This Journal entry continues with another of the Parenting series, Part III. I would like to restate my original intention in posting these Journal entries on Parenting. It is this: we must open our Hearts and higher intentions to parenting ourselves, our children, our relationships, and our Globe. Parenting obviously starts with our own biological parents, or our first caregivers. Later on, in the stages of the older adult, we may come to discover, by the forces of Life, that we probably ought to go back and render some due consideration to a re-parenting of our own inner child.
In these Journal entries on Parenting, Parts I, II, and III, I have chosen what I consider to be the most expedient route of recent conscious mind psychological theory to assist our understanding and our conscious efforts in the ongoing exploration of parenting. In this regard, I chose the life work of Erik Erikson, who beautifully explained the stages of growth of the child and the adult as an evolution through 4 stages for the child (up to age 12, or puberty), and through 4 stages for the adult (from teenage years onward to old age).
In the entry “Parenting, Part II” I made reference to the patterns of Learned Distress which are adult behaviors arising out of unmet needs in the 4 stages of the child: infancy, toddler, preschooler, and the school age child. I shall list these patterns again below, because they are so crucial for all to understand. These patterns of Learned Distress continue to play out in the 4 adult stages.
The older 4 stages of life growth for the adult do not have any corollary of such learned Distress patterns as we have for the 4 child stages. The 4 patterns of Learned Distress of the child carry on in the adult stages, and present us all with plenty to consider.
These patterns of Learned Distress represent traumatically held woundings in the consciousness and sub consciousness of the child, and later on, these patterns will persist in the emerging adult. If allowed to persist in the reflexive Heart based consciousness of an adult, the aging adult continues to veer further away from exercising a Heart based consciousness of wholeness, authentic Identity, and the ability to practice and manifest one’s Gifts and passions for the sake of self and others.
When we become consciously conscious (we know that we know, and we want to go deeper into the knowing) of these patterns of Learned Distress in our lives, we can reset an intention to heal these negative aspects of our behavior, thus going about lending a helping hand to our inner child and our child’s 4 stages of self.
If we can discern and compassionately understand the Learned Distress patterns inside of ourselves, and if we are not in denial or active disbelief and active resistance to the same, then we will be able to move through the healing and life growth which will conclude in happier adult stages, a happier family, happier relationships, and a happier world.
The sub conscious aspect of our being is a high speed processor which is said to remember everything, as contrasted with the conscious mind which is much slower and has an accurate memory span of about 30 seconds. The sub consciousness is processing at an estimated 40 billion bits/second, while the conscious mind is moving at a slower comparative of some 2000 bits/second. An example of the difference between the 2 minds may be thought of in terms of the muscle movements required to just speak a word.
An enormous amount of muscle memory must be coordinated by your sub consciousness to allow your belly wall muscles, your diaphragm, your rib cage and lungs, your laryngeal muscles, your mouth, lips, and tongue to fashion an intelligible word which conveys your intent. Such an example goes on all over the field of the body all of the time and requires a high speed processor. The conscious mind simply does not move fast enough to handle the job of coordinating every chemical reaction in the cells of our body, every muscle movement, etc.
Also, the conscious mind is thought to handle up to 5% of our inner world, while the sub conscious mind handles the work horse load of 95% of everything that goes on in our physical bodies and our electromagnetics. I have often thought that it is more like 3% vs. 97%.
The conscious mind can be utilized to understand one’s Learned Distress patterns, and then, if one desires, one can go deeper into the realm of the sub consciousness via a variety of techniques. Such techniques range from meditation to body movement therapies to hypnosis to many energetic healing therapies to guided somatic trauma healing, as examples. One can help heal oneself, even as one also seeks forms of outside help to assist one’s healing journey.
Perhaps 95% of our true motivations, grief, fear, anger, pride, blind spots, agendas, and denials, etc., remain hidden in our sub consciousness. It is often difficult for anyone to bring them to the surface to heal them, especially intentionally unconscious people, who would just rather stay in their narrow viewpoints and comfort zones. Such a stance is simply another way of describing the working mechanics of shadow pride.
