No man is an island, no woman either for that matter. We are all influenced by our surroundings. Our consciousness is really not our own, but belongs to the environment in which we exist. The appearance of an individual self is an illusion in much the same way empty space appears to be solid matter. And yet, we do experience ourselves as individual entities. But, that does not mean we should ignore the various spheres of influence that make us who we are.

In family systems therapy, the sphere of influence is generally the nuclear family, although it could easily expand to extended family members, i.e., grandparents, aunts, uncles…. But, it does not really stop there. Permeating the home environment is the neighborhood, which itself is contained within the community. Family systems therapy often includes these extended spheres as many resources needed to bring about positive changes are contained within the neighborhood and community.

Spheres of influence extend even beyond the community. The city, state, nation and even the global sphere all have their influence on the community, neighborhood, and the home. A single person, at any age, exists within a complex multidimensional field of influences not all of which are conscious. A child of 7 years is significantly influenced by, and at least partially conscious of, the home and neighborhood, but not at all aware of the influence the state, or nation, has upon his/her growing consciousness, even though it is very present and active. As an adult of 56 years, there is much more awareness of the influence of city, state and nation, and even a consciousness of how the global sphere impacts his/her self, as well as how that global sphere influences the nation, state and city. And, at 56, the earlier spheres of home, neighborhood and community, although subconscious, continue to exert a significant influence.

If we refer to the traditional stages of psychosocial development, popularized by Eric Erikson, and couple those stages to these spheres of influence, it presents an interesting view of how our developing psychosocial consciousness can parallel these spheres:

Stages of Psychosocial Development:
7) Late Adulthood
6) Middle Adulthood
5) Early Adulthood
4) Adolescence
3) Later Childhood
2) Early Childhood
1) Infant

Spheres of Influence:
7) Globe
6) Nation
5) State
4) City
3) Community
2) Neighborhood
1) Home

Of course, even as an infant, we are influenced by the higher spheres; but, we are not conscious of that. As we mature, we become more conscious of, and involved in, the larger more encompassing spheres of influence. Ideally, we mature from being a citizen of the neighborhood, to a citizen of the global community – a citizen of the world.

Author's Bio: 

Ken Fields is a nationally certified licensed mental health counselor. With over 25 years in the mental health field, he has worked as as a school counselor, a family therapist, a crisis intervention counselor a supervisor and an administrator in a human service agency. He has taught classes in meditation, visualization, goal setting, self-image psychology, anger and stress management, negotiation, mediation and communication, crisis intervention, and parenting. As a practicing counseling psychologist, Mr. Fields specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Family Systems Therapy and Communication Training. He can be reached at