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Acquiring a Sense of Guilt

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  • July 22, 2003 /
  • by Stonebriar Counseling Associates /
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As early as age 4 or 5, a child begins to discover what kind of person he or she is. The key characteristic at this stage is the child’s growing capacity to initiate actions, thoughts, and dreams: their personality is centered on the idea “I am what I can imagine I will be.” They can make judgments and initiate plans that, in the past, someone else had to do for them. Within this stage, they can play with toys and create their own world that they could not possibly enact in “real life”.From play, there emerges a sense of comfortability or a coping mechanism of feeling of what they really want to be and can realistically be. In other words, the child discovers what they can do and what they may do. In addition, the child learns to cooperate with other kids. They emulate desirable models like teachers and parents.Note: To be denied the opportunity to develop a sense of discovery of what they can and what they may do could possibly force young children and adolescents to impersonate a variety of role models – some that may serve as poor examples of behavior. The reason: because they lack a genuine commitment to focus on one particular role model. Conversely, parents, peers, and social support play important roles in preventing adolescent/drug abuse.3Therefore, when the child enters into adolescence, the 3Reifman, A (2001). Models of Parenting and Adolescent Drinking.American Psychologist.,56, pp. 170-171identification from what they knew must bridge the division between childhood and adulthood.Since there are so many roles modeled in our society the adolescent may aimlessly search for a role because there was no permanency in his/her past. Hence the “identity crisis.” The opposite of an identity crisis is “being at one with oneself.” The loss of a sense of identity can be expressed in an angry and snobbish hostility toward the roles that were once offered to him/her by family members, church, school. The adolescent will choose to become everything that parents and teachers said was undesirable.Interestingly enough, many adolescents would rather be nobody or somebody bad than to be not – quite somebody. Young people are highly susceptible to negative feelings about themselves. A study of church youth found their number one cry to be the cry of self-hatred. Distress over personal faults (self-criticism) and the lack of self-confidence (personal anxiety) confirm the negative feelings they have. The lower their self-esteem, the more they tend to hate themselves.

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