Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why You Feel What You Feel-Childhood Developmental Stages

Information from Future Talent Conference Video by Dr. Alan Watson

1. The Physical Self. At about one year a baby sees himself in the mirror and knows it's him. He moves his arm and knows it's his arm, he bites his toe and it hurts so he knows it's his. He now has his own identity. But what if we were neglected and/or abused physically? Arrested development

2. The Emotional Self develops around 2 or 3 years. The child thinks if they are hungry you are too. So when it sees candy in the store it can't understand why it doesn't get it and cries. They look at you baffled. But what if our emotions are denied ("that didn't hurt!") or taken advantage of, such as by teasing ("only babies and sissies cry!")

3. The Conceptual Self starting at 9 months but really between 3 and 6 years. Language is the driver as it introduces us to conceptual thinking, this means that. A child learns approximately 6 new words a day that's 180 words every month. But what if we are taught to have a poor self concept? ("I am bad, unworthy, useless garbage")

4. The Concrete Self approximately between 6 and 9 years. You start to learn the social rules and roles-discovering the concepts. Cat goes meow, dog goes woof. We play rules to learn social roles. Doctor, Cowboy, Etc. Most people don't get beyond this stage. I'll be the CEO, and you be the accountant, "This is how we play the game at this company, these are the rules". We're living stereotypes! But what if there are no rules, or roles are vague (your best friend today, your worst abuser tomorrow).

5. The Transpersonal Self around 9 to 14 years arises and allows us to think, understand, and live in the abstract. Now we question the rules, roles, and authority figures. The teenager says to his parents ”You say be honest but you aren't honest!" A battle breaks out, but it's just a stage so don't try to repress it, try and manage it. We're living in the matrix as drones, slaves, and employees living out the rules and roles unless...

It often takes a great challenge or tragedy (hitting bottom) as we are forced to deeply question unfair or unrealistic roles and rules to break out of them. We are forced out of our comfort zone. This is the heroes journey. We now wonder where is our purpose and meaning in life. The main thing is to take ownership of our lives. No more victim! No more buts! This is the real game-changer and where real and substantial development can occur.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Child Like Qualities

Look up "child-like qualities" and you find a treasure trove of wonderful characteristics, many of which are listed below. Unfortunately for many of us, most of them are left behind in our youth due to conformity to the educational system and the stresses of growing up, often in dysfunctional homes, as well as adult life.

Yet these attributes are such a delight to us at any age that we in recovery try to live the adage "It's never too late to have a happy childhood".  We take the time to laugh and cry, play and pray, and to dance and sing no matter what our age is. Scan the list and pick some that have special meaning for you.

How can you realize these in your day to day life? Perhaps a toy or two (or twenty or thirty!) you can get for yourself you always wanted as a child you can at least see if not play with from time to time. Some folks have boxes full of toys, shelves full of sidewalk chalk, closets full of costumes, and garages full of bicycles that they share with friends at retreats, picnics, and parties. Go for it! It's your turn!

Curious, Creative, Imaginative, Excited, Adventurous, Exploration, Interested, Energetic, Passionate, Confident, Trusting, Innovative, Joyful, Loving, Fully Alive, Happy, Wonder, Amazement, Authenticity, Honesty, Observant, Present, Persistent, Open Minded, Open Hearted, Emotional, Innocent, Generous, Content, Daring, Playful, Optimistic, Cheerful 

“Adults are just outdated children.”  Dr. Seuss

“There is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than how it treats its (inner) children.”  Nelson Mandela

“(We) Children are likely to live up to what (we) you believe of (ourselves) them.”  — Lady Bird Johnson

 “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, we forget that he is someone today.”  Stacia Tauscher, 

“Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.”  Jess Lair, author

Children are natural zen masters; their world is brand new in each and every moment. –John Bradshaw

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso
The soul is healed by being (with) children. ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything. – Giacomo Leopardi

Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. – Walt Streightiff

Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged. – Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The True Self

Let's start at the beginning. We were born absolutely perfect, a perfect example of the magic and miracle that is life. Think of the opening scene in the Lion King when all the animals come to pride rock and cheer the arrival of Simba. Rafiki then lifts Simba up for all to see and they kneel in reverence. This moment is mirrored in the movie Roots when Omoro lifts his son Kunta Kinte up to the heavens and says: "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!"

This is also where many relationships start out, romantic and otherwise. We see them as perfect, as an angel sent to save us from loneliness and misery. We can't stop thinking about them, and fantasize a blissful future with this ideal image. Unfortunately we are due for a fall from grace. For children and  relationships we eventually find the honeymoon is over.

For babies this fall from grace may start at the moment when are born with a slap on the butt. If not, hunger, pain, and other suffering are soon to come. The same goes for relationships, not physical hunger, but in many other ways. This is life, completely normal and natural, and if we are fortunate we have caring, kind, and compassionate people in our lives to help us through.

The problem is many of us do not. We may experience neglect or abuse at the hands of others physically, mentally, sexually, and spiritually. We then adopt coping mechanisms and survival skills to deal with difficult people and situations. Commonly we will adopt fight, flight, or freeze responses to deal with threats. These may serve us well at the time, but become a hindrance from intimacy (love and belonging) in later years and other relationships.

