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 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.