Underneath shadow pride is shadow anger. Underneath shadow anger is shadow desire. Underneath shadow desire is shadow fear. And the shadow fear was learned some time ago to cover and conceal our shadow grief. The grief is the trauma, the hurts, the judgments, the things and words we have done that we should not have done, the things and words that were done to us that should not have been done—and—the secrets. Yes, we must close this Grief Box with shadow fear so that no one else will know about what’s in it!
The shadow fear, in turn, begets the higher emotional frequencies of shadow desire, the anger, and then the pride. We use the shadow pride as our facade so that everyone else will think we are OK. It all started with the hurt in the Grief Box. This is a brief explanation of how we use these 5 important emotional tools in the shadow. It is actually rather exhausting to continue this facade. It hurts the Heart electromagnetics, and this Heart electromagnetic chaos is transmitted out into the Field, and to all of the cells of our body.
People underestimate the primacy of held trauma and the mechanics of acted out shadow emotions in the development of chaotic cell growth patterns.
We can choose to learn to use these same emotional tools in their utilitarian form to help protect and heal our lives. I have been over this theme in a number of prior Journal entries, and I suppose I will go over this important healing theme in the future Journal entries.
In regards to our patterns of Learned Distress, which we are acting out every day, we have a clue to the deeper wounding and held trauma. The clue is being open to recognizing our own patterns of Learned Distress. This is why the patterns of Learned Distress are so valuable to anyone who wants to grow, re-parent themselves, and parent their own children and other important relationships more lovingly, with more inspiration and with more authentic leadership.
We cannot heal what we do not acknowledge in our being. And….we cannot give away to others what we do not own.
In the same consideration, one who has acknowledged their Learned Distress and traumas and Grief Box chaos, and has stepped forward to do the real spiritual work of healing; this person is the very one who is most qualified to recognize these patterns in others, and lend others a hand.
Such people are on the path of becoming and being real human beings. They walk a sacred trail, they are OK with stumbles and falls, and they carry an obvious integrity. Furthermore, they are willing to offer and share, which, unfortunately can come with some risk, but they try anyway. To lend a hand is a natural real human being quality.
Of course if someone who is hurting has built up a good “defense” of shadow pride and its requisite shadow anger and fear, then the helping hand and the good intentions and attempts at loving assistance may well be slapped away. That happened to me recently. A memory of the hurt is still present, even though I have forgiven it, and I have wished the family well. My Heart is still open to them since I have defered judging the situation. I understand where the chaos came from. Understanding often leads to non judgment in those who can access higher emotional frequencies, like courage, acceptance, etc.
This kind of phenomenon comes with the territory known as the archetypal Journey of the Wounded Healer. At some point in this Journey, we lose interest in judging others. And so it is.
We are all wounded. At some point in the evolution of our Soul/Spirit, we take on the Journey of Healing. A healer can only impart what it is that the healer owns and knows from their own inner work and practice with others.
A Revisitation with the Patterns of Learned Distress:
I shall list here the 4 groupings of Learned Distress from the 4 Stages of the Child, age from birth to puberty. These patterns of how we act are worth memorizing. This will assist in our efforts to get to know our hurt, and to be able to forgive our hurt. I italicized the negative tensional opposite vs. its positive counterpart. We must understand both tensional opposites of the Stage in order to acheive the Virtue of the Stage.
Stage I, the infant. The virtue is Hope. If mistrust has been imprinted vs. trust, the Learned Distress features displayed in later life are:
- Being dependent or co-dependent
- Hungering for affection
- Pessimistic hopelessness
- Resentful rages when denied
- Problems with love, food, insecurity, and dependency
Stage II, the toddler. The virtue is Willpower. If shame and doubt has been imprinted vs. autonomy, the Learned Distress features displayed in later life are:
- Covert hostility
- Miserliness, pettiness
- Making a show of knowledge (pedantic)
Stage III, the preschooler. The virtue is Purpose. If guilt has been imprinted vs. initiative, the Learned Distress features displayed in later life are:
- Repression of thoughts and emotions
- Isolation from others
- Regression to earlier ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving when under stress
- Fantasizing instead of living in reality
- Sublimating needs instead of meeting them
- Denial instead of accepting reality
Stage IV, the school aged child. The virtue is Competence. If inferiority has been imprinted vs. industry, the Learned Distress features displayed in later life are:
- Anxieties about changing relationships with caregivers
- Anxieties about changing relationships with peers
- Debilitating self-expectations concerning how one should act
- Debilitating expectations about how one should be seen by others
If these 4 groupings of the qualities of Learned Distress remain latently present and unhealed (not evolved, healed, and forgiven out of the memory reflex), then the forward going development of the adult stages will become increasingly encumbered, dysfunctional, and ingrained as greater problem areas of concern.
