Psychological Self-Help

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806
Theories of Development: Becoming a Person
Many personality theories describe the stages we go through as
our character develops. Understanding our own personality
development should greatly improve our insight into our current
drives, values, and views. With greater awareness perhaps we can be
more in control or, at least, more accepting of ourselves and others.
Indeed, Carl Rogers's and Abraham Maslow's basic notion was that we
are all struggling to become our "real," true, unique selves. What
stands in our way? For Rogers it was the tendency to deny our own
needs and feelings, to pretend to be someone we aren't, to avoid
facing our true self. For Maslow it was the necessity of satisfying our
basic needs first--food, health, safety, love, self-esteem--before we
have the luxury of carrying out the enjoyable and noble achievements
that reflect our highest values and talents. According to both Rogers
and Maslow, our true selves just naturally emerge if we are lucky
enough to meet our basic needs and openly experience our basic
emotions and motives. That's the rub: it is very hard to meet all our
basic needs and become aware of all the feelings inside of us. Meeting
those challenges is, as Rogers said, the process of becoming a person.
Sadly, many of us never get to the point of carrying out the desires of
our true self. If we knew more truth about human nature and coping,
perhaps we would have more time to "actualize" our true and best
selves. 
How long does it take for our basic personality to develop? How
fixed or stable are personality traits over time? How changeable are
personalities from one situation to another? Some parts of our
personality are remarkably stable. Freud, Berne, and others believed
our basic personality and "scripts" were established by age 6 or so. On
the other hand, William James and many current researchers believe
our personality changes substantially during childhood, adolescence,
and perhaps early adulthood but becomes fixed after age 25 or so. The
best current evidence is that certain personality characteristics are
fairly stable over time: emotionality (neuroticism), introversion-
extroversion, openness to new experiences, masculinity-femininity,
agreeable-irritable, and conscientiousness (dependability, orderliness).
Don't forget, the Minnesota twin study researchers have claimed that
your genes have more influence on these traits than your parents'
child rearing practices. These genetic characteristics may form some of
your "basic personality." 
Nevertheless, other characteristics seem more likely to change
from one stage of life to another: mood or morale, assertiveness,
dominance, independence, alienation, and satisfaction with life. These
traits, emotions, or behaviors may be more influenced by the person's
life events, situation, or viewpoint (Goleman, 1987). For example,
your level of alienation, happiness, and self-satisfaction when you are
20 has little to do with your adjustment on the same traits when you
are 60. 
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