According to Erik Erikson, you first began to absorb family teachings about initiative when you were about four or five years old. At that time, you naturally became more assertive and active, and your family’s reactions to the choices you made were important in shaping your self-image. If they encouraged your efforts, applauding your successes and minimizing your failures, you learned that when you took initiative and planned well you could carry out your intentions successfully. If they discouraged your initiative, ignoring what you did well or criticizing or punishing you for what you did poorly, you learned that exercising your personal power was associated with pain and guilt.
The consequences for you as an adult if you absorbed negative teachings about initiative in childhood include indecision, hiding your talents, lack of direction, and blaming yourself when things go wrong. John Bradshaw, in Bradshaw On: The Family, describes the result of family-learned shame and guilt as “disabled will,” a blockage of your sense of power and purpose. To release such a block and to learn how to take initiative now, you must free your will by engaging your feelings. You can’t know what you want to do until you know what you feel.
No matter how much your family circumstances either helped or hindered the development of your self-esteem, independence, and initiative, you have a powerful inner spirit that can be further released and empowered. As that spirit becomes freer, you will have a much greater range of creative responses to life.
Excerpted from the article:
Is Your Sense of Personal Power Limited?
Written by Carolyn Foster.
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