Despite how much impact our childhood experiences and upbringing have, is it possible to change the effects?
Can you think of an experience as a child that has stayed with you since, and often is a foundation to how you perceive other situations and experiences? It could be positive or negative but hold that thought.
The sensitive and critical periods often spoken about in developmental psychology or childhood studies explain, in a very brief overview, that our experiences between birth and 5 or 6 years can essentially shape the way you think and behave. There are various studies, with various different schools of thoughts, and it makes an interesting read. You can find out more here, and here. There are also some opinions which suggest that actually there is nothing uniquely important about this period, and it could be equivalent to any experiences had later on in life which result in the person, being the way that they are, in adulthood.
However, we don’t want to get too tied up in the science here, we want to focus on the now and figuring out whether or not the past has actually influenced us. Whether our upbringing and our childhood experiences influence the decisions we make, the way we behave, the people we seek comfort in, the activities we participate in, or the way we react to certain situations. Majority of us may be able to respond with a “yes” or “no” answer, some of us might be thinking “sometimes” and the rest are probably thinking “I have no idea. How am I supposed to know something like that?”
The truth is, it might be impossible to have the actual, factual answer for that. Our personalities and our functionalities are beautifully complex, and humans have spent centuries and centuries trying to figure out the why’s to human behaviour. There are many theories such as modelling, social learning, hereditary factors, as well as many spiritual ones such as reincarnations.
What’s important for us to know is what can do in the now to empower ourselves, to fully understand what influences us and how we can change for the better, or better recognise who we are and what we do for greater awareness and those around us. We may be unaware of what exactly is behind our behaviour and thoughts, which is why it’s important to be actively aware of our influences – which may or may not be rooted in our childhood, but there is a good chance they are. For example, you may always feel the need to be busy and experience anxiety when alone. You’ve understood this to be a need for productivity and you are a restless person. However, the reality could be that you have always been surrounded by people who are constantly busy, or you were told when not engaging in any kind of activity is a waste of time. Once this has been recognised, you can work towards building better work habits by telling the grown-up version of yourself something different to the narrative you were taught (unintentionally or intentionally) as a child.
Another example would be when experiencing sadness, or worthlessness or experiencing difficulty around trauma, it is common to bully yourself into thinking that you deserve to feel this particular way. When asked why you think you deserve it, you may have some uncertainty of where it all came from. This is the perfect opportunity to think deeply about what is influencing your thoughts and your behaviour to try and figure a way out.
As with anything, it’s always easier said than done and of course, your troubles are not always rooted in childhood experiences, but it could be a contributory factor. However, reflecting on these situations could help us to perceive ourselves, and the world in a different way as well as provide a different filter on how we view our experiences.
Trying this may reveal discomfort and it may even be difficult at first but prepare yourself to accept your influences and change them for the better. If you don’t feel they are negative influences, you may even recognise them in a different way to become a person of great awareness and more importantly, a person with the correct intentions.
Remember the thought we asked you to hold at the beginning? Reflect on how it impacts your life, and whether you can view the experience in a different way to influence you differently. If you were unable to think of a situation, then take some more time to reflect and see if you could come up with something, even if it is simple! We would love to hear your reflections, feel free to email us or comment below!