Tag Archives: Identity Crisis

Need For Fame Can Stem From Childhood Trauma

 

 

Our sense of self and true identity is most heavily influenced, according to modern psychodynamic theory, by the quality of our relationship with our primary carer (most frequently the mother) during our first year of life.

Those of us who experienced a poor quality of care during this critical developmental period, such as not having been treated with sensitivity or empathy, not having had our fundamental emotional needs met, or because we were abused or otherwise neglected, are at the greatest risk of developing a poor sense of self-identity in adulthood (i. e. a feeling of not knowing, or being uncertain about, ‘who we really are’).

 

Fame As A Coping Strategy :

Some people attempt to deal with their weak sense of identity by excessive use of drink and drugs, not infrequently leading to addiction.

However, others, to compensate for their feelings of lack of identity, may become addicted to the feelings, emotions and sensations that being famous can induce.

For example, being recognized in the street (although in many ways annoying, or even distressing) can provide an ephemeral sense of identity and temporarily heighten one’s feelings of self-esteem and personal worth.

Similarly, being on stage in front of enraptured, adoring, possibly hysterical fans floods the celebrity’s brain with chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine, providing an almost transcendental ‘buzz’ which no drug, it is said, can accurately recreate.

 

But Who Am I?

However, the problem is that part of being famous frequently involves adopting a persona, or, to use a more clinical expression, false self.

Because it is the false self that is recognized by fans, rather than the real self, identity confusion is intensified; the real self is neglected and remains unknown, increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. The famous person may then become even more out of touch, or dissociated from, who s/he ‘really is’.

Indeed, famous people frequently lament the fact that their fans think they know them but, in reality, have no idea of what they’re really like. In fact, the persona and ‘true self’ may be radically different – the former confident, even swaggering, and the latter, the real self, deeply insecure and emotionally fragile.

 

Effects On Relationships:

The false self / persona may become so dominant (in effect, the famous person may take to ‘hiding behind’ it) that people who knew the famous person before his/her success may no longer ‘recognize’ him/her and become alienated. This can then lead to the breakdown of such relationships, leaving the famous person feeling more vulnerable than ever and more reliant still on unhealthy relationships with ‘hangers on’ who serve only to encourage the development of the false self.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Adult Identity Problems

Our identity (ie how we define ourselves) is based upon our beliefs, values, memories, behaviours and how we go about living our lives in general. It comprises, for example, our likes and dislikes, our religious beliefs / lack of beliefs, our general philosophy of life, our political leanings, our sexual orientation / behaviour, our hobbies and interests etc.

All being well, our identity starts to crystallize between the ages of about 18 and 25 years.

The psychologist, Erikson, suggested that four stages of development need to be traversed if we are successfully to get to this point (ie the point of developing a solid identity). These four stages are as follows:

1) 0 to 1.5 years – TRUST VERSUS MISTRUST

2) 1.5 to 3 years – AUTONOMY VERSUS SHAME/DOUBT

3) 3 to 6 years – INITIATIVE VERSUS GUILT

4) 6 to 18 years – INDUSTRY VERSUS INFERIORITY

If we get through these stages successfully, they form firm foundations upon which our identity can be built. However, if we have problems getting through one or more of the stages, we are likely to develop significant problems with forming a strong identity in our adult lives.

As each stage builds upon the stage preceding it, problems traversing any of the stages leads to further problems traversing later stages.

Let’s now examine examples of problems which might occur at each of the four stages above, thus endangering and undermining the development of our identity:

1) TRUST VERSUS MISTRUST:

Successful completion of this stage allows the infant to perceive the world as essentially safe and to believe s/he can depend on her/his carers.

However, abuse, neglect and/or abandonment can sevely adversely affect how the infant negotiates this phase, as can inconsistent parenting and parental stress that interferes with the parent-infant bonding process.

2) AUTONOMY VERSUS SHAME/DOUBT:

During this stage the infant needs to start developing some autonomy whilst still feeling safe in the world. In other words, s/he needs to start seeing her/himself as a separate entity from her/his patents with her/his own unique will. For example, learning s/he can say ‘no’ or exploring her/his immediate environment on her/his own.