These earlier qualities of Learned Distress show up in the adult’s personality, and they are easily recognizable by the person’s decisions, actions, and words. When they are not recognized by the individual and by the individual’s peers and intimates, then boundary formation in relationships of importance may become difficult to establish in these relationships.
We might call such non-recognition of our patterns of Learned Distress a type of denial. Actually, we are either consciously unconscious (intentionally unconscious); we know that we don’t know and we want to keep it that way to avoid the requisite growth pains, or, we are unconsciously unconscious. The unconsciously unconscious individual simply does not know that they do not know. This may be considered as a form of ignorance, or just, an unknowing.
For the consciously unconscious and for the unconsciously unconscious, it usually takes a major shake-up, or a life crisis, such as an illness, or an injury, or a great loss, to move the consciousness into openness and into the awakening of desire for further exploration and growth.
Despite such major life events, many will nonetheless choose to remain in their comfort zones, and deny important assistance and obvious need to open up and explore their reason for being guarded, prideful, angry, desirous (never satisfied), fearful, and paralyzed by their grief confusion.
The Grief Box I refer to is actually a Treasure Box, and we should begin to regard it as such. We need to change our attitude about our past hurts and our resultant self image and identity crisis. We need to change our thoughts.
The 4 Stages of Adult Development
The 4 stages of Adult growth and development are briefly listed here. The Virtue to be developed in these Stages is in bold letters, and the important tensional opposites that we must learn are italicized.
Fidelity – Identity vs. Role Confusion – Teenager. Questioning of self. Who am I? How do I fit in? Where am I going in life? Erikson believes that if the parents allow the child to explore, they will discover and integrate at all levels of consciousness with their own identity. However, if the parents continually push him/her to conform to their views, the teen will face identity crisis confusion.
Love – Intimacy vs. Isolation – Young adult. Who do I want to be with or “date?” What am I going to do with my life? Will I settle down? This stage has begun to last longer as young adults choose to stay in school and not settle into a particular relationship or community. Crisis processes often may arise around relationships, family, vocational, and avocational pursuits.
Caring – Generativity vs. Stagnation – Mid-life and the “Mid-life crisis.” We measure accomplishments vs. failures. Am I satisfied or not? We become aware, or not, of the felt need to assist the younger generation. Stagnation is the feeling of not having done anything to help the next generation.
Wisdom – Ego Integrity vs. Despair – Old age. Some handle death (transition to Life after Life) well. Some can be bitter, unhappy, or dissatisfied with what they have accomplished, or failed to accomplish within their lifetime. They reflect on the past, and they arrive at a feeling of satisfaction or despair about the summation of their life’s efforts.
We can now explore these very significant life stages in more detail.
Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescents, 12 to 19 years)
- Psychosocial Crisis: Identity vs. Role Confusion
- Main Question: “Who am I and where am I going?”
- Virtue: Fidelity
- Related Elements in Society: ideology
The adolescent is now concerned with how they appear to others. Ego identity is the accrued confidence that the outer sameness and continuity prepared in the future are matched by the sameness and continuity of one’s meaning for oneself, as evidenced in the promise of a career. The ability to settle on a school or occupational identity is pleasant. In later stages of adolescence, the child develops a sense of sexual identity.
As they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescents ponder the roles they will play in the adult world. Initially, they are likely to experience some role confusion- mixed ideas and feelings about the specific ways in which they will fit into society- and they may experiment with a variety of behaviors and activities (e.g. tinkering with cars, baby-sitting for neighbors, affiliating with certain political or religious groups). Eventually, Erikson proposed, most adolescents achieve a sense of identity regarding who they are and where their lives are headed.
Erikson is credited with coining the term “Identity Crisis.” Each stage that came before and the ones that follow have their own ‘crisis’, but even more so now, for this stage marks the transition from childhood to adulthood.
