Now obviously this knowledge is not easy to realize. So what's the problem? Why can't we just sit down, close our eyes and ask ourselves what would make me happy?
We begin learning from a very early age what to do to please people, how to act, how not to act and what to say or not say. We begin covering up what we really feel. When toddlers begin speaking and adults are amazed at their truthfulness, we claim "out of the mouths of babes" and find it so adorable. But if we speak the truth as we get older we might hear our words are rude, insulting or just not acceptable. Now, some of this teaching is reasonable and certainly necessary in order not to hurt others but this is also when we begin creating the mask that will ultimately hide our true feelings and beliefs. By the time we reach adulthood, the mask is pretty solid.
After treating so many patients searching for reasons why they are so depressed, anxious or just dissatisfied with their lives, one emotion consistently surfaces. Shame.
Psychoanalyst Erik Erickson contributed to the field of psychology with his accepted developmental theory that humans encounter eight psychosocial stages throughout our lifetime. All eight stages are important and if not experienced in a healthy manner many adult issues could result.
The stage I want to concentrate on for the purpose of this blog is the Second Stage titled Autonomy vs Shame and Self Doubt. This stage occurs between 2-3 years of age. This is the stage when a child is beginning to develop independence. He/she is starting to perform basic actions on their own and making simple decisions about what they prefer. If parents allow their kids to make choices and gain control, they can help their children develop a sense of autonomy. Toilet training is very important during this time when a child learns to control his bodily functions which leads to a feeling of control and a sense of independence. Children who successfully complete this stage feel secure and confident while those who do not are left with a sense of inadequacy and self doubt.
During EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) I help my clients return to memories of their childhood to reprocess events during such stages and repair whatever was left unresolved or "frozen" from possible traumas their experienced influencing their adult behavior. Helping them remove the blocks they developed during earlier stages allows them to get in touch with their authentic selves.