Parents who are over-protective can cause their child problems traversing this stage (ie by stifling their efforts to achieve a degree of ‘separateness’ from the parents).

Also, parents who are too permissive may also prevent their child getting through this stage effectively. For example, if the parents are too permissive the child may not learn to behave in accordance with her/his society’s/culture’s expectations (eg s/he may ‘misbehave’ at nursery school) leading to feelings of shame when members of that society/culture criticise and punish the child for her/his ‘transgressions’.

3) INITIATIVE VERSUS GUILT:

In this phase the child endeavours to develop new skills (eg by helping her/his parents with cooking, gardening etc.).

If, however, the parents are critical, discouraging the child by pointing out every minor error, for example, s/he is likely to lose the confidence necessary to try new things and use initiative, thus preventing the successful completion of this stage.

4) INDUSTRY VERSUS INFERIORITY:

During this stage the young person needs to develop the requisite confidence, skills and abilities which will allow her/him to flourish within her/his particular culture. These include:

– work/career skills

– social skills

– skills necessary to achieve independence

– solid self-esteem

– feeling good/fulfilled in relation to career/life-style

If the young person tries to develop these things, but in a way that the parents do not approve of (eg the parents may criticise the young person for wanting to specialize in the ‘wrong’ academic subjects at school, causing her/him to abandon the subjects s/he finds most interesting) then another obstacle is likely to be placed in her/his path to forming a strong sense of identity.

identity_crisis_psychosocial_moratorium

Effect on Adult Identity.

How the young person develops through these four stages will effect the first adult stage relating to identity, according to Erikson’s theory. Depending on how the first four stages were traversed, the first adult stage the young person enters (which lasts from about the age of eighteen to the age of thirty) may be any of the following four:

1) Identity achieved

ie we have obtained a solid sense of our own identity

2) Psychosocial moratorium :

(see below)

3) Foreclosed:

ie in terms of our identity, we have moved on little since adolescence.

4) Identity confused:

ie our view of our own identity is extremely nebulous and we have no clear idea of ‘who we are’, what we want to do in life or what our values are.

The Psychosocial Moratorium Stage:

Erikson suggested that in order to form a strong identity everyone needs to go through a period of rebellion which he called the psychosocial moratorium stage. This involves questioning the values and beliefs inculcated into us during youth and then breaking away from them, or embracing them, as the case may be. The point is that this allows us to truly ‘own’ our beliefs and values, rather than having them as a consequence of having been conditioned to hold them by authority figures in our youth.

Commitment:

In order to possess a strong identity, Erikson also stressed the importance of being commited to one’s values and beliefs. In other words, one needs to act on them rather than, say, just talk about them.

Resources:

Find Your Identity – self-hypnosis download. Click HERE.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Childhood Trauma: Identity Problems and How to Tackle Them.,

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

One outcome of childhood trauma can frequently be that the person who has suffered it is prone to develop IDENTITY PROBLEMS.

A person’s identity represents their attempt to pin down the essential elements s/he sees (rather than what others see) that make the individual who s/he are. One’s identity develops over time.

Our identity can be helpful to our psychological health (if we see ourselves in largely positive terms) or unhelpful to it (if we see ourselves in largely negative terms). People, especially if suffering from depression, lacking in confidence etc, extremely often view themselves FAR MORE NEGATIVELY THAN WOULD BE OBJECTIVELY WARRANTED; whereas many others (not suffering from mental illness, in many cases) may see themselves in far too glowing terms (this ‘over self-congratulatory’ view adopted by many is thought to have developed to confer evolutionary advantages on those who have it – appearing confident to potential mates, for example – provided, I suppose, it is not absurdly exaggerated).

