He was a world famous psychologist. He was an expert in human development and he spent a great deal of time watching children, loving them, being curious about how they developed their skills. He put both his mind and his heart into developing his theories about the life cycle, he saw it unfold in stages.
He writes about 8 developmental stages that all human beings go through from birth through old age to death. I especially like the first and last because, for me, they set the stage for all the rest of the work that needs to be done in this life.
Stage One: Infancy On a continuum, at one end is Trust and the other is Mistrust
Stage Eight: Late Adulthood On another continuum, Integrity is at one end and Despair is at the other
In each of these stages, he explains that as a result of the experiences we have and the ways in which we interpret them, we end up at some basic and essential place emotionally. I agree. Think about it — for an infant, they are at the mercy of their care providers, and they learn very early on if their needs are going to be met or not. They have the experience of whether the person attending to them enters the room lovingly or in a rage, whether the touch is genteel and comforting or brutal. You get the gist of where it is this goes for the baby. If you begin life trusting that life is good, relationships are durable and supportive, you will have a much different experience than if you believe everyone is out to hurt you or you believe they simply do not care about your needs and desires.
Fast forward to the end of life stages and allow yourself to ponder where it is that you want to land. For my own life, I have a strong desire to age and die with integrity. I want to look at my life now, and as I move forward, knowing that I have trusted in this life journey and have reaped the benefit of many healthy and loving connections to others as a result of goodness and positive intent. I want my last breaths to be in gratitude of the life I embraced and had passion about, not be in a state of angst and regret.
What I appreciate about Erikson’s theory is that it sets up options for us. Each continuum is a choice. Even as you look back over your life, you can re-think it and re-feel it, every part of it. You can decide to be healthy all the way across your life journey if you make conscious choices to do so and engage in the unconscious work to allow it to happen authentically.
In Build the Strength Within, I guide you on this journey and provide you with a pathway of exercises to do that lead to clarity, positive clarity. Visit the Home page for a sneak peek into the book. Head over to Amazon.com to place your order during this pre-sale time and you will be able to get started with this important self development work by the middle of October. Imagine how great you will feel by Thanksgiving!