Genetics, environmental influences, parenting styles, friends, teachers, schools, and our culture are just some of the major factors that combine in unique ways to determine how a child develops and the adult they will one day become. Our early experiences shape our core belief about ourselves, others and the world. As a consequence, we learn rules to protect our self-belief as it may make us vulnerable. In doing this, we can form dysfunctional behaviours, which then can lead to mental health problems. Some people are also more sensitive to environmental factors, so 'one size does not fit all'.
Understanding this and sharing the knowledge is such an important part of what I do when I support people. A lot of people I speak with don't appreciate the impact their childhood and teenage years (if they are now adults) had on them.
Here is a very high level overview of life stages and how they may impact some people.
Trust and mistrust – happens in the first years of life and is learned from direct contact with the primary caregiver. What we learn at this stage becomes a blueprint for relationships
Autonomy or Shame and Doubt – as a child grows, they explore the world, it is at this point that self confidence or self doubt can be instilled into the intricate belief system of the child. Is impacted by either praise or criticism
Initiative and Guilt – the stage where a child (aged 5) starts to interact with others during play. When initiative is not responded to with positive guidance it can transfer into guilt. If a child’s self esteem is controlled or criticised then they will feel guilty and worried about making decisions or taking initiative as adults
Competence or Inferiority – between the age of 5 and 12 self esteem becomes far more invested in peer groups. It’s a stage where bullying can cause self esteem issues and a point where modesty is learned
Identity and Role Confusion – between the age of 12 to 18 a young person (YP) becomes aware of their identity and the role that will be filled as an adult. It will be affected by all other stages already gone through. At this stage a YP is focused on sense of purpose and sexuality or sexual role. Also body changes can impact here and securing individual identity and awareness of identity. Unfortunately the YP also has to try to choose what they want to do with the rest of their lives at this stage too! If we are confused about ourselves or lacking in self belief it can lead us to become stuck in this stage
Intimacy or Isolation – between the age of 18 and 40 we develop the intimacy or isolation stage. We either progress into relationships outside our family or become stuck in loneliness
Generativity or Stagnation – raising a family and succeeding at work… how productive we are in the society around us
Ego Integrity or Despair – if we see our lives as unproductive or feel like we haven’t achieved our goal we may feel despair or unhappiness (age 65+). We may fear death instead of achieving wisdom
If one stage wasn't completed it will be difficult or impossible to move onto the next stage. These stages create our core beliefs (and value system, plus more of course). Our core beliefs serve as a basis for screening, categorising and interpreting our experiences. For example you might thing 'I'm not good and won't achieve anything' or 'I'm amazing and can achieve what I put my mind to'. These beliefs normally sit outside our awareness and are not often verbalised. Our core belief system comprises of what we think about ourselves, the people around us and the world in general. These core beliefs that are built up over time, our life experiences (see above), genetics, faith, culture etc, become habits or patterns.
If these beliefs are dysfunctional and/or have a negative impact on our life they can be debilitating, make us feel stuck. The good thing is, is that they can be changed or unlearned. It takes effort and time, however with support you can start to rebuild new more helpful core beliefs.
Start to focus more time on self care and self help. If you are feeling stuck, reach out to someone for help. You don't need to remain in that state.
Much Love Jo xxxx