- Thoughts for inspired living

August 13, 2008

Formative Years

Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 8:35 am

Did you ever notice that “formative” and “family” begin with the same letter?

Most of who we become as a person is set in that time frame we spend as part of a family. Family can range anywhere from “The Waltons” to “The Osbornes” or any level of functionality that lies in between. An orphanage may well have been your family structure. Whatever the case, they’ve added to the conditioning of your form.

My neighbor, Kathy gave me a book to read about a dysfunctional family. It’s called, “The Glass Castle.” It’s an autobiographical look at the upbringing of writer and reporter Jeannette Walls. I won’t spoil the book for you by revealing too much of its contents. Suffice it to say, it ain’t pretty, yet eye opening.

There is enough debate about “Nature” and “Nurture” on who we become that I’m sure there is truth attached to each position. The debate revolves around the question, “Are we formed by our innate, hard wired qualities or our experience?” According to Wikipedia, the famous psychologist Donald Hebb is said to have once answered a journalist’s question of “which, nature or nurture, contributes more to personality?” by asking in response, “which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”

The formative years do contribute and our family is quite responsible for a portion of who we turned out to be. I’m certain there are pluses and minuses we could all cite. I’d like to focus on the plus column.

I can only speak first-hand about my own family. I’ve had two of them – the one I grew up in and the one I helped raise. The interesting thing I notice is attitudes. Please define attitude as “angle of approach.” I witness myself having a response to something and then get the gift of awareness that it was my mother or father responding, not me. I then get to see one of my sons respond to something and notice it’s me responding, not him.

There is a certain pride when you see the plus side of inherited attitude. It means you received or passed on something worthwhile. Whatever part of Jeannette Walls’ unenvied upbringing we recoil at, there is little question that part of it helped form the successful attitudes she formed to achieve the success she enjoys. We all enjoy some sort of success because of the attitudes we absorbed.

I know there are case history books filled with the damage that’s been done by adopted attitudes that immerse us neck deep in mud. There are strategies to help with that. I’m just curious if we give enough credit for our plus side to the people who we also blame for our limiting attitudes.

So no matter what your upbringing, can you find something about yourself that you like, that you can attribute to someone from your formative years?

Take a moment today and celebrate that attitude and express gratitude that you received it, no matter from whom.

All the best,


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