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.

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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.

When You Are Parenting Your Parent

There is a strange occurrence in the parent / child relationship when the parent begins to act more like the child and the child (now an adult) begins to act more like the parent.  This can happen at almost any age, even when the child is still a child, but it most definitely happens as the parent ages.  As the adult child, you eventually find yourself reversing roles with your parent and suddenly parenting him or her.

Perhaps your parent is refusing to take medication that would help them, driving when they can no longer see correctly, spending ridiculous amounts of money on late night TV ads, forgetting relatives or close friends, becoming angry for no apparent reason, and alienating themselves from others.  When confronted about their struggles, your parent acts more like a two-year old that has been told “no” then an adult.  Frustrated, you respond in a controlling manner which in turn is met with more frustration from your parent, tempers mount and unnecessary words are exchanged.  But there is a better way and it begins with you.

Honor your parent.  The reason this is one of the Ten Commandments is because this often becomes difficult to do at some point.  Honoring your parents means showing them respect for the years they provided for you, listening to their point of view without condemnation, and lifting them up to a place of high esteem in your household.  The difficulty comes when your parents have not or do not behave in a manner in which deserves honor.  Yet we are commanded to show honor even when they do not deserve it.  This is not about gaining the upper hand or manipulating control, rather it is a change in your heart and attitude as to how you will approach your parent.

Forgive your parent.  Once you decide to have an attitude of honor towards your parent, choosing to forgive them for past behaviors becomes next in the process.  At some point, your parent will no longer be able to clearly communicate, think thoroughly, or positively process the circumstances of their life.  Past hurts can no longer be addressed simply because your parent is unable to fully comprehend all you are saying.  Your choice is to harbor bitterness towards them for past behaviors or to forgive.

Love your parent.  What?  Of course you love your parent but do you love the person that they have become or do you love the person that they once were?  Loving your parent unconditionally means accepting who they have become in light of who they once were and choosing to love them regardless of the outcome.  They may act unloving but you can still make the choice to love them just as you hope that someone will do for you.

Parenting your parent can become difficult but if you remember to honor, forgive and love in spite of the circumstances and their behavior, you will find peace.  While the role reversal may frustrate the old patterns of your relationship, use this opportunity to rebuild your relationship into a healthy one instead of the old dysfunctional patterns.  In the end, you will be the one who benefits from the change in the relationship.

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.