LIFESPAN THEORY APPLIED TO THE LIFE OF LYANLA VANZANT 1
Lifespan TheoryApplied To The Life Of Lyanla Vanzant
Lifespan TheoryApplied To The Life Of Lyanla Vanzant
Lyanla Vanzant is a very influential person to many people in theworld today. Her life span development since birth to adulthood hasundergone physical, mental and social emotional changes.Psychologists believed that once into adulthood a person reachestheir optimal growth and change (Thies & Travers, 2001). However,this is not the case because according to Vanzant’s lifeexperiences her life underwent drastic change when she reachedadulthood. The paper shall, therefore, be discussing how nature andnurture influenced Vanzant’s life. An analysis shall also beprovided regarding the roles that cognitive, physical andsocio-emotional development/changes played in her life. The papershall also highlight some of Vanzant’s major milestones in her lifeas well as the turning points based on Piaget theory, symbolicinteraction, and cognitive dissonance theory. Finally, it shallconclude by explaining the impact of diversity on Vanzant’s life interms of the struggles that she went through, her success andfailures, as well as the challenges and decisions that she made inher life.
Nature tends to influence an individual’s life as well as how oneis nurtured. Cancer was a hereditary disease in Vanzant’s family.Her mother had passed away when she was only two years old when shesuccumbed to breast cancer. The same disease took away her preciousdaughter who died of colon cancer. The disease was geneticallyinherited in her family and it is in this way that nature got toinfluence Vanzant’s life pathologically (Vanzant, 2011). One’sphysical and social environment can also influence a person’s life.For instance, Vanzant found it quite interesting that even though shewas not brought not up by her mother she found herself repeating thesame parenting and relationship mistakes. Piaget, in thepreoperational stage of cognitive development theory, argues thatchildren who are between 2-7 years can think about objects or eventsthat are not immediately present as well as imitate past actions(Worster, 2008).
The way of parenting of Vanzant can be explained by Piaget`s theory.It can be argued that the only two years that Vanzant got to spendwith her mother made her imitate the little parenting skills that shegot to experience. The parenting skills may have also beenhereditary because the pathological stories were rooted back to hergreat grandparents and so on. When Vanzant was conceived, her fatherhad asked her mother to abort Vanzant because of her alcohol problemand the breast cancer that was developing but her mother had refused.Vanzant was nurtured as the unwanted child and it was clear to theway her father treated her that reciprocated in the kind of men thatshe dated. There is an aspect of Vanzant’s life that was influencedby the way she was raised. She narrated one ordeal where she was in ataxi and she could not ask the driver to change the car temperatureand her mind was debating on the right thing to do. Sigmund Freud inthe Super Ego stage of development argued that a child operates onthe conscience principle that hosts the feelings of guilt and beinguncomfortable (Newman & Newman, 2012). Vanzant explained that thefear to express her had developed in childhood where she did not wantto upset or hurt other people. She had therefore, grown up with thatfear and the outcome was evident in her adult life. She could not askthe taxi driver to change the temperature despite her suffering andinstead she opts to alight before even reaching her destination toavoid upsetting the driver.
Cognitive development, physical and social-emotional changes playseveral roles in the development of human beings since birth. One ofthe roles that cognitive development played in Vanzant’s personallife was to develop a sense of permanence through memorizing thingsthat she came across. Vanzant confesses of several patterns that shelearned as a child that could be seen affecting her adult life, forinstance, the fear of upsetting others and sticking in relationshipsthat had no future. Cognition influences the way a child thinks andVanzant believes that most of her actions as an adult were influencedby the images that she had reserved in her mind since childhood.Piaget argues that children in the concrete stage can reasonlogically hence, it is the role of a parent to guide and counseltheir child during this stage where they are constructing theirknowledge (Pressley & McCormick, 2006).
