Dealing with Role Conflict

Happiness, Mind

It’s something everyone will probably experience at some point in their life. It is likely that you are currently experiencing it right now. Yet it seems that we hardly ever talk about it.

What is role conflict?

The emotional conflict arising when competing demands are made on an individual in the fulfillment of his or her multiple social roles.

Juggling work and being a parent. Going to college while struggling to work and make money. Doing something with your family versus taking some much needed time to yourself. Spending time with your lover versus making time for friends… With so many things going on in our busy lives, some amount of role conflict is pretty much impossible to avoid.

For me, I have all things listed above: children, work, school, family, friends, a home to take care of, et cetera. Role conflict is probably the biggest stressor of my everyday life. I can accomplish most anything, but trying to take care of them all at once is what makes it so difficult.

So, what to do to avoid and relieve the stress that comes from playing so many different roles in life?

Here are just a few tips and ideas:

(1) Most important of all…. Take care of yourself: mind, body, and spirit.

I cannot take care of anyone else if I don’t take care of myself. Eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep. Use de-stressing techniques like meditation and yoga. Feed the spirit with such things as prayer or communing with nature. Practice being “mindful” in the little moments so as not to find myself caught up in the hectic ongoings of everyday life.

(2) Plan.

It does not have to be a tight schedule to adhere to, but at least a simple list of the days expectations and what needs to be accomplished. And don’t set yourself up for failure by planning too much (probably my biggest pitfall). Be realistic in what you can do in the time you have and be proud of yourself when you are able to do so.

(3) Simplify.

Decrease the amount of “stuff” that we have so I don’t have so much cleaning and caring-for to do. This includes things like decreasing the amount of clothing and other “stuff” that I own. It also means making sure to not take on or plan more than I can handle. For example, I am only taking one college course this semester¬† because I didn’t know if I could handle more than that.

(4) Share.

Talk to your friends and family when you are stressed. That’s what they are there for. And they may be going through the same thing.

(5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Whether it’s getting a babysitter for the night so you can have a break, asking for help with a project at work, or making a chore list for the kids at home. Sometimes any amount of help can make a huge difference.

(6) Be gentle with yourself.

We can only accomplish and do so much. Be proud of successes and learn from mistakes. Let go of what you can’t change or control. And go on.

(7) Always remember to be grateful.

I am a mother, daughter, sister, lover, friend, aunt, niece, nurse, writer, student, child of God (just to name a few). And I am so blessed to be on this Earth with so many roles I get to play. ūüėČ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live to Learn

Mind

I am a lifetime student. We all are.

I would have never thought that back when I was younger and was actually required to go to school. But when I started college years ago, I discovered that I really loved learning. I have a passion for subjects such as the psychological and biological sciences. I love to learn new art forms. I love physical classes such as yoga, aerobics, kickboxing, and dance. As an adult, I’ve taken cooking classes, guitar classes, painting classes, all types of yoga/pilates/aerobics classes. I took ballet for the first time at 19 years old when I enrolled in a beginning adult class. If there is an opportunity for me to show up some place and somebody teach me something, I am all about it.

Twice recently I have had the opportunity to learn new things (and also further my formal education) without any financial cost to me. With the assistance of a grant, I am back in college to finish a psychology degree I started years ago before I became a nurse. To fulfil a sociology requirement of said degree, I’m currently taking a Cultural Anthropology class. A required ethnography project sent me on a search that led me to a Buddhist monastery that has free mediation and Buddhism classes. So, one class that’s helping to further my formal academia, also helped to get me started in another class that’s teaching me about the wonderful practice of meditation and the history of Buddhism. One door opened to another door to another door. And I’m learning such fascinating things!

LEARNING IS SO GOOD FOR YOU IN SO MANY WAYS.

Learning experiences like learning a new language or skill have been proven to increase the size of the brain.

I think this is awesome! One study done by neuroscientist Arthur Kramer showed that just 45 minutes of brain exercise three days a week actually increased the volume of the brain. Brain exercise improves cognition so that one can better plan, multitask, and remember.

