I had a difficult start in life because I was born with physical disabilities. I was an extremely weak newborn and the doctors recommended a three-year stay in hospital for care and observation. The doctors were not very optimistic and even advised my mother against registering my birth with the government since they felt I was bound to die. I was eventually discharged from hospital by the age of four, and somewhat miraculously, after a few years I was able to live like a normal child. Yet, destiny would not allow me to enjoy a normal childhood. In my early teens, I made my first two neighbourhood friends. I was glad the first day we set out to play Hide-and-Seek as I had never played it before. Sadly, that would be the last time I would play it. As we played, a crazy taxi driver who was over speeding lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the pedestrian section. He ran over me and crashed my skull. As a consequence, certain parts of my right brain were crashed and I began to selectively lose my childhood memories. It would not be so bad if I lost the memories at once; however, I lost them gradually.
Ideologies and Influences
As I gradually lost my memories, I started to believe that there was no God taking care of me. My family belonged to the Christian religion, and we had much faith in Jesus Christ. I however began to doubt the goodness of Jesus when I thought of all the troubles I had undergone. I began to question the very existence of Jesus and kept asking Him why He did not care about me. As a result I became disappointed and turned into a cold and emotionless person. This affected my social life as my age mates were not interested in a cold, bitter and sickly person as me. I only had one friend, Xiang Xu, whom I interviewed for the Friend Saver. It is commonly said that one’s friends are a reflection of a man and I realized that when interviewing my friend. Xiang Xu described himself as an alcoholic, drug addict and a violent person. There is one old Korean saying that “Without knowing you directly, I can know you by company you keep”.
Like me, he had a difficult childhood because of his parents’ divorce. He was brought up by a physically abusive and alcoholic step-father. Due to this, Xiang became a negative person and turned into a juvenile delinquent. He withdrew from society and chose not to communicate much because he felt no one would understand him and that the whole world was against him. This affected his social relationships and he gained a sense of freedom from being dark and secretive. Unfortunately, his attitude led to him being kicked out of the professional soccer team he had joined as he was told that he lacked team spirit. My friendship with Xiang Xu is one of mutual understanding; we identify with and understand each other.
I am an emotionally and socially underdeveloped person because of the difficult childhood that I experienced. This is according to Hardley (1), who gives the theories of the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson who says that there are eight stages involved in the social and emotional development of a person from childhood into adulthood. The first stage of development is experienced in infancy. At this stage a general trust or mistrust of the world is developed. An infant requires maximum comfort with the caregiver and the environment and a sense of security and love. When badly handled the child becomes mistrustful and insecure (Newman and Newman 17). I spent my infancy in hospital where I was subjected to an environment which was not homely. I was also constantly undergoing physical tests and examinations. One can therefore conclude that I developed a sense of mistrust in this stage because I did not experience the maximum comfort necessary to successfully pass this stage.
The second stage occurs as a toddler where either autonomy or doubt and shame are fostered. At this stage, a child learns to feed, talk and walk. The toddler also develops fine motor development like toilet training (Harder 1). I was still in hospital at this stage and my physical disabilities meant that I was unable to carry out certain functions for some time. In addition, it was not until six years of age when I was fully toilet trained. As a result, instead of autonomy I became ashamed of myself and the physical weakness that I experienced.
The third stage involves the development of initiative or guilt. In this stage, there is active participation in all types of play (Newman and Newman 18). It also involves cooperation with others and developing the ability to follow or lead. This ability is usually developed during games. Once again, I am disadvantaged at this stage because I did not engage in active play with my age mates and did not have any friends either. From this, it is clear that I did not adequately develop initiative and instead continued to harbor feelings of guilt.
School age is the next developmental stage. I had recovered somehow from my physical limitations and had begun trying to have a normal childhood. According to Hardley (2), this stage is heavily involved in social development. If there are unresolved emotions of inferiority and inadequacy then problems in self-esteem will result. I had just made two friends before the accident before I was forced back into the hospital environment. M social environment was therefore incomplete because of the developmental issues I had since birth. I also only had two friends and I therefore did not interact much with friends at a social level.
The adolescent stage involves the integration of many roles like student, child, sibling and others into a self-image. An adolescent here struggles to establish an individual identity, create satisfying social relationships while also trying to understand moral issues. It was at this point that I began to question the relevance of religion and God in my life. I began to question the existence of Jesus and in fact doubted the love He supposedly had for me. This is because I did not understand how Jesus Christ could allow me to suffer so much. According to Parker and Schmidt (32) religion mainly gives spiritual and moral support to believers who believe that their beliefs function well for themselves and the wider community. Personally, I began to lose focus and respect for my family’s religious beliefs because I was unable to see the relevance and assistance of God and Jesus Christ in my life.
When analysing my friend Xiang Xu, I realized that he also faced challenges in his emotional and social development. His developmental problems began during play age. These were brought about by his parents’ divorce. During this stage, the basic family is the most significant form of relationship (Hardley 2). However, for him, this was torn apart when his parents separated. He moved countries with his mother (from China to Japan) and thus experienced a culture shock as well. Unfortunately, his step-father was an alcoholic and often beat him up. Xiang Xu therefore did not have complete social development at this stage.
During school age, because of our lack of adequate development, we both experienced serious problems in our self-esteem. We both did not feel part of the world and therefore we withdrew from social interactions. We became cold, bitter and emotionless. Our age mates did not want to interact with us because of our cold natures and as a result we ended up with no friends. Xiang Xu also became a juvenile delinquent and also a violent alcoholic like his step-father. In adolescence, we are unable to form any meaningful relationships because we are not yet fully developed emotionally. Adolescence is a developmental stage associated with forming strong devotions to causes and friends (Newman and Newman 25). However, we have not been able to do that because we lack the ability to be emotionally committed to anything. This also means that we have not been able to fully develop our own identity because of the constant feelings of despair and loneliness.
From the research and analysis, it is evident that I will have problems as young adult in developing intimacy. This developmental stage involves the ability to make personal commitment to other people like a spouse, parent or friend. However, because of my tendency to isolate myself, I may not be able to develop meaningful relationships. This is because my socialization process and emotional development has not been effectively completed. Socialization is a process which occurs in stages and must be fully completed before the next stage is managed successfully (Newman and Newman 26).
Harder F. The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson. Available at http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/Erikson.htm. ,2011. Web.
Newman B. and Newman Phillip. Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach. California; Michele Sordi, 2009. Print.
Parker G. and Schmidt M. Thomas. Scientific Explanation and Religious Belief. Germany; Mohr Siebeck Tubingen, 2005. Print