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 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.