Impairment 5 – Instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans

We move on to the second section on impaired personality functioning –  self-direction. The description is “instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans”. We are really stuck on this one so we will just wing it. I have no experience with it as it is one of the few descriptors that I did not check off in my survey. I had a one, no problem. In addition, I could not find any research studies on the topic. Let’s take it one step at a time and hope it adds up to something that we can hang our hats on.

I know what instability means in aspirations and values, but I just could not apply this to goals and career plans. Being a random-abstract personality, I had to put order in my life just to survive. Also, because of my need for feelings of self-worth that I built through external achievement, I developed strong study habits, especially in high school, which I carried on during my six years in university. I have designed five year plans, three year plans, and one year plans, then proceeded to carry them out in daily to-do lists. So, no problem there. Likewise in career plans, well, maybe not (aside: for more information on that see My Sad Story), and come to think of it, my aspirations changed drastically over the years *(aside: dang, I guess I will have to give myself a 4 or 5 on the survey).

Back to a case study of one. Based on my experience then, I would say that impairments in self-direction arise from not having a clear sense of self which leads to the inability to see careers and aspirations as an extension of our own hopes and dreams. Seeing as we see ourselves as unworthy, we direct our aspirations and careers to pleasing others rather than our self (aside: now you know why I became a psychologist).

The same applies to values. Because we usually have unstable relationships with parents, we are super vigilant in trying to please them.  This goes right back to the infant stage. Baby learns by connecting with mommy. Mommy smiles, baby smiles, mommy smiles again. Baby says “Oh boy, I have just connected with mommy. She must love me. I must be special”. Then whenever mommy wants to teach baby something like the word “mama” and baby says “mama” mommy smiles and baby smiles and mommy smiles and baby says “Oh boy I have just connected again with mommy. She must love me. I must be special and I think I am pretty smart too because now I can make her smile just by saying mama.” This is called cognitive social learning. It is a natural process.

But what happens if mommy does not smile and seems to avoid personal contact. Baby is also learning something from this because that is just what the baby brain does. When mommy does not smile baby says “I have not pleased mommy. I don’t think she loves me. There must be something wrong with me.” And then, as the days go by, baby tries harder and harder to make mommy smile. This then applies to daddy (aside: in my case there was no dad), and then teachers, and other adults. We do whatever we can to please them and make them smile. If we are intelligent, it works and then we say to ourselves “I know how to make teacher smile” and we adopt their values.    During the adolescent and early adult years, we fail to develop our own value system and rely on the value systems of our parents and our peers. When these values come into conflict, we experience extreme shame which makes it almost impossible to break away and form our own value system.  When we enter into life partnerships, we then shift and adapt our values to please our life partners. As a result of our poor sense of self, and our desire to be valued by others, we are constantly in a state of fluctuation. We drift with the tide. We constantly change to whatever the world is seeing and doing and valuing.