What Makes Us, Us?
We are not born with values, so how do we develop our values? There are 3 periods during which values are developed as we grow. Sociologist Morris Massey has described three major periods during which values are developed.
- The Imprint Period - Age 0 to 7
- The Modelling Period - Age 8 to 13
- The Socialisation Period - Age 13 to 21
During these periods we develop what many believe to be the 'rudders' of lives; our values. It is our core beliefs that then develop around our values. Beliefs and values have an extremely powerful affect on our lives, because we filter all our information through them and hence develop specific actions as a result, and hence we predetermine our outcomes. Thus if we develop a belief such as "I'm too fat", then our mind begins to only see things that confirm this belief. Bulimia and Anorexia are perfect examples of outcomes from a belief such as the example.
Another example of this is a client who came to our clinic with a belief that she was unattractive. She therefore acted as though she was unattractive. While intelligent, she only went for jobs that she believed were occupied by 'trailer-trash' (her words not mine). While handsome men asked her out on dates, she only went out with men that were unattractive, not consciously, though unconsciously her belief created the outcome. She consciously believed that the attractive men were joking with her. Believing she was unattractive also had her acting unattractively. In 2 sessions we helped her to change her belief after 5 sessions she grew confident enough to divorce her husband who was beating her and she went on an overseas trip on her own. She is now dating attractive men with confidence. Her initial belief was developed at around the age of 6 or 7 when she recalled her father telling her Mother she was ugly. She was also told she looked more like her Mother and therefore believed she was ugly too. Her Father left her Mother which deepened the emotions around the belief.
The Imprint Period
From the day we are born and up until the age of seven, we're like sponges, absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. The confusion and blind belief of this period can also lead to the early formation of trauma and other deep neurological problems.
The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Here we will often use our feelings or monitor the responses of our parents to determine what is good or bad.
The imprint period is the window of development in which children are all ears. They listen. They see everything and certainly feel the emotion coming from those around them. This is often simply equated to 'Anger' equals 'Bad' and 'Laughter' equals 'Good'. Young children want to know what Mom and Dad think in order to know what they themselves think. Like little ducks, they are eager to line up behind Mum or Dad — accepting without much question of values and beliefs. We must be diligent during this window of opportunity because it passes quickly.
What and how we teach during the imprint period should align with the bent of young children. They love games, stories, songs, memorization and other activities that can be used as powerful tools in the process of teaching them good beliefs and values.
The most crucial period being from age 2 to 4 when major imprinting occurs. During this period we absorb information without any analysis. So if during this period the child is told they are "bad", they may take this literally without putting it into context. Thus they may think they are a bad person, without taking into account that what was really meant was that their behavior had been deemed bad by a person. Phobias tend to have origins within this period, generally from the years of 3 to 7. (Further events generally just reinforce the original traumatizing event)
The Modeling Period
Between the ages of eight and thirteen, we copy people, that is we 'Model' them. We mostly model our parents, but also other people and particularly people we admire or look up to. Rather than blind acceptance, we are trying on things like suit of clothes, to see how they feel.
We may be impressed with religion or our teachers. You may remember being particularly influenced by Primary School teachers who seemed so knowledgeable,maybe even more so than your parents.
This is when we begin to notice the behavior of friends, family and heroes. The age of ten being highly significant is often when we begin to emulate our heroes. The environment around the person has a powerful effect upon them. It is often said that we become who we most admired at the age of ten.
The Socialization Period
Between 13 and 21, we are very largely influenced by our peers. Here we often form clusters or groups of like-minded or 'like-looking' groups of people. As we develop as individuals and look for ways to get away from the earlier programming, we naturally turn to people who seem more like us.
Other influences at these ages include the media, especially those parts which seem to resonate with our the values of our peer groups.
This is where we develop relationship and social values. After the age of 21 , core values do not change unless a significant emotional event occurs or effective coaching.Normal values change and grow over time.