We then "Armor up" as Brene Brown teaches, as we put on masks that hide our soft and vulnerable hearts, and a false self comes forward to live through us. The effects can be devastating as our Inner Child, Loving Higher Power, and Loving Inner Parent are locked away deep in our hearts and minds. Think of a child locked in their room, the basement, the closet, or the attic for years to get a feel for the gravity of the situation.

The natural curiosity, authenticity, exuberance, love, emotionality, playfulness, and joy may be ignored or even hammered down. If this sounds foreign to you, thank God. But for many this is reality, and becomes so normal they don't even know there is another way to live. This may go on for years, decades, or a lifetime. Many have lost touch with their feelings so much, they haven't laughed or cried for years.

It would be easy to think we need to be rid of our wounded inner child, critical inner parent, and condemning Higher Power, but these too are part of us, and so shouldn't be cut off and thrown away. Rather the wounded inner child needs to be taken into a loving embrace and held until pains and fears subside. This takes time too, a lifetime of caring for this lost and frightened part of ourselves.

Likewise, the critical inner parent may have some good advice for us, just as overbearing parents do, but express it in negative and hurtful ways. It's like a bus, as every seat holds two passengers. So our Loving and critical inner parent can "sit" side by side and converse, but the loving side is in control and keeps the critical side at bay. The worst situation is to let the critical parent drive the bus!

The same goes for our Higher Power, except this one, the loving one, should be in the drivers seat. In reality it is hard to imagine God as being jealous and punishing, as often portrayed. Nature just is, and so Higher Power. The sun shines, the rain falls, and the seasons pass, and not to reward or punish anyone. Considering the benevolent conditions we have enjoyed on earth for thousands of years it seems much has been given us to be thankful for.

So what is the True Self? For this to be a full and complete life we must take it all in: Wounded and Wonder Child, Critical and Loving Inner Parent, and a (perhaps man made) judgmental higher power and Loving Higher Power. And as frosting on the cake we might add human wisdom, music, art and science, wise teachers, and whatever else helps make us whole and keep us sane. As always it is up to you: your journey, your life, your healing, and your True Self.

P.S. For a longer, more in depth exploration of the True Self please click here

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Personality Traits and States

 "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" Socrates
Why study the self? Because, as Socrates states, it is how we come to wisdom concerning ourselves. Why is wisdom important? This is because focus and attention lead to understanding, wisdom, and transformation. We then may be able to respond to our world from wisdom rather than habitual reaction from past conditioning, as the roots of our ideas, beliefs, and opinions, are all too often buried in our subconscious from years past.

Then, when people or situations push our buttons and yank our chains and we normally respond with anger, resentment, or negativity, we can begin to rewire our minds to perhaps respond with kindness, compassion, and understanding. And not only towards others, but also very importantly, for ourselves as well. 

Meditation has been around for thousands of years to help us take a step back from our apparent selves to observe and contemplate the self from a deeper more thoughtful place. We then may find a peaceful and loving outlook for ourselves and others beyond the spontaneous reactions and habits we find so deeply ingrained. This method is subjective rather than scientific, but still may hold many benefits for us. 

Another subjective, but often enlightening method to "Know thyself" is to look at modern personality models to also see how we tend to think and behave. The key is to learn how we most often respond to others and life so we can find areas in need of attention and transformation. We don't advocate condemning or eliminating our "negative" qualities, but instead embracing and healing them as they have actually helped us survive difficulties through-out our lives.

There are many popular personality tests going around, and if you haven't tried one yet it can be very enlightening. These are not very scientific, for we may have a view of ourselves that is not entirely realistic. Others who know us intimately may give a quite different portrayal, yet anything that gets us started on the road to self knowledge can be helpful. 

Personally, while spending forty three years in corporate culture I was sent to many daylong workshops to determine my habitual personality type and identify other common types. This was actually very helpful over the years knowing how I commonly reacted and how the people I was dealing with saw the world and me. Here is one popular example to consider from Wikipedia:

The Big Five Personality Traits, also known as the five-factor model is a statistical analysis applied to personality survey data through language where aspects of personality become apparent. For example, someone described as conscientious is more likely to be described as "always prepared" rather than "messy". This theory uses descriptors of common language and suggests five broad dimensions commonly used to describe the human personality and psyche. The five factors are:
  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)
  • Honesty (sincere, honest, humble, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming vs. sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, pompous) (Sixth Dimension of Hexaco Model)
There are a number of correlated factors. For example, extraversion is said to include such related qualities as gregariousness, assertiveness, excitement seeking, warmth, activity, and positive emotions .
Family life and the way someone was raised will also affect these traits. Studies and research have shown that about half of the variation between individuals results from their genetics and half from their environments. Researchers have found conscientiousness, extraversion, openness to experience, and neuroticism to be relatively stable from childhood through adulthood.
Another study explored by Gerard Saucier and Fritz Ostendorf explored each domain's facet structure through word studies. Each facet is a specific and unique aspect of a broader personality trait. They found a total of 18 facets, or "subcomponents," of the Big Five.            These are:
  • Neuroticism: Irritability, Insecurity, Emotionality
  • Extraversion: Sociability, Unrestraint, Assertiveness, Activity-Adventurousness
  • Openness to Experience: Intellect, Imagination-Creativity, Perceptiveness
  • Agreeableness: Warmth-Affection, Gentleness, Generosity, Modesty-Humility
  • Conscientiousness: Orderliness, Decisiveness-Consistency, Reliability, Industriousness