And formal education is not required to learn new things and exercise the brain.

You can watch a video to learn origami or teach yourself to sew. You can take up drawing or painting, all on your own. It is all still beneficial to the brain. I do believe, though, that the social interaction that comes from being in an actual classroom setting offers so many opportunities. To meet new people. To have different interactions. For a change of scenery. All of it.

So, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn something new, or if you even have to go out and find those opportunities yourself… DO IT!! Learn to dance. Learn a new art. Further your formal academia. Learn a foreign language. Whatever sounds interesting and fun to you. It is so worth it. It is good for your brain, which is good for your life. And it could end up opening other doors you never even thought of.

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”

~Descartes

11 Things to Remember Every Day

Happiness, Healthy Living, Mind

My own personal list of daily reminders for how to be happy, have peace, and follow my dreams.

(1) I am beautiful.
Inside and out. I was created from stardust and the infinite Universe. I am a unique creation with endles possibilities for happiness.

(2) Listen to and care for my body.
Drink water. Lots of it. Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Do yoga. Be good to my body.

(3) I am loved and loving.
There are so many beautiful souls in this world whom I love and who love me also. The most important of these being the love that I have for myself. I only need to connect to feel this love. Call a friend or family member. Tell my mother I love her. Hug my kids. Do something kind for myself and/or someone else.

(4) Be grateful.
Focus on the good things and give appreciation for them. Give time and energy to those things that bring me joy instead of feeling bad about things I don’t have. Be grateful for all the good in my life and make the best of it.

(5) I am strong.
I have already proven this time and time again throughout my life. Even the fact that I take the time to focus on self improvement, heal past wounds, and consciously focus on my happiness is an immense sign of resilience, bravery, and strength.

(6)  This too shall pass.
To be remembered in times of hardship and also in times of joy. The most painful moments of my life will eventually just be a memory to grow and learn from. Every happy moment will also pass. They are all to be appreciated.

(7)  I am creative.
Give time to my creative outlets. Write a poem or ponder a thought. Draw a picture. Let myself be inspired. Read a book. Visit a museum or some other inspiring place. Go for a run. Play the guitar. Listen to music. Dance. Commune with nature.

(8)  Focus on my dreams and goals.
Both long term and short term. Make a to-do list of the daily tasks and feel the joy of checking them off. Make a list of dreams and long term goals and give attention and energy to it everyday. Enroll in the classes to finish my psychology degree. Practice and study in preparation to obtain yoga instructor certification. Plan that family vacation to Disney or the adults-only trip to South America. Even the smallest effort is still a step towards following my dreams. The more energy and focus I put towards the dreams, the happier I will be.

(9)  I am divine.
Pray and/or meditate. Realign my spirit with and feel my connection to God and Universe. Fill my heart with love and gratitude and then extend it out to the rest of the world.

(10)  Stop judging (myself and others).
No one is “perfect” according to society’s standards, and yet we are all perfect beings. I have the right to be here, just as naturally as the trees and the birds. I have no right to judge someone else’s life. I am not them, so I will¬†never truly know what it is like to be them.

(11)  Smile. Be happy.
No matter what life has in store for me, I decide everyday how I choose to view the world. Make the choice to find the good in life. Make the choice to be happy.

.colorado flowers

(Bouquet of wildflowers picked while hiking in the Colorado mountains. ūüėÄ )

Confessions of A Self-Help Addict

Mind

It’s official. I am a self-help book junkie. It’s kind of a difficult thing to admit because it sounds so cheesy. The stigmata that reading self-help books is a sign of weakness or for those with low self esteem may make it difficult to accept. I can’t help but envision the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley telling himself in the mirror “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” But I can no longer deny my obsession.
I have always loved reading and psychology, so the jump to the self-help genre really wasn’t that much of a leap. I should have known when I instantly fell in love with such inspirational books as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. While these are not quite self-help books, they made me think of life in a different way and see my pursuit of happiness as something that I should be more actively taking part in.

