasp large quantities of information.  This is why the show, “Are You Smarted Then a Fifth Grader” is so interesting.  Industry is the ability to develop some pride in the work a child does separate and apart from their parents’ expectations.  Inferiority arises when a child has been told the quality of their work is not good enough or they are not capable of doing as well as other children.

The Psychology.  This is a time in a child’s life when they are most likely to try different sports, begin to like one subject over another, develop friendships at school outside of parental involvement, and start to question “why is it this way”.  While they ask the “why” questions now, their ability at this age to reason has not fully developed yet.  If the child feels a sense of accomplishment, believes they are capable of doing a good job, or finds value in their natural abilities then they will develop a sense of industry.  If however the child believes they are inadequate, produce poor quality work, or are weak compared to others then they will develop a sense of inferiority.

The Teenager.  As the child grows into a teenager, the sense of industry propels them to work harder in the areas that they already excel naturally in doing.  They may be excellent basketball players so now they work harder to achieve a goal of a scholarship and take pride in their ability to dunk a ball.  The teenager who develops a sense of inferiority sometimes shuts down and refuses to perform because they believe their work to be inadequate.  Or they do just enough to get by, never really trying to excel at anything because they are afraid of the pending rejection if they fail.

The Adult.  A sense of industry will serve an adult well as they need little micromanagement to accomplish a task.  They are confident in setting goals and while they may not achieve them every time, they still keep on trying and generally enjoy doing some type of work.  A sense of inferiority keeps an adult tangled in a web of fear: if they don’t do a task, they will be rejected by others; if they do a task and it works, it is never good enough; if they do a task and it doesn’t work, they will face rejection again.  So they opt for the easiest way out which is to do nothing and usually end up with jobs that are far beneath their level of ability.

The Cure.  One of the hardest concepts for an inferior feeling adult to grasp is understanding that everyone is unsure about themselves from time to time.  They have so internalized the feelings of inadequacy that they believe others really are better than them because they have more talents, gifts, opportunities, friends, and support.  Ideally, the inferior feeling adult needs to realize that they do have a purpose in life and they do have special talents to match that purpose.

By explaining that God created everyone for a purpose and then equipped them with unique talents to serve that purpose, a person can be transformed from inferior feeling to productive.  Once one area of their life has been transformed, the other areas will follow and the adult will have a new sense of how they fit in the world around them.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Don’t Know Who They Are

Have you ever watched someone struggle with answering a simple open-ended statement such as, “Tell me about yourself”?  They seem to get lost often looking like a deer caught in the headlights and respond with confusion, “Well, what do you mean?”  Or “What do you want to know?”  Occasionally they may even give with overly generic statements that by the end you still have no idea who this person is in front of you.  Their struggle is not because they don’t know how to answer as much as it is because they really don’t know who they are and how they fit in with society.

These adults have not yet mastered Erik Erikson’s fifth psychosocial stage of development called Identity vs. Confusion.  During the years of twelve to eighteen, most teenagers begin the search for who they are in comparison to the other adult and peer influences in their lives.  Around twelve years old, a teen develops the cognitive ability to critical think instead of just rote memorization.  All of the information the teen has learned is now being simulated into their life.  This is why the most frequently asked question by a teen is, “Why did I need to know this for my life” especially when it comes to something they are not interested in such as trigonometry, biochemistry, or metered poetry.

The Psychology.  Developing a sense of identity requires all of the years between twelve and eighteen and cannot be accomplished early.  It is not until the teen has reached past eighteen that a person is able to properly assess whether or not they developed a strong sense of who they are.  Understanding who you are means that you can identify the characteristics, traits, talents, gifts, and interests that distinguish you from the other members of your family or your peers.  Not only can you identify these things but you must also be comfortable and appreciate your uniqueness.  A person who is confused takes on a similar personality to a parent or peer instead of developing their own or they take on a personality designed for them by a parent or peer.  In either case, they do not develop their uniqueness nor take pride in it.

