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Transition to Conditional or Socialized Happiness – Stage Two
From the time we are able to talk and understand the word, “NO!” we begin to get socialized. Growing up as children we learn the rules of our parents, school, community, and world. We also learn to accept the emotional punishments and rewards of those rules. When we do something like clean up our room we get emotional acceptance in the form of praise and approval. When we don’t follow the rules we get emotional rejections in the form of reprimands and criticisms.
We learn to think about our self and judge our self the same way others think about us and judge us. We also learn to give our selves the same emotions that others did with their punishments and praise. We receive negative emotions from others through criticism. We then learn to create and feel those same emotions about our self as well. When we are praised or rewarded, we receive and feel the emotions of love and approval. We also learn to add our own positive emotions to what we are feeling. In effect we express love and approval to our self in response to their trigger of approval. In this way we are learning through patterns of repetition to create the same emotions and feel the way others would have us feel, based on our behavior.
While we are learning the patterns of these social norms, we are still expressing our own natural expression of emotions from Stage 1. These didn’t stop all of a sudden. Since we collect more rules and “should’s” to follow as we get older, more of our emotions are generated from conditioned responses and less from natural expressions over the years.
At this stage of development we are expressing emotions based on two different paradigms. The first is our natural expression of emotions. The second is a learned protocol of emotional responses based on the opinions, judgments, punishments, approvals, and rewards from others. This is the socialization that comes with living in a family and culture. This transition phase begins at about 2 years old and typically continues into a person’s 20’s.
Sometimes our natural expressions align with socialized expressions and there isn’t a conflict. For instance, it is our nature to be curious and imaginative. Perhaps this gets expressed through an interest in reading. We read a bunch of books and this satisfies a natural enjoyable curiosity and a way to exercise our imagination. We also get praised at home and rewarded in school for being a good reader. In this way the emotions from our natural expression are congruent and amplified by socialized emotions.
Sometimes our natural emotional expressions are in conflict with socialized expressions. As children it is our natural state to sing, talk, and run around. When we are a toddler this is met with joy by our parents because they are so amused. When we are 8, and at a restaurant, it is met with a reprimand by our parents and we learn to hold back our expressions, sit still and be quiet. Singing and running around has a natural expression of joy and love. However, the same singing and running around has the same conditional emotions associated to shame, guilt, and fear of getting reprimanded.
At this stage there is a conflict within between emotions that come with our natural expressions, and the emotions that are associated through socialization. We want to feel good, but singing, and running around is met with harsh words so we feel bad. In the beginning we rebel against feeling bad about what we used to enjoy. We try harder to express what we want or get angry back. This usually doesn’t go well. We get punished for rebelling against the rule makers telling us to sit down and be quiet. We are small, and the adults are big. We lose in the rebellion and suppress our desires to express what naturally feels good. Children go through various stages of socialization and rebellion from the “terrible two’s” to teenage rebellion, and drinking in college. Each time you attend a new school, go into a company, or military, you are introduced to a process of socialization of what is appropriate, what to express, and what to feel good about. During this phase the amount of happiness, or love that you express, is based less and less on natural expressions, and more and more on socially conditioned responses.1