As human beings, we are all faced with three primary psychological concerns based on the following three facts. First, we come into the world in a highly vulnerable state and must survive through a long period of dependency. Second, we have evolved a highly attuned and intense set of emotional responses to help us react to threats and cope with critical challenges. Third, we are social animals with a high level of inter-dependency and a long evolutionary history of social connection.
These basic facts about the nature of human beings lead to three primary psychological concerns discussed by Joseph Burgo Ph.D. (2012). Primary to these concerns is the impact of our early childhood experiences with primary caregivers.
First, we all must navigate issues of dependency. If our needs for safety and security were not met during this early childhood period, we may continue to struggle into adulthood with issues of trust. This is typically most challenging in our relationships as we may struggle to depend on others or fear abandonment and subsequent emotional pain.
Second, we all must manage our feelings. If our caregivers were unavailable to help us manage our feelings and provide needed soothing experiences for us to learn and internalize, we may continue to struggle to manage our feelings as adults. A small challenge can quickly evolve into a full-blown crisis or abrupt and uncontrolled reactions for people who struggle in this area.
Third, we all need to find a place in the world and feel that we belong. As an extension, we need to experience a sense of worth and validation from being part of a social community. If we were not provided with adequate opportunities for belonging as well as a sense of value and worth during our childhood, we may continue to struggle with issues of belonging as well as low self-esteem or feelings of shame.
Of course, there is typically more to the story when we consider the role of dispositional traits or other important resources during periods of development. Nevertheless, these early experiences have an impact on all of us. The following questions can help you identify which of the three primary concerns are most relevant to you and highlight areas that might be useful to address in therapy:
Consider the ways that you manage difficulties in relationships with others. Do you struggle with feedback from others or rush to judgement? Do you struggle with trusting others? Do you feel the need to do everything yourself? Do you ever feel that needing support is weak?
Think about how you handle difficult emotions. Do you behave impulsively in an attempt to avoid feelings? Do you deny or do you find yourself feeling nothing at all in situations that would likely provoke an emotional response for most people? Do certain emotions make you uneasy? How do you react when others are upset or express anger?
Belonging & Self-esteem
Consider how you manage threats to your self-esteem. Do you find yourself striving for attention or admiration from others? Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake or feel beneath others? Do you strive to present yourself as a nice or agreeable person?
Take a moment to reflect on these questions and consider which of these primary concerns are most relevant in your life.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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