The morals that a parent teaches their children in this stage arevery crucial because it helps one’s mind to determine what is rightand wrong. Vanzant may not have experienced the cognitive developmentadequately during childhood, but while into adulthood, she got toattach meaning to the different life experiences that she faced. Sheunderstood that one`s thoughts are influenced by their own perceptionof things. Hence, the change that she so desired in her life, the onewhich she entrusted would come from God, was also available fromwithin her own world. Cognitive development thus allows one to thinkintelligently. The cognitive development also taught Vanzant thatlearning is a sequence. One has to think systematically about thepossible outcomes of their actions as well as consider alternativedecisions that may be more appropriate. There are several thingsthat Vanzant got to learn as she grew up and there were lessons thatshe learnt through her difficult adulthood. Being brought be hergrandmother, Vanzant learned the different meanings of hergrandmother’s reactions. She could tell when she was happy or sad,when to approach her for a favor and when not to cross her pathbecause of the beatings or bitter words she would get.
Physical development involves changes in the biological nature of thehuman being in terms of brain development, growth in height, gainingweight, and hormonal changes during puberty, and motor skills. Oneof the roles that physical development played in Vanzant’s life wasthat it enhanced her communication with others. During earlychildhood communication is minimal but it advances in middle and latechildhood. Actually, in the ages of 6-11 years children are excellentin reading and writing which enhances their socialization skills.Physical development helped Vanzant to build relationships with thedifferent people who crossed her life like Aunt Nancy and Uncle Lee,her step mother Nett, Nancy’s children and all relatives whovisited Nancy’s home. Physical development also played a role inVanzant’s life by making her respond to the hormonal changes in herlife during the adolescent stage. It was during this self identityversus role confusion stage as Erikson puts it, that Vanzant gotpregnant (Aiken, 1998). The physical human body is experiencingdifferent feelings and one tends to have the urgency of developing asense of belonging. Physical changes had made Vanzant to become amother, to understand the need of being independent at a young age,and above all that neglect meant. Growth is rapid during childhoodand becomes slower when one becomes an adult. Vanzant rapid physicalchanges in childhood can be said to have progressed into adulthoodbecause of the many traumatic events that followed in her adult lifethat made her life more suffering.
The social emotional development also played a big role in Vanzant’slife. Her childhood was an emotional one especially after hermother’s death. Staying with her grandmother made the situationworse because understanding her own feelings towards her absentfather, her harsh grandmother and pretending brother was not easy.She experienced adult fighting at a young age and comprehending theemotional status of other people at a young age was not good for ayoung child. Social emotional changes in a child may influence thekind of relationships that one builds with others. For instance,Vanzant had to move from one family to another in order to get foodand shelter. The different homes that she grew in may have influencedher social emotional development because in some she got love andaffection but the state of the family made her to develop a negativeattitude towards men because she experienced her violent father aswell as Uncle Lee fight with his wife. Children tend to be attachedto their mothers and the strong bond influences their socialemotional development thus when the parental love lacks, theemotional stability of the child is affected (Clark & Reinecke,2003).
Vanzant was able to endure all the suffering from childhood toadulthood but the turning point in her life to the renowned woman sheis today took place when at the age of 30. That was then shediscovered that something had to be done to change her presentsituation by then. One of the turning points was after her brotherRay had died. The cause of Ray’s death was a heroin overdose.Vanzant had watched her brother abuse drugs since when he was16years. He had become addicted to alcohol and over the years he hadprogressed to the hard stuff. Ray had decided to find solace in thedrugs because of the rough childhood he had passed through. It isevident that despite being favored and receiving the fragiletreatment from his grandmother because of his asthmatic condition,Ray’s life was no better. The disease that most feared might takeaway his life did not, but instead an issue that could have beencontrolled managed to kill him. Ray’s death was a turning point forVanzant to realize that the way one chose to lead their own life madethe ultimate difference and not the pathological pattern as she hadled herself to believe.
