The world looks and feels different at each stage of development. We are always interacting with the world within and without. Our traumas, successes, challenges, losses, events all trigger responses. Each stage for Erikson held a basic conflict and highlights an important event.
From birth to 1 & ½ years we have the conflict of trust vs. mistrust; the stability of the relationship between the mother or caregiver and baby, the importance of eye contact and the dance of resonance. This sets the stage for future development.
Next is independence (autonomy) vs. shame and doubt. As a child tries out his physical development (toilet-training, exploration) if he is shamed it can impact confidence. This stage lasts, loosely, until age 3. Then comes “locomotor” stage where independence is important leading to initiative vs. guilt. The child needs an affirming environment and support for his growing independence.
Next comes the Latency period from 6 to 12 years, where school is of primary importance along with peers. Mastery and industry vs. inferiority are the conflicts.
If successfully navigated stage 5, Adolescence, brings identity vs. role confusion. Peer relationships are central as adolescents seek a sense of identity. This is a difficult time of challenges and blends into stage six, young adulthood young adulthood, often defined as age 19 to 40 where the conflict is intimacy vs. isolation.
Intimacy, as in intimate relationships, staves off isolation and creates a richness of experience. We know from multiple studies that social/ emotional support is a strong factor in emotional, psychological and health issues. People live longer and better if they have strong ties, emotional support and connectedness.
Stage seven is seen as age 40 to 60 where one engages in generativity or stagnation according to Erikson. Support for the next generation, parenting, grand-parenting, mentoring or some other way “of giving back” has rich rewards.
The last stage for Erikson was maturity, from 65 to the end of life. Its conflict has been defined as ego-integrity vs. despair. This is the time of contemplation, memories, life-review and acceptances. There is a saying, “Too soon old, too late smart.” We hope this is only minimally true. Many people are not so fortunate as to have had successful, developmental resolutions of the different stages, conceptualized as essential psycho-social stages. What we miss, we must make up for as best we can and people do the best they can.
It helps to discover who you are. To learn life’s lessons, pay attention to the unusual events that come your way. It helps to face what needs our attention and healing where there are wounds.
We have heard life described as a journey. It is a journey of discovery; about ourselves and the world within each of us. If the world within is in good shape, we will improve the world without.
When economies are severely challenged, and millions are unemployed, the challenges are multiplied a hundredfold, especially when the conditions have been created by greed and irresponsible, sociopathic behaviors. That is for another blog but the world-within creates vast differences in the way people respond to crises, disappointments, the unknown and the multiple negative thoughts and predictions that can haunt one’s sleep and waking life.
The journey comes to an end for one and all. No matter one’s circumstances, it comes sooner or later. It’s the living that matters. The goal is to live so that when we arrive at the journey’s end we can each look back and say, “I did my best. I inhabited my life and I am satisfied.
Barbara & Oliver