The Never Ending Teen.  A common belief that came out of the 1970’s generation is that a person needs to “find themselves”.  While this is true, it should be done during the teen years and be completed just prior to entering into adulthood, it is not supposed to be a life-long exploration.  The never-ending teen is one who goes to college to have a good time and leaves still having a good time only to move back home when the money runs out usually without any prospect of a career.  They are in a state of confusion as to who they are, what they can contribute, how they fit in, and were they are headed.

The Adult.   Even sadder is an adult who still struggles with these issues twenty or forty years later than they should.  The adult remains confused and frequently blames society, parents, spouse, children, or anyone else for the shortfalls in their life.  This is not to be confused with a mid-life crisis which is entirely different as a person reflects on their life and frequently makes major changes because they are unhappy with the direction they are headed.  Rather, this is a lack of direction from the beginning or a lack of desire to even have a direction.

The Cure.  In order for a person who is confused about their role in life to continue on that journey into adulthood, there must be another person enabling them.  This person makes excuses for them, indulges them, minimizes their behavior, or likes them just the way they are because they are more easily manipulated and controlled.  So to change the confused adult, the adult who is enabling them needs to stop.  Otherwise, the confused adult will have no motivation to change their behavior.  Once this has happened, the confused adult can begin the hard work of figuring out who they really are.

The good part is that God did create everyone for a purpose so the confused adult is not on a pointless journey into never-never-land.  An adult who can identify their special gifts and talents and who knows how to use those gifts and talents contributes well not only to their family but to society.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Become More Self-Absorbed After A Mid-Life Crisis

You can almost mark the date because everything changed.  The person you thought you knew became entirely different and not for the better.  It is almost cliché that with a mid-life crisis comes the impractical sports car, the extramarital affair, late nights at bars, new friends who are twenty years younger, hipper clothes or a dramatic career change.  While you never thought it would happen to you or your spouse, you find yourself in exactly that place.  How did you ever get here?

Erik Erikson defines his seventh psychosocial stage as Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs in the late thirties until the mid-sixties.  This time period in an adult life encompasses the mid-life crisis years which can begin and end anytime in between.  So what is a mid-life crisis?  It is when an adult evaluates where they are in life compared to the dreams and goals they once had for themselves, to the status of others they desire to be more like, and to their potential to leave their mark on the world around them.

The Psychology.  If you see how your contribution to your home, work, church or community adds value to the lives around you, then you will develop generativity.  Generativity is expressed in concern for guiding the next generation, in a desire to leave a positive mark on the world around you, in making a difference in the life of another, in creatively using your gifts and talents for the benefit of others, and in feeling successful regardless of financial status.  If you don’t see how your contribution adds value, then you become stagnate or stuck.

Mid-Life Crisis and Generativity.  Not all mid-life crisis’ need to end in disaster, some are actually for the better and can motivate you to live up to your full potential.  For instance perhaps you are in a profession for which you “fell into” mostly by accident but find yourself dreaming about another profession.  This may just be the time to go back to school and get the degree you have always wanted to be able to work in a profession you are truly gifted to do.  By now as opposed to twenty years ago, you have a better understanding of your capabilities, talents, gifts and purpose in life along with responsibilities, time constraints, and natural limitations.  This combination enables you to be more focused on reasonable goals that are not selfish in nature but add value to the lives around you instead of unrealistic dreams which are totally self-directed.