This turning point in human development seems to be the reconciliation between the person one has come to be and the person society expects one to become. This emerging sense of self will be established by persevering through experiences with anticipations of the future. In relation to the eight life stages as a whole, the fifth stage corresponds to the “crossroads.”
What is unique about the stage of Identity is that it is a special sort of synthesis of earlier stages and a special sort of anticipation of later ones. Youth has a certain unique quality in a person’s life; it is a bridge between childhood and adulthood. Youth is a time of radical changes, such as the body changes accompanying puberty, the ability of the mind to search one’s own intentions and the intentions of others, the suddenly sharpened awareness of the roles society has offered for later life, and the development of a sense of sexual identity.
Adolescents are often confronted by the need to establish boundaries for themselves and to do this in the face of an often potentially hostile world. This is often challenging since commitments are being asked for before particular identity roles have formed. At this point, one is in a state of identity confusion, but society normally makes allowances for youth to find themselves, and this state is called ‘the moratorium’:
The problem of adolescence is one of role confusion—a reluctance to commit which may haunt a person into their mature years. Given the right conditions, which Erikson believed are having enough space and time, (a “psychological moratorium”), a person can then freely experiment and explore. What may emerge is a firm sense of identity, an emotional and deep awareness of who one is.
As in other stages, bio-psycho-social forces are at work. No matter how one has been raised, one’s personal ideologies are now chosen for oneself. Oftentimes, this leads to conflict with adults over religious and political orientations. Another area where teenagers are deciding for themselves is their career choice, and oftentimes parents want to have a decisive say in that role.
If society is too insistent, the teenager will acquiesce to external wishes, effectively forcing him or her to give up on experimentation and, therefore, true self-discovery. Once someone settles on a worldview and vocation, will he or she be able to integrate this aspect of self-definition into a diverse society? According to Erikson, when an adolescent has balanced both perspectives of “What have I got?” and “What am I going to do with it?” he or she has established their identity.
Dependent on this stage is the ego quality of fidelity—the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions and confusions of value systems.
Given that the next stage (Intimacy) is often characterized by marriage, many are tempted to cap off the fifth stage at 20 years of age. However, these age ranges are actually quite fluid, especially for the achievement of identity, since it may take many years to become grounded, to identify the object of one’s fidelity, to feel that one has “come of age.”
Erikson does note that the time of Identity crisis for persons of genius is frequently prolonged. He further notes that in our industrial society, identity formation tends to be long, because it takes us so long to gain the skills needed for adulthood’s tasks in our technological world. Therefore we do not have an exact time span in which to find ourselves. It doesn’t happen automatically at 18 or 21. A very approximate rule of thumb for our society would put the end somewhere in one’s twenties.
Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young Adults, 20 to 45 years)
- Main Question: “Am I loved and wanted?” or “Shall I share my life with someone or live alone?”
- Virtue: Love
- Related Elements in Society: patterns of cooperation (often marriage)
The Intimacy vs. Isolation conflict is emphasized around the ages of 20 to 34. At the start of this stage, identity vs. role confusion is coming to an end, but it still lingers at the foundation of this 6th stage. Young adults are still eager to blend their identities with friends. They want to fit in.
Erikson believed that we are sometimes isolated due to intimacy. We are afraid of rejections such as being turned down or our partners breaking up with us. We are familiar with pain, and to some of us, rejection is painful; our egos cannot bear the pain.
Erikson also proposed that intimacy has a counterpart, called “distantiation,” which is the readiness to distance, or, to isolate, and, if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to our own, and whose territory seems to encroach on the extent of one’s intimate relations.
Once people have established their identities, they are ready to make long-term commitments to others. They become capable of forming intimate, reciprocal relationships and willingly make the sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require. If people cannot form these intimate relationships – perhaps because of their earlier Learned Distress patterns – a sense of isolation may result.
Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Adulthood, 45 to 65 years)
- Psychosocial Crisis: Generativity vs. Stagnation
- Main Question: “Will I produce something of real value?”
- Virtue: Care
- Related Elements in Society: parenting, educating, or other productive social involvement
Generativity is the concern of establishing and guiding the next generation. Socially-valued work and disciplines are expressions of generativity. Simply having or wanting children does not in and of itself achieve generativity.
