The Third Factor

Updated: Jan 22


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Kathryn Millán, wrote about how your childhood environment can affect your romantic relationships. She defined one construct, Fearful-avoidant attachment. These individuals may have experienced some type of childhood abuse, chaos or neglect. This attachment style often occurs when loved caregivers are also a source of pain. The resulting attachment style may make these adults afraid to be alone, but also afraid of closeness and intimacy. They often have difficulty trusting others, and may alternate from one extreme of closeness to complete avoidance. This explains much of my behavior in my teens.

From 16 on, I had the usual infatuations and young love experiences. However, I tended to take this to dramatic levels. I was dating a guy a few years older than me. Pat was an auto mechanic that I had met at a dance. It was hot and heavy for a while. His ex-girlfriends name was Donna. One night when he was driving me home, the song” Donna” by Richie Valens came on the car radio. He started to sing and he knew all the words. One verse went like this:

“Since she left me

I've never been the same

Cause I love my girl

Donna, where can you be?

Where can you be?”

I lost my cool. We had a terrific fight. I got out of his car crying. Screaming that he didn’t love me. He was still in love with Donna. Falling in love is an emotional cataclysm at any age, but for adolescents the feelings are likely to be even more difficult to manage. Emotions associated with being ‘in love’ are likely to be confusing, even overwhelming for some (Temple-Smith et al., 2016).

Many of my romantic relationships led to unhealthy outcomes. I was devastated by the demise of our relationship. I tried everything to get him back. I went by his garage where he worked. I called him on the phone. I started hanging out with his brother Bobby. I think Bobby liked me but I thought of him more as a brother. Bobby even escorted me to the Winter Dance at school. But I wanted Pat.

The ultimate event was when I told people close to Pat that I was pregnant. I hoped he would come running back to me if I was carrying his child. I wasn’t pregnant, just desperate. I eventually moved on when I met the next messenger the universe sent me.

A child’s relationship with their caregiver—whether their parents, grandparents, or otherwise—is vital to their emotional and physical health. This relationship and attachment helps us to learn to trust others, manage emotions, and interact with the world around them.

When a child experiences a trauma that teaches them that they cannot trust or rely on that caregiver, however, they're likely to believe that the world around them is a scary place and all adults are dangerous—and that makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood, including with peers their own age, and into the adult years.

I now realize why I don’t like to do physical activities. The first impact was when my father was teaching me how to ride a bike. When I didn’t get it right away, he gave up. I felt like a failure. To this day, I do not know how to ride a bike. The next attempt was to learn ice skating. Again, when I didn’t get it the first time out, he was disappointed. He said, “You must have weak ankles.” That was the end of ice skating for me. However, I did teach myself how to roller-skate. When it was time to get my driver’s license, I had one run with my father and he slapped me. I immediately signed up for drivers training at school.

Nature vs. Nurture

The debate over the relative contributions of inheritance and the environment usually referred to as the nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest issues in both philosophy and psychology.

Philosophers such as Plato and Descartes supported the idea that some ideas are inborn. On the other hand, thinkers such as John Locke argued for the concept of tabula rasa—a belief that the mind is a blank slate at birth, with experience determining our knowledge.

Today, most psychologists believe that it is an interaction between these two forces that causes development.

And then there is the Third Factor, a theory by Kazimierz Dabrowski.

He also refers to it as “self-determination by a number of autonomous dynamisms”. The third factor often referred to as an individual’s ‘inner drive’ or autonomous thinking distinct from first and second factors.

“Third factor is a dynamism of valuation, i.e., of developing consciously an autonomous hierarchy of values. One could say that third factor decides upon what subject-object in oneself has uncovered, while inner psychic transformation is the process by which the decision is put to work. Third factor is the par excellence dynamism of self-directed development. “

—Kazimierz Dabrowski

It is a sort of active conscience of the budding individual, determining what represents a greater or smaller value in self-education, what is “higher” or “lower,” what does or does not agree with the personality ideal, and what should be the course of internal development.

“The third factor is hard to live by, but it’s simple to explain. It’s an autonomous, authentic conscience.’

_ Jessie Mannisto

Today I am autonomous, authentic and pragmatic. Most days.


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