Mid-Life Crisis and Stagnation.  On the flip side of a mid-life crisis is the potential to become even more self-involved and to alienate others around you.  This mid-life crisis is very different from the one mentioned above however it begins the exact same way.  An evaluation of your life leads to an even greater desire to satisfy all the needs, wants, and desires that you have been putting off.  To justify the behavior, you may find yourself saying, “I deserve it” or “I have given so much to others, it’s time to give to myself”, or “I’m tired of sacrificing for others”.  This is a heart issue more than anything because if you really give out of a desire to show love to someone else, then no strings would be attached including any anticipation of thanks, appreciation, or returning the favor.  In essence, you would expect nothing in return.  If however you give out of a desire for some type of reward be it verbal (a thank-you), physical (touch, hug or sex), emotional (happy feelings or feelings of obligation), or mental (think nice things about you or need to return the favor), then the gift is selfish and manipulative.  This is the seed from which a negative mid-life crisis grows.

The Cure.  Since at the base of a mid-life crisis is the condition of your heart, there is no other cure other than a complete change of heart.  The best and most long-lasting change of a heart is one that is wholly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ.  He turned a murderer of Christians (Saul) into one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived (Paul who wrote thirteen books in the Bible).  He turned a common fisherman (Peter who wrote two books in the Bible) into the rock of the Christian church.  And He turned his half-brother (James who wrote one book in the Bible) who was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection into the leader of the Jerusalem church.

All of these changes have one thing in common; they were all adults who were set in their way of life who through a change of heart with an encounter with Jesus completely changed the direction of their lives.  Their lives then became a symbol of service to thousands of people during while alive and millions of people after their death.  Talk about generativity!

Watch this video for more information. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Struggle With Intimacy

Have you met a person who only allows you to know so much before they push you away for no real reason?  Just when you thought you were getting close, they seem to pull back to the beginning of the relationship refusing to go any deeper.  If you challenge them on it, you will be met with such resistance and denial that in the end you might start to believe you are crazy.  Well, you are not.

Interestingly enough, a person who struggles with intimacy can be married, single, divorced, widowed, have children, have friends, be involved in a church or their community.  They can look like the most involved active fun person to be around but in reality it is all a front to keep you at arms’ length.  Erik Erikson’s sixth psychosocial stage of development is Intimacy vs. Isolation which occurs during the ages of eighteen to mid-thirties.  During this time period a person usually explores the idea of being intimate with another person but marriage is not necessarily an indicator if they have learned true intimacy.

The Psychology.  All of the psychosocial stages naturally build on each other just like steps on a staircase as each positive trait that is reached helps to support the positive outcome of the next.  But in the case of this stage, it is strangely essential that all of the other stages have positive outcomes for a person to reach true intimacy.  Some people do not want a positive outcome, preferring to mistrust another person over trusting them, and instead are more satisfied with isolation instead of intimacy.  The cost of intimacy in this example would mean they have to trust another person and this cost is too high of a price to pay.  So they pull back in any relationship that requires them to trust another person.

True Intimacy.  Intimacy and sex are not the same thing.  Intimacy is when you can be completely transparent before another person in your thoughts, actions, emotions and beliefs.  Even though you may have a fear of rejection, abandonment, shame, guilt, doubt, or insecurity, you are still willing to set the fear aside because intimacy is more valuable than the fear.  Contrary to many beliefs, the ability to give intimacy is not dependent on the other person’s response or character; rather it is dependent on the heart of the person giving it.  Sex is designed to be a reflection of that intimacy, a special act that you reserve only for your most intimate partner.

True Isolation.  In contrast, isolation is the choice to separate, segregate or seclude oneself from others.  Usually this decision is born out of fear from a traumatic experience either they personally encountered or one that they witnessed.  The likely result is that the traumatic experience also created a negative result from the corresponding psychosocial stage thus reinforcing the belief that isolation is preferable to intimacy.  For instance a child who is molested during the psychosocial stage of Initiative vs. Guilt feels guilty for the molestation even though they are not responsible for the act.  This guilt as an adult tells them they are not worthy of intimate relationships and therefore should prefer isolation because it is the safer option.  A person can still get married and have children even when they have chosen isolation over intimacy but the closeness or attachment is never developed.