During middle age the primary developmental task is one of contributing to society and helping to guide future generations. When a person makes a contribution during this period, perhaps by raising a family or working toward the betterment of society, a sense of generativity (productivity and accomplishment) is the result. In contrast, a person who is self-centered and unable or unwilling to help society move forward develops a feeling of stagnation, or, a dissatisfaction with the relative lack of productivity.
Central Tasks of Middle Adulthood
- Express love through more than sexual contacts.
- Maintain healthy life patterns…
- Develop a sense of unity with mate.
- Help growing and grown children to be responsible adults.
- Relinquish central role in lives of grown children.
- Accept children’s mates and friends.
- Create a comfortable home.
- Be proud of accomplishments of self and mate/spouse.
- Reverse roles with aging parents.
- Achieve mature, civic and social responsibility.
- Adjust to physical changes of middle age.
- Use leisure time creatively.
- Love for others
Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Seniors, 65 years onwards)
- Psychosocial Crisis: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
- Main Question: “Have I lived a full life?”
- Virtue: Wisdom
As we grow older and become senior citizens we tend to slow down our productivity and explore life as a retired person. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life. If we see our life as unproductive, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness.
The final developmental task is retrospection: people look back on their lives and accomplishments. They develop feelings of contentment and integrity if they believe that they have led a happy, productive life. They may instead develop a sense of despair if they look back on a life of disappointments and unachieved goals.
Crestone and Beyond
This is a long, but important Journal entry. I suggest that you might take several readings of it, maybe taking some notes for yourself that trigger your consciousness in the learning curve.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of Parenting, Parts I, II, and III is to understand the 4 groupings of Learned Distress, and the Stage of the Inner Child that each grouping is associated with.
Obviously, we want to start with understanding these patterns of behavior in our own self first. This assists us in understanding these patterns in others, and being in a legitimate position to not judge others so quickly, and to help uplift others who need a hand.
If you want a simple and fun study guide, you can check out, or purchase, the movie Scent of a Woman, which was produced in 1992. Al Pacino won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of character Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade. His co-star is Chris O’Donnell, who plays the teenage role of character Charlie Simms.
Lt. Colonel Slade is blind, and also is a dissatisfied, overbearing, and angry individual. He hires high school prep student Charlie to assist him as an escort for a weekend in NYC, a “little tour of pleasures” for the hopeless elder, who admits “I’m not bad…..I’m rotten!”
We might describe Charlie’s character as being “naive.” In reality, Charlie is a teenager who is suddenly slammed by Slade to come to grips with the tensional opposites of this Stage of young adult life. These tensional opposites are Identity vs. Role Confusion. They must be lived and grappled with by Charlie before he can fully own the virtue of this developmental stage which is Fidelity.
As the story progresses, we get to see Charlie exercising Fidelity in several manners: to himself, to his mischievous and ill-acheiving classmates, to his whole school, and ultimately to Lt. Col. Slade. Charlie actually saves Slade’s life by putting his own life on the line. During the climax of the movie, Slade announces Charlie’s Fidelity as integrity, a quality of his soul.
The character Frank Slade is “too damn old” and we see his accumulated life dysfunction continually reenacted throughout the movie. He is in the Stage of middle adulthood, and he is wasting his life and gifts; gifts which Charlie can see, enjoys, and points out.
In the end, in the production’s most dramatic scene, Slade comes forward with a riveting proclamation to an entire auditorium of assembled prep school adolescents and their faculty. The Lt. Colonel enlightens the younger generation, there assembled, as to some of his own character development issues at this stage in his life. He has struggled in the movie with the tensional opposites of Generativity vs. Stagnation, and he emerges with the virtue of Care.
Slade also comes forward successfully with some of the Central Tasks of Middle Adulthood listed above. As the movie ends, we leave Lt. Col. Frank Slade poised for the potential of further positive life growth.
The story is a delightful drama filled with life growth and character development of 2 men who are at different stages in their lives, and are men who obviously carry significantly different wounds and resultant self images.
It is almost as if the writers and producers of this movie were putting Erik Erikson’s entire theories on social evolution on the big screen.
I hope that you will reread this Journal, maybe take a few notes, and I hope you check out the movie.
Signing off from Crestone and Beyond.