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 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.

Why Some People Never Learn to Trust Others

Have you ever wondered why some people cannot seem to trust anyone?  Maybe you are married to someone who despite all of your positive efforts of encouragement still struggles with being able to trust you.  Maybe you have a friend who automatically distrusts everyone they come in contact with including supposed safe categories of people such as the police or a pastor.  Or maybe you have a child who mistrusts everything you say.  Regardless of any positive outcomes, they remain steadfast in mistrust.

There are some concepts that psychology does really well and some that it tragically falls short but one that has stood the test of time is Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development.  The first stage from birth to eighteen months is Trust vs. Mistrust and it is the foundational stage upon which all future issues lie.  If a person learns to trust others for feeding, nurturing, comfort, and safety during this time, then they will have an easier time trusting others in the future.  But if they don’t learn to trust, then the foundation has been laid for a lifetime of mistrust.

The Psychology.  Simply put, Erikson concluded that all babies by their nature need to trust someone to care for them as they are incapable of self-care between birth and eighteen months.  During these foundational years, a baby must rely on crying to communicate all needs: food, comfort, pain, nurturing, and safety.  It is the responsibility of the caretaker (hopefully the parent) to meet those needs in a loving manner.  If the infant fails to have his/her needs met then they learn not to trust their caretaker for meeting their basic needs.

The Child.  A child who learns to trust the caretaker to meet the most basic needs now is capable of trusting them even further to meeting his/her wants and desires.  On the other hand, a child who learns to mistrust the caretaker fails to develop any further trust and subsequently has a difficult time attaching to the caretaker.  There is an unnatural distance between the caretaker and the child as neither one engages with the other, it is a distance that only grows as the child grows.  But a child who has learned to trust will naturally run to the caretaker whenever there is trouble and the bond between the two is unmistakable.

The Adult.  As a trusting adult, the evidence of trust will be seen in many relationships but most evident in a marriage relationship.  However, if the adult as a child attached only to the same sex parent, they may struggle with trusting someone of the opposite sex, the same is true in reverse.  More obvious is the adult who never learned to trust anyone as a child, now struggles with trusting friends, family, colleagues, spouse, children, and especially the spouse’s family.

The Cure.  Just because someone grew up in an environment where they learned not to trust anyone, does not mean this must be permanent.  It does mean that it will be a struggle or even an ongoing battle but it can be overcome with hard work, time and energy.  Learning to trust God is one of the best ways to conquer mistrust and while this may seem counter-intuitive, it does work.  In some ways, God is easier to trust than humans because He is not human but supernatural so the old wiring that says people cannot be trusted does not apply.  God also provides a safe environment free from criticism or rejection.  But for some, this is a hard concept to grasp as every fiber in their being tells them that if they cannot trust a caregiver, how can they trust God?  So instead it becomes a leap of faith that is too big or scary.  For the others that take the leap of faith and trust in God, their trust extends slowly to others as time has passed and evidence has been gained that some people can be trusted.

The next time you run across someone who has a hard time trusting others, spend a bit of energy in understanding their perspective and try to see life from their point of view.  You will frequently find some trauma in the early years between birth and eighteen months that justifies their position.  So, don’t give up on them, trust them first and be a light to others who are trying to find their way in a sea of mistrust.

Watch this YouTube 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.