Another major milestone in Vanzant`s life was overcoming the death ofher own daughter. As earlier mentioned, Cancer was a hereditarydisease in Vanzant`s family. Her daughter suffering from colon cancerhad taken a huge financial toll on her as a result of the hugemedical expenses. Her granddaughter was very young and she was afraidthat history was going to repeat itself again as it was the norm forher family. According to the cognitive dissonance theory, humanbeings tend to have conflicting attitudes, feelings and behavior thatproduces a feeling of discomfort that can only be balanced by ourinner drive (Sanderson, 2009). Vanzant was aware of how the worldmight be for her granddaughter if he was raised the way she was andthis made her tense. There was a need for her to reduce thedissonance by changing her behavior, beliefs and attitude towardslife. That was her turning point because no matter how painful theexperience was she realized that she had managed to overcome verytrying moments in her life. The only way to spend the rest of herlife is by making a difference in someone else’s life that isundergoing what she went through.
Child neglect is one of the issues that Vanzant’s put emphasis inher life. Neglect was quite persistent and consistent even in theprovision of basic needs such as education, protection and emotionalsupport. The rejection from the only family she had brother, father,and grandmother deprived Vanzant of her childhood innocence. Theneglect of the only men present in her life as a child affected mostof the romantic relationships that she engaged herself with. Most ofthem failed and she realized that she had to make peace with the malefigure in her life in order to attain the marital peace she needed.Symbolic interaction theory argues that the way people interact withothers in the society influences the meaning they attach to differentthings in society (Reynolds & Herman-Kinney, 2003). Vanzant hadnot had a good interaction with the men in her life since childhoodhence the reason why she felt neglected and the failure in most ofher relationships with men. Although Vanzant was not sure whether theneglect was intentional or due to lack of knowledge but for herhealing process she needed to forgive them and let go.
The impact of diversity on Vanzant’s life is evident in herpersonal decisions, her success and failure, the challenges she facedand her life struggles. Vanzant had a challenge of maintaining astable relationship. She first got pregnant when she was only 13years and a half when she barely knew how to look after the baby. Itwas only after three years that she got pregnant again and just likethe previous time, the father of the child was not present. Shedivorced with most of the men she got married to because diversityhad led her to believe that fathers are not for keep. Diversityinfluenced her perspective of men. She had experienced her fatherfight her grandmother, and physically abuse her. Uncle Lee wouldfight with his wife in the presence of the children. All the violenceshe witnessed from the men she considered family influenced how sheviewed all the men in her life. Diversity provides one with exposureto new ideas or role models. However, for Vanzant despite all theexposure she got from her childhood life, she did not have anyone sheconsidered a role model. The women present in her life who shethought needed to be a mother figure to her ended up negativelyinfluencing her life. She had led herself to believe that theparenting mistake that was common in her family line was because ofthe diverse childhood that their children got to experience (Andersen& Taylor, 2008).
Lyanla Vanzant managed to overcome all life challenges despite allodds to become the renowned woman she is known to be in the worldtoday. The lifespan theory of development that is evident in her lifecontinues to encourage many people today both men and women. Herpositive influence on other’s lives is being recognized in theworld today because of her willingness to change the life of someonewho is undergoing struggles similar to hers.
Aiken, L. R. (1998). Human development in adulthood. New York[u.a.: Plenum Press.
Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2008). Sociology:Understanding a diverse society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ThomsonLearning.
Clark, D. A., & Reinecke, M. A. (2003). Cognitive therapyacross the lifespan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2012). Development throughlife: A psychosocial approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth CengageLearning.
Pressley, M., & McCormick, C. (2006). Child and adolescentdevelopment for educators. New York: Guilford Press.
Reynolds, L. T., & Herman-Kinney, N. J. (2003). Handbook ofsymbolic interactionism. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Sanderson, C. A. (2009). Social psychology. Hoboken, N.J:Wiley.
Thies, K. M., & Travers, J. F. (2001). Human growth anddevelopment through the lifespan. Thorofare, N.J: Slack.
Vanzant, I. (2011). Peace from broken pieces: How to get throughwhat you’re going through (3rd edition.). Carlsbad,Calif.: Smiley Books.
Worster, D. (2008). A passion for nature: The life of John Muir.Oxford: Oxford University Press.