Aspects of our lives which can affect our identities include:

– our values
– our physical appearance
– our mental/physical health
– our education
– our achievements (or lack, thereof)
– our work (Freud attributed especial importance to this, as he did to sexual fulfilment, the thwarting of which, he proposed, could lead to extreme neurosis)
– our relationships
– our age (please, don’t remind me)
– our financial situation
– our perception of our social status (or lack, again, thereof)

The identity which emerges from such factors is strongly related to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT:

This begins very early in our lives. Ages 4 years to 6 years are thought to be a critical time; TRAUMA during this period is LINKED to the DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY PROBLEMS IN LATER LIFE. From the ages of about 6 years to 12 years, the child normally develops the skills necessary to MANAGE EMOTIONS, a skill strongly linked to identity (eg ‘cool’ versus ‘volatile’); indeed, if TRAUMA INTERFERES WITH THIS PROCESS AN EXTREMELY TEMPESTUOUS ADOLESCENCE CAN FOLLOW).

In ‘normal’ development, adolescents may experiment with various identities and this process gradually leads to the stage in which there is a sense of the identity becoming crystallized. Again, however, individuals affected by trauma will often find this period exceptionally stressful and find that NO CLEAR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY EMERGES – THEIR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY CAN BE CONFUSED AND THEY MAY FEEL THAT THEY ‘DON’T KNOW WHO THEY REALLY ARE’.

CONFUSED IDENTITY IN ADULTHOOD AS A RESULT OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA:

By adulthood, then, those who have experienced childhood trauma will often find that their identity is UNSTABLE and FRAGILE – this will often mean that their attitudes, values and sense of who they are are all prone to wildly fluctuation; these changes are frequently dramatic (eg oscillating between feeling deep love and deep hatred towards the same person; or, sometimes, perhaps, feeling exceptionally important only to shift without warning or obvious trigger into a feeling of despair, self-loathing and worthlessness).

IDENTITIY PROBLEMS AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD):

Identity problems in adulthood are often a symptom of BPD. BPD frequently occurs as a result of childhood trauma and much more about the condition can be discovered in the by clicking here to read my article about it.

DEVELOPING A MORE CONSISTENT AND STRONGER SENSE OF ONE’S IDENTITY:

How can people with identity problems make their sense of identity stronger? One possible place to start this process, which needs to be gradually worked on over time, is for the individual suffering from the crisis in identity to consider the things which are of most importance to him/her in life; identities are largely formed based on these considerations. Prorities in life which people choose to concentrate on, and, which, therefore, contribute to making up their identities include:

– friendships/relationships/family
– academic interests
– career
– creativity (eg painting, writing, acting)
– hobbies
– choice of entertainment (eg musical taste, taste in film/cinema/theatre, favourite kinds of books etc)
– material possessions
– spirituality/religion/atheism/agnosticism
– charity work (eg for homeless, rehabilitation of ex-prisoners, environment, hospice, Amnesty International)
– physical appearance
– financial situation

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list and there may well be other areas that can be added, depending on preferences.

A starting point might be to pick out 3 or 4 areas of interest (this, in itself, reflects identity, and, therefore, can be seen as providing foundational pieces of the jig-saw yet to emerge, as it were) and to concentrate on these at first (other elements can be added later; merely starting the process may lead to other ideas emerging at a later time).

For each of the factors selected, it can then prove of use to set some goals relating to how these areas may be incorporated, or, more fully incorporated, into one’s life (these goals need to be quite specific and achievable; there is little point starting with such challenging goals that they may prove impossible to meet and thus damage morale).

Here are some examples:

– because academic achievement is important to me, I will enrol in a night-school class (investigate and specify appropriate course) and complete the course
– because family and/or friends are important to me I will attend an anger management course
– because creativity is important to me I will set aside two hours a week to write poetry/novel
– because my mental health is important to me I will seek out appropriate counselling and complete the sessios recommended (provided the therapy proves of potential value, of course)

The more the individual is able to incorporate and develop areas such as those listed above, which reflect his/her true values, interests and priorities, the more AUTHENTIC and REWARDING the person’s life is likely to be; the more, too, will the individual’s true and stable sense of self continue to evolve.

RESOURCES :

OVERCOME IDENTITY PROBLEMS MP3. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery