Those of you who have had more than one child will know that children are born with individual personalities. Part of that is genetic and what affects them in the womb. Human children are born totally dependent on their parents.
Over the next 18 months, however, when children stop breast feeding, learn to walk and begin to talk, they begin to reject being totally dependent on the parents and begin their journey to independence.
Between 18 months to seven years old children begin to ignore their parents and they become more involved in their own exploration of the world. The best thing a parent can do is encourage this to happen but be there for them when they need you.
From seven years old to puberty children really begin to model the influences of those around them. If a parent or the environment is inconsistent, the child learns that there is no need to be particularly committed to anything. They can also develop feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Constant positive re-enforcement, by carers and teachers, of the child’s ability to create their own experience is vital.
From puberty until the early twenties it is essential to teach young people that their actions create the outcomes they desire and their inactions will make their lives difficult.
Youngsters who are left on their own, with guardians who ignore them or do not guide them carefully, will likely have developmental difficulties negotiating life and society.
Child-bearing years require a personality to mature and provide for their offspring. That requires parents to think before they act, rather than act before they think, which is what teenagers often do. From the early twenties onwards, impulse control needs to be operating in the personality in order for you to be able to carefully achieve your goals and build security in your life.
The problem for many people, however, is that parents, society and the industrial machine infantalises young people to keep them controlled.
Parents can be over-protective. School systems often treat teenagers like small children until they are 18 when biologically they became adults at puberty. The industrial machine wants robot workers who do what they are told, not what they want or may need to do to become fully independent adults.
The difficulty this causes for many people – and perhaps this is you – is that you are having problems being an adult when you still have a child or teenage-like dependent personality that remains dependent on others, instead of creating your own life experiences.
This dependence may even transfer to eating disorders, drugs and alcohol problems, useless consumerism or simply not being able to make a living and feed, house and take care of your family.
So, you can end up a child in an adult’s body. Sure, you look and sound like an adult but you live in chaos, never quite reaching the goals you say you want, with others often thinking you are irresponsible.
The only way to a stable and happy life as an adult is to take responsibility for your life experience.
It’s not about being rich or poor but about managing well within the environment and circumstances in which you live and positively taking responsibly to make that life work well, maintaining and improving its quality on a day-to-day basis.
If you are living as a child in an adult’s body it’s time to get professional help to mature your personality.
And you may need to change the habits of a lifetime and be prepared to learn a new way to live your life.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist (PACFA College of Psychotherapy), Counsellor, PACFA Registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath practicing in Sydney and works with people to help mature their personalities.