Then there was a book on meditation, and then another book, the Art of Happiness which was written jointly by psychiatrist Howard Cutler and the 14th Dalai Lama. Memoirs by other people pursuing their happiness and facing their demons such as The Last Lecture and The Glass Castle also helped to fuel my fire. I moved on to another book on pertaining to meditation, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. I’ve read The Secret and also Hero, both are by Rhonda Byrne and are part of her series of books that focus on positive thinking and the Law of Attraction. I discovered Deepak Chopra who has several books which also discuss the connection that exists between all things, the great impact of our thoughts on the exterior world, and therefore the importance of positive thinking. One of my most recent favorites is The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book really made me understand that if we truly love ourselves we will have a limitless well of love to share with others also. I just finished Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life by Debra Moffitt, and I am starting The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks.
I think it’s quite obvious that I have an obsession.

I have accepted this fact, though. I am even proud of myself for taking an active part in finding my own peace and happiness by attempting to learn from others. We all have emotional wounds. We all have our own issues to work through. The very term “self-help” implies power and initiative; a person taking responsibility for their own life and happiness and attempting to help themselves. If any person expects to be happy it will take at least some, if not an immense amount, of conscious effort on that person’s part. They do not call it the “pursuit of happiness” because you do nothing and wait for it to happen to you.

I am an altogether inspiration addict. On days when I feel down and slow or just plain depressed, words of beauty and wisdom can touch my heart and remind me that life does not have to be as hard as I sometimes make it or perceive it to be. Simple poetic and philosophical quotes can serve as reminders of how strong and wonderful I am, and be sweet mantras to repeat in my mind as I breathe life into my body.

What effect have all these books and words of inspiration had on my life? Am I a living example of happiness and success? The changes have been monumental, but they are taking place on the inside, which is where all change has to start. I am writing more (alot more). I am healing wounds from years past. I am being better to my body. I am unapologetically making more time for myself and focusing on my health as a whole: mind, body, and spirit. I am more aware of my thoughts and what it is that I’m focusing my time and energy on. I am being more compassionate with myself and loving myself more. I am forgiving and accepting myself on a daily basis, which in turn makes it easier for me to do the same with others. So, I would definitely say that my obsession has atleast been beautifully fruitful.

I will continue along my journey, learning about life and myself and finding the beauty in all of it. I hope to inspire others to do the same. I will not give precedence to the view that attempting to learn about and heal oneself is an act of weakness. On the contrary, it is a great act of bravery. We will all have to heal our own wounds and learn to care for ourselves if we want to find our own peace and happiness.

Maybe someday I’ll even write my own self help-ish¬† book.

                                                                      Steps-to-Self-Help-Motivation-300x292

“Give me love and nurture me today, and I may still be starving and dying tomorrow.

But teach me to love and truly care for myself, and I may flourish for a lifetime and beyond.”

~Sandra Lea

Letting Go of Fear and Worries

Happiness, Mind

The last few weeks have had the potential to be quite stressful. Family obligations, work, bills, kids. All that good stuff. There have been a few times when I felt the stress and worry creeping up on me. When there were issues arising that I ultimately had little or no control over, but that affected me and/or the ones I love. I found myself starting to get that feeling where my mind starts going through all the bad scenarios that could happen and my heart is wrenched in fear. Sometimes stress is good. The fight or flight instinct kicks in and motivates me to get things done. Sometimes, though, stress turns into useless fears and doubt that end up doing way more harm than good.

I’m getting better, though. I’m noticing it more when I start to feel this way. I’m being more gentle and compassionate with myself. I’m realizing that I can only control myself and not the exterior world. I can only do what I can do, and then leave the rest to God and the Universe. It does nothing good for me to worry. There is no reason to allow fear and stress to make me unhappy. That only takes away from life and makes situations worse.

In one particularly recent moment, there was an issue I was stressing about. I felt the stress, then worry, then fear leading up to freak-out mode. And then I caught myself. I spent some time doing the things I could do to help the situation, and then I went on. I stopped worrying and stressing about it. It would have done no good. To worry about it would have only put me in a negative mood, bringing out the worst in me and therefore turning a potentially great day into a horrible day. Instead, I gave myself credit for doing what I could do and admitted to myself that the rest was out of my control. I didn’t worry about it and had a great afternoon with my kids. And the situation turned out fine. It all worked out. I would have spent all that time worrying for nothing. I would have wasted a whole day stressed out and worried about the future. All for nothing.

Most of the things that we find ourselves worrying about will never really happen. Most of the things we worry about, we actually have very little control over. We can only control ourselves, our thinking, our behaviour. We can ultimately only be responsible for our own happiness.

Time and energy are all we really have in this world. I would much rather use mine to focus on positive thinking and things that make me happy rather than waste it uselessly stressing and being afraid of things that will probably never happen. It’s crazy to me now when I think of all the time and energy I’ve wasted on worrying about something. But I’m not going to fret about that, either. That is the past. I cannot change it, and I have no real reason to want to. Instead, I will be grateful for this moment and fill it with all the happiness I can. Because I can.

So, I’m still meditating regularly. Not every day. I’m really just not that organized. Or should I say, to cut myself some well deserved slack in the spirit of compassion and kindness, I have way too busy a life to expect myself to be able to perfectly fit it into a strict daily routine. But I have succeeded in doing it ALMOST daily, which is WONDERFUL for me.

Today, I used some tips from a book on meditation that I have slowly been reading, normally only 5-10 pages right before I meditate to help me learn more and get in the groove. In today’s session I focused on love and kindness. I started with trying to focus on a love for myself. Let’s start by clarifying that I don’t think that I have necessarily have a low self esteem. I believe I normally hold myself in quite high regard, really. If I get down to the truth, I do believe that I am smart, kind, talented, strong, hard working, loving, and trustworthy. But to have these vague ideas of what one thinks of oneself and to actually feel and show genuine love and kindness towards yourself are two completely different things. It is just the same as if you were considering someone else. You may look at another person in your life and think very highly of them, believing them to have many admirable attributes and characteristics that you like. But this does not mean that you truly love that person. As a matter of fact, you may have no special feelings towards this person at all. You may even NOT like them because they DO have so many admirable characteristics that you find it irritating.

When it comes to the people in my life whom I truly love, I can tell you the basic reasons why I love them, such as: they are a good person, they are trustworthy, they are fun and kind and good to me, et cetera. But, really, I love the whole of the person, faults and everything. I not only accept them for who they are, but sometimes their weakness or faults may be part what makes me love them more. It’s like the nuts on an ice cream sundae. It may not be a sweet flavour, and not everyone may like it, but it does add a different taste. And I love it. With my friends and family, I am very good at loving unconditionally, faults and all. I hardly ever really judge their actions, unless forced to by some conflicting situation. I love them for who they are.

I do not really love myself in the same way, though. How I feel about myself at any given moment is not an unwavering, unconditional love. It is a situational thing, based on how “good” I think I’ve been doing in my life. Like I said, I don’t believe that I necessarily have a low self esteem. I do not believe myself unworthy of all that is good. But I have not really loved myself unconditionally, not until today.

Today the part I focused on was internalizing and taking that unconditional love that I so freely give to those most treasured in my life and graciously bestowing it unto myself. I envisioned the love that I feel for my children and took that feeling and focused it on myself, as if I were my own parent, loving myself in the way every child deserves to be loved. I envisioned the love and admiration I have for both of my parents and turned it inwards to myself. I thought of the tender love I have for my significant other, my siblings, and my closest friends. I used these examples and others, basically any thing or person that invokes that feeling of love in me, as models to show myself the same love and kindness. It was such a good, beautiful feeling. Though, admittedly difficult to focus on myself. I would be caught in the moment. And then it would be gone. And I would have to refocus my attention and try again. I did notice, though, that it seemed to get easier through the session, and the feeling seemed to stay with me a little more and a little more. It’s a sweet, warm sensation, loving myself unconditionally, faults and all, without expectation or contrition; just as I am, without feeling any need to change myself at all.