The Cure.  So how can a person who has chosen isolation learn to be intimate?  They must want it enough to process whatever trauma they experienced or witnessed and be willing to heal from the past.  They cannot do this for another person; rather it must be a choice they make for themselves because they value intimacy over isolation.  A relationship with God is very helpful during this process as learning to be intimate with your Creator is foundational to learning to be intimate with others.  Strangely enough, it is actually easier to be intimate with your Creator over another person because He created you and knows you already.  Thus it requires less work on your part because you are already transparent to Him.

Once the foundation of intimacy has been laid with your Creator, the healing process can begin and intimacy can be learned.  It is quite a relief to live your life with someone for whom you do not have to pretend to be anything but what you.  Again, your willingness to be intimate is not dependent on their response, but rather it is a gift that you freely give.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Age like a Fine Wine and Others Rot

Spend some time in a nursing home and you will come across two very general types of elderly people: ones who are still happy and others who are still miserable.  If you listen to their stories, both sets have had their fair share of life tragedies, health problems, loss of loved ones, wars, disappointments, and successes.  Yet one group walks away with a sense of having lived life well despite all of the tragedies and the other with regret despite any successes.  How can this be?

Erik Erikson defines the last of his eight psychosocial development stage as Integrity vs. Despair which begins around age sixty-five till death.  The outcome of the previous seven stages sets the standard for this last stage in life as a person who has progressed well in previous stages will most likely end well.  When a person ages, their ability to moderate thoughts, feelings and emotions diminishes so good habits that were formed earlier tend to remain such as eating right, exercise and proper rest.  However, if a person’s life was filled with negative habits such as smoking, anxiety, and limited activity these habits tend to become more exaggerated with age.

The Psychology.  The end of a life brings a natural time of reflection especially if you are no longer working or active in an organization.  A sense of “what I do doesn’t matter anymore” sets in as “who I am as a result of what I have done” becomes the stronger reality.  Those who are able to reflect on their life and feel a sense of accomplishment end their life with integrity.  As opposed to those who reflect on their life and feel a sense of failure end their life with despair.

Life with Integrity.  Integrity is the ability to look back on your life and find satisfaction, fulfillment, acceptance of both successes and failures, and pride in a life well lived.  The outcome of integrity is wisdom in having lived life well and with it comes a natural desire to share gained wisdom with younger adults and children.  The elder adult who has gained integrity takes an interest in the lives of their family members, is active in their community or church, has a variety of hobbies they enjoy, is proactive in physically caring for themselves and doesn’t get angry over new limitations due to age, health, and decreased cognitive functions.  Many cultures outside of the U.S.A. value the elderly and esteem them for such gained wisdom and insight in many areas of their life.

Life with Despair.  Despair occurs when you look back on life and find regret, disappointment, wastefulness, and bitterness over missed opportunities.  The outcome of despair can be depression, isolation, disinterest in activities they once enjoyed, avoidance of family, and untreated medical conditions.  The elder adult who despairs tends to focus on the negative outcome of current problems, blames others for their condition and will rework history in their favor.  These individuals often engage in addictive behavior to hide from their despair by abusing prescription medication, alcohol or fantasy living in gambling, excessive TV watching, and overspending money.

The Cure.  Apart from Jesus Christ, there really is no other cure that can take a life ending with despair and transform it to integrity.  Not that all Christians end life with integrity, sadly too many fall into despair as they feel a sense that it is too late for them to do anything or to contribute anything in a meaningful way to others.  It is really not for another person to judge whether or not a life is useful or whether or not it can be used in the future as only God knows the answer to these issues.  Rather as believers we are to continue to be a light to the world until death which can be done either with integrity or with despair.  The choice is yours.

Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development span the entire life of a person highlighting key struggles that each age group meets as they grow older.  At the end of a life, it is clear which path a person has chosen as a lifetime of successfully confronting each stage produces good fruit which age well into a fine wine.  However, if a person produces bad fruit, it is likely to rot.  So which path will you choose towards the end?

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.