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.