It sounds so simple. But the truth is I’ve never really loved myself this way, not in practice, atleast. I may have thought, or even felt at my deepest inner core, that I loved myself unconditionally and wholly, but the truth is I am always trying to change something about myself. Improve myself, I should say. It’s always to make myself “better”. So, I don’t know that I would call it unhealthy. I realized today, though, that there must be some balance between self improvement and self acceptance. It’s easy for me to find that balance towards others, to want the ones I love to be their best and live their happiest, but to still accept and love them endlessly no matter what. It just never occurred to me that maybe I needed to treat my own heart and soul with that same kind of unconditional love and kindness.

My meditation continued during my session today with me taking the love that I was feeling towards myself and then mentally extending it towards others. Focusing on some person or thing or situation, breathing all my love and good vibes into it through my heart and mind’s eye, and then releasing it and going on to some other subject in need of love from my soul. Or maybe it is my soul that is in need of feeling the joy that comes from giving such love and kindness.

That is the beauty and truth in it. Any psychologist could testify to the good effects of showing love and kindness to yourself and finding a way to truly love oneself unconditionally. That has to be a good thing. But the idea of spending a half hour just sitting cross-legged in your living room sending out good joojoo love vibes to those you think might need it may sound a little far fetched to some. However, I do believe in the energy of the world and that my own personal energy has an effect on it. I do believe in karma. I do believe in prayer. Sending out meditative mental love to the world is something of a combination of all of these things. It is also well known to psychologists that compassion and kindness to others plays a major factor in increasing one’s own happiness. So, even if you believe in none of these other things, the fact remains that unleashing in yourself a feeling of unconditional love towards yourself and then extending that compassion and love to others is going to have a positive effect on your own mental and emotional health.

This is what I learned today. I am so grateful for learning and experiencing it. I hope that I will be able to remember it and practice it more often. And I hope that it helps me to continue to grow, with an open mind and a courageous heart, learning more about myself and the world everyday.

writing

Meditation and Me

Happiness, Meditation

I’ve heard and read many times how good meditation is for you. I’ve done some in my life, but never enough to amount to much. I haven’t done any since having children, even though¬†it could probably be more beneficial to me now than any other time in my life. I read an article the other day that inspired me to start trying it again, though. There were two things the article¬†said that made me decide that this could be good for me right now. The first¬†thing was the fact that¬†one of the benefits of meditation¬†is it helps a person to get to their creative roots, so to say. In this busy, over multi-tasking world we live in, it’s hard to go from work, kids, bills, house, responsibilities, family, work, kids, bills, and on and on to a creative mindset. Taking the time to meditate helps put you back in that state of mind and will hopefully help¬†keep you there¬†most all the time, as opposed to being a¬†wound up robot, just stressed out and working yourself to death.¬† Secondly, you can start small. The main reason I hadn’t really even thought about doing any mediation lately is because it seems I have no time. I have¬†always just kind of figured that a real meditation session should last for at least an hour or so. What I read, though, talked about starting with as little as a few minutes¬†twice a day. Even busy me can manage to fit that into my schedule somewhere.

So, I’ve been meditating for about a week now. I did start very small, five minutes twice a day, adding a couple of minutes to my sessions each day, if I had the time. ¬†At first, I just started with some deep breathing exercises and maybe repeating one of my favorite quotes¬†as a mantra, such as ‚ÄúThe secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times‚ÄĚ by Paulo Coelho or ‚ÄúYou are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars‚ÄĚ by Max Ehrmann.¬†¬† During my first five minute session, I simply repeated the words ‚Äúbeauty‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúlight‚ÄĚ over and over again just because they were the first positive, comforting words that came to my mind. For me, repeating a mantra helps to reinforce positive emotions but also just helps to keep my brain from wandering in every which direction. By the third day, I was doing¬†my first fifteen minute session. ¬†After meditating for three days, I had somehow convinced myself that there was some magical process occurring. That¬†taking the time to sit quietly¬†for¬†five minutes twice a day was somehow making me feel better about life.¬† Imagine my surprise when I realized how hard it¬†can be¬†to sit and meditate for 15 minutes.¬† There were no feelings of complete connectedness with the world around me.¬† It seemed impossible to get my brain to shut up.¬† I tried to focus on a mantra, but my¬†mind kept wandering and random thoughts incessantly¬†crept¬†in. I was reminded¬†of a book¬†I once read that was¬†written by a neuroscientist¬†who had suffered from a stroke. She used something like meditation to help her focus on regenerating and reconnecting the synapses in her brain.¬† While trying to focus on this task, random thoughts would creep into her mind. Instead of trying to ignore these thoughts, she would face them, greet them, focus on them, and then let them go. In this way, she was giving her brain the respect it deserves for being able to carry on so much thought at once.¬†¬†At the same time, though, she was training it that¬†now was not the time so that,¬†using the same patient way that you might use with a child, she was teaching herself to control her thoughts. This is what I attempted to do for my 15 minutes of difficulty focusing. I repeated my mantra, which on this day was simply ‚ÄúI am a child of the universe‚ÄĚ. I envisioned various scenes in my¬†head of my body being connected with mother nature and¬†the universe. Things like the air in my lungs feeding a river that runs from my spine into my organs,¬†giving life to¬†my organs and making them grow plump and healthy, like fresh fruit on a vine. My favorite vision is¬†of me¬†sitting in a beautiful lush field, with soft green grass underneath me, and a big, open, pastel blue sky dotted with billowy cotton clouds. Behind me standing tall, protective, and majestic is a giant oak tree. Strong and sturdy, its leaves are large and green with yellow on their trim in such a way that it makes the tree glow and shine in the setting sun. While this vision did bring me pleasure, and I do relish the memory and idea of it now, I can’t really say that during my meditation it made it any easier for me to focus on the present moment. I can’t even say that my fifteen minutes of meditation necessarily made me feel any better. I may have actually felt worse in some ways, having inadvertently focused on things that bother me during my quiet time. But to say that I got nothing from it would be a lie.¬† If I had to pick one word to express how I felt directly after, I would have to say ‚Äúhope‚ÄĚ or rather something like ‚Äúpre-hope‚ÄĚ, like that moment just before everything starts to get better. The future did not necessarily look bright and easy, filled with nothing but love and happiness. But, it did feel manageable, as though somehow I had already considered and faced everything stressful in my life and was no longer bothered by it. Instead of worrying unnecessarily, I felt like I could take my life and make¬†it better. I didn’t quite have a plan to make everything wonderful, but I was pretty sure I could make one. And then it occurred to me that it was the perfect time for me to go out for a walk. I love to be outdoors. I love the air. I love the sky. I love the feeling of the blood rushing through my body as it moves against gravity. Suddenly, I knew what I needed to do, and I did it. I went for walk on a¬†crisp fall day with beautiful trees and a sultry sky. Then I wrote this journal entry, with all the feeling I had felt during my brief fifteen minute meditation; reminiscing of pastel blue skies and golden, shining giant oak trees of sweet, loving protection. And thinking to myself, there really must be something to this.

I am currently up to about¬†thirty minutes daily, sometimes 15 minutes twice a day, sometimes 30 minutes once during the day, depending on what my schedule is like.¬† I won’t claim to have found any deep inner peace, yet. But I am enjoying it.¬† It makes a lot of sense to me, that it can be very beneficial, to simply take time to sit and listen to your body and let the world fall away.¬† The one thing I have discovered is something that I am now considering an essential truth:

Your mind, body, heart, and¬†spirit. They know what’s most important to you and the secrets of your happiness.¬†And they will share these secrets¬†with you, if you will be still long enough and listen.

Childhood According to Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development

Mind, Parenting

silly pic

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development

Approximate Age

Virtues

Psycho Social Crisis

Significant Relationship

Existential Question

Examples

0‚Äď2 years Hopes Basic Trust vs. Mistrust Mother Can I Trust the World? Feeding, Abandonment
2‚Äď4 years Will Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt Parents Is It Okay To Be Me? Toilet Training, Clothing Themselves
4‚Äď5 years Purpose Initiative vs. Guilt Family Is It Okay For Me To Do, Move and Act? Exploring, Using Tools or Making Art
5‚Äď12 years Competence Industry vs. Inferiority Neighbors, School Can I Make It In The World Of People And Things? School, Sports
13‚Äď19 years Fidelity Identity vs. Role Confusion Peers, Role Model Who Am I? What Can I Be? Social Relationships
20‚Äď39 years Love Intimacy vs. Isolation Friends, Partners Can I Love? Romantic Relationships
40‚Äď64 years Care Generativity vs. Stagnation Household, Workmates Can I Make My Life Count? Work, Parenthood
65-death Wisdom Ego Integrity vs. Despair Mankind, My Kind Is It Okay To Have Been Me? Reflection on Life

I find the mind to be such a fascinating thing.  Our bodies and beings in general are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling miracles.  All of life is a beautiful gift, and for a person, the way we perceive the world around us is everything.  This is why I find psychology amazing.  I believe in endless possibilities through the power of the mind and our inner thoughts. These are the things I love to ponder.  This is what I want to share; the little bits and pieces of ideas, possibilities, and theories.  So, here is just a little piece, a simple well-known theory in the vast ocean of thoughts and ideas on the subject.

I was looking through some of my old psychology notes the other day and came across Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  Looking over this chart made so many thoughts occur to me, primarily when it comes to our children.

The first stage has to do with a baby having his or hers basic physical and emotional needs met.  Whether those needs are met or not will teach a child to either trust or mistrust their environment and the people around them.  If this is the case, it seems to me that this first lesson could affect a person throughout their whole life, for good or for bad.  This means much to me due to the fact that my own baby is at this developmental stage.  Meeting her physical and emotional needs may seem like the most obvious of important jobs there is for me to do for her. Still, knowing that how well I assure her that she can trust these needs to be met may effect how she trusts the world around her for the rest of her life really brings home the importance of what we do for her.

The second and third stages are also ones that are personal to me because this is about the area my son would currently be in, at four years old.  During the second stage, a child is learning the very beginning steps of being able to do things for themselves, such as feeding and dressing themselves and toileting on their own. Even these very simple milestones can provide a basis for a child becoming self sufficient.  Patience and encouragement from parents is very important for a child in this stage.  Encouraging a child to do for themselves will help promote a sense of autonomy, but expecting too much too soon, chastising a child’s failed attempts, or even being over protective and not allowing them to do for themselves can all instill a sense of self doubt and shame.  As a parent, I know that these are all fine lines that are easily crossed, even when a parent has the best of intentions.  Looking at this theory is a good reminder for me to encourage my son to do things for himself, while at the same time being patient and supportive as he learns how.

During Erikson‚Äôs third stage of his theory, a child builds on their feelings of autonomy and self sufficiency and develops a sense of initiative.¬† They start to do more tasks on their own, and their perceived success at these tasks may affect whether they continue to develop a healthy sense of initiative or feel guilt for not being able to complete the tasks.¬† Many times a task is within a child‚Äôs capabilities, such as putting their toys up, fastening their own seat belt, or effectively throwing a ball. Sometimes the task a child wants to complete is not within their capabilities. ¬†I know we have all seen this.¬† My son, for example, is all the time wanting to do things that he can‚Äôt really do; like when he wants to help me carry in the groceries, but the bags are way too heavy for him, or when he wants to ‚Äúhelp‚ÄĚ fold the laundry.¬† Now, the latter is something that he will be able to do with practice, so I encourage him to help and praise him for what he does, even though in reality I‚Äôll have to fold the laundry all over again.¬† There‚Äôs also the times he wants to do something way out of his capabilities, like the other night when he told me he wanted to build a spaceship so we could fly to the moon.¬† This brought a smile to my face because I love listening to his big dreams even if I know there is a pretty good chance he will never do this.¬† Still, I encouraged the idea because I don‚Äôt want to ever make him feel like he‚Äôs incapable of anything or not worthy of the effort.¬† He will know disappointment many times in his life and have plenty of opportunities to fail and feel inadequate.¬† I want him to believe in himself so that he is not afraid to try.

The fourth stage of development continues to build upon the child learning and developing their capabilities and to extend further into their ability to function in the society around them. Erikson viewed these elementary school years as critical in the development of a child’s self confidence.  They should be encouraged to discover and develop their own interests in order to find what they are good at and what they enjoy.  If their attempts are recognized and acknowledged, then they may develop increased self confidence. If they are not allowed to pursue interests, are ridiculed for their attempts or interests, or fail at attempts without further direction or encouragement it may cause them to develop feelings of inferiority.  I agree that this time in a child’s life is very important.  Adolescent years are very difficult. I remember feeling lost and insignificant at times around the ages of 10-13 years old… and beyond into my teenage years, for that matter.  I know that the things that made me feel good about myself and life were simple things like writing, reading, music, and nature.  They are all things that I still love.  I believe that encouraging children to find their own interests will help them to discover who they really are, which will help them to find and keep their own inner happiness.

Figuring out who they are is what his next stage is all about.¬† According to Erikson‚Äôs theory, during these teenage years of approximately 13-19 years old is when a person may be trying to find out who they are and how to fuse that with their role in society.¬† This may cause an ‚ÄúIdentity Crisis‚ÄĚ as they transition from childhood to adulthood.¬† Erikson believed that if a person were given the right amount of time and space to find their place, they may establish a strong sense of self identity and awareness of who they are.

While Erikson‚Äôs stages are meant to span the lifetime, some critiques say that it focuses more on childhood and early adulthood.¬† This may be so, but that is alright with me because these are the parts of his theory that I find the most interesting.¬† I believe that as people, we are amazingly capable of overcoming and even learning from our past, even if it may be filled with pain, tragedy, and/or mistakes.¬† But I also believe this takes work and is easiest accomplished with a good emotional support system.¬† I think that his theory gives credit to the fact that a person who has a difficult childhood may be more likely to have issues throughout the rest of their life.¬† I don‚Äôt think that should be used as an excuse to give up on oneself or someone else, but I do believe it should be remembered.¬† No matter where you are in life, it may not seem so bad if you look at where you started and what you have been through.¬† You may have climbed way more mountains than you give yourself credit for.¬† There is also debate over whether Erikson‚Äôs stages actually happen at these ages and if they actually are sequential.¬† According to Erikson, though, each of these processes occurs throughout the lifetime in one form or another.¬† He emphasizes these ‚Äúphases‚ÄĚ only because these are the times when the conflicts are likely to be the most prominent.¬† In my opinion, our world today is so different, way too complex and changing to simplify these major life stages into approximate ages. I‚Äôm pretty sure I was in my 30s before I really started to have a solid sense of who I am and what is most important to me, and I believe that these concepts are fluid and able to change, as everything does. However, I do believe that Erikson‚Äôs theory works well as a tool to give parents a better idea of what their child‚Äôs needs are, and it also reminds us to look back at where we have come from to help us see why we are where we are today.

References:

(1)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development. Chart also taken from this site.

(2)¬† Erikson, Erik (1956). “The problem of ego identity” (pdf). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association