on the corner “Starting over”

By Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief

Often we find ourselves confronted by challenges we try to surmount only to be forced to recognize that what we tried wasn’t working. We all regularly face such challenges—a relationship gone sour, a test at school with a very low grade, an essay filled with red marks, a column for a newspaper lost somewhere in a computer just as it’s finished, a marriage with disappearing intimacy, job performance rated poor, a serious injury to an athlete caused by carelessness, unexpected data that fails in an expensive laboratory experiment, investments that led only to significant loss—and so on through the exigencies of life.

A muddy puddle of negativity splashes our brains and souls with such words as stupid, failure, incompetent, dumb, ineffectual, hopeless, inept— and anything else we can hit ourselves with during high moments of low self-doubt.

Starting over is not an indictment of past failures. No! Heroes start over. Starting over indicates a strong will to pursue a goal in different ways—to learn and thus profit from that which had seemed to fail. There’s some considerable challenge in starting over. It takes strength of will to overcome negative affect patterns that stimulate self-condemnation. Those who fail to accept the challenge, who continue this fear-based resistance, also fail to grow.

Life demands growth in each of its phases. There is never a time when we are excused from the responsibility of growing. Life is a series of endings and beginnings. We are confronted by different choices as we move from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. We catch differing values, beliefs and attitudes from our parents. They establish many boundaries. They give us widely varying degrees of freedom. From this we assume “roles” in life.

Gerald and Marianne Corey, in their book I Never Knew I Had a Choice, examine role choices that become the motivation or the resistance to accepting new challenges in life. They identify significantly different gender roles.

They suggest that “the stereotypical male is cool, detached, objective, rational, worldly, competitive and strong.” Many who seek the stereotype as their model choose to suppress feelings, which they consider feminine. This man is emotionally unavailable, aggressive, denies his fears, zealously protects his inner self, is rigid in his labeling of others. I can’t guess how many stereotypical males live in this culture. This guy lives by rules about how masculine men are. They are swayed by sound bites and sign words. They refuse to grow beyond the dimensions they’ve assigned themselves in their role.

I think they need to start over. They caught these behaviors early and began to form their identity at the conclusion of the adolescent period. Now they’re stuck.

The Coreys state that they pay a price for this. He “loses a sense of himself because of his concern with being the way he thinks he should be as a male.” They don’t know how to love or be loved. They hide, hungering for affection, but without the will to begin anew—to start over, in life.

They also identify female stereotypes that identify women as “warm, expressive, and nurturing. They are expected to be kind, thoughtful and caring. They are not aggressive or independent. They are emotional and intuitive” as well as “passive and submissive. They prefer relationships over professional accomplishments.”

Women who fit the stereotype also pay a price. They box themselves in with the limited boundaries of this role. “Women and men need to remain open to each other and be willing to change their attitudes…releasing themselves from stereotypical roles.”

Breaking the stereotype demands starting over in terms of self-image, roles, and decision- making.

The culture is changing. With the entry of massive numbers of women into the work place and assuming non-traditional roles, we find the male beginning to assume more of the responsibilities formerly assigned females. It’s almost as if the cultural change forced us to start over in all aspects of our life

Mid-life, that period of life which I consider the adolescence of adulthood, presents its own challenge. Time is measured differently with computations providing answers related to the amount of time I have left instead of measuring my time from birth to mid-life. Gender roles shift. Females become more assertive, less nurturing, more outside the home than within it. At mid-life we tend to put aside long-sought dreams. Males assume a more nurturing role, and reveal more feeling.

We are required to start over building a new sense of self and to form a new identity at each major developmental crisis.

Psychologist Eric Ericson describes the final developmental crisis as “integrity vs. despair” and suggests that the major challenge of this last developmental period is “to be through having been.”

I see this as completeness vs. faithlessness with the challenge of living a complete life instead of living a life of despair. For some the aches, pains and pills of this period are very severe and limiting. It’s possible easily to slip into despair.

The best way to avoid this is through a strengthened faith and a strong support system.

Age need not be a factor in seeking to start over, to find life and hope through increased spirituality.

 

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Can I get a witness? Western Music Institute 2011

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