This is from Erikson's famous work: The "EIGHT STAGES OF THE LIFE CYCLE." It was rare that psychologists wrote about adulthood in the same way that the stages of childhood were explored in such depth by so many. Yet, we do not stop developing once we reach adulthood, which Carl Jung once said doesn't really occur until we are around 40 years old, and since fifty is the new forty, well... it's probably not too late for most of my readers to become adults!

Following are excerpts from Erikson's book about the three stages of adulthood, as he saw it, that I used for a class I taught on adulthood.

"6. Intimacy and Distantiation Versus Self-Absorption – It is only after a reasonable sense of identity has been established that real intimacy with others can be possible. The youth who is not sure of his or her identity shies away from interpersonal intimacy, and can become, as an adult, isolated or lacking in spontaneity, warmth or the real exchange of fellowship in relationship to others; but the surer the person becomes of their self, the more intimacy is sought in the form of friendship, leadership, love and inspiration. The counterpart to intimacy is distantiation, which is the readiness to repudiate those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to one’s own.
7. Generativity Versus Stagnation – Generativity is primarily the interest in establishing and guiding the next generation, although there are people who, from misfortune or because of special gifts in other directions, do not apply this drive to offspring but to other forms of altruistic concern and creativity which may absorb their kind of parental responsibility. This is a stage of growth of the healthy personality, and where such enrichment fails, regression from generativity to an obsessive need for pseudo intimacy takes place, often with a pervading sense of stagnation and interpersonal impoverishment. The mere fact of having, or even wanting children does not itself attest to generativity.
8. Integrity Versus Despair and Disgust – Only a person who has in some way taken care of things and people and has adapted to the triumphs and disappointments of being the originator of others and the generator of things and ideas – only that person may gradually grow the fruit of the [prior] seven stages. [The state of] integrity is the acceptance of one’s own life cycle and of the people who have become significant to it as something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted of no substitutions. It thus means a new, different love of one’s parents, free of the wish that they had been different, and an acceptance of the fact that one’s life is one’s own responsibility. It is a sense of comradeship with men and women of distant times and of different pursuits who have created orders and objects and sayings conveying human dignity and love. The possessor of integrity is ready to defend the dignity of his or her own lifestyle, knowing that an individual life is the…coincidence of but one life cycle with but one segment of history, and that all integrity stands and falls with the one style of integrity of which he or she partakes. Lack or loss of this accrued integration is signified by despair and often an unconscious fear of death. Despair expresses the feeling that time is short, too short for the attempt to start a new life and to try out alternate roads to integrity. Such a despair is often hidden behind a show of disgust, or a chronic contemptuousness. Integrity, therefore, implies an emotional integration which permits participation by followership as well as acceptance of the responsibility of leadership."

1 comment:

Xander said...

Peter, I've been enjoying your blog for a few months now, but I have to mention one of my pet peeves: you post wonderful quotes from many sources, but you never link to them. It's not a question of your credibility as far as I am concerned, although it is on other sites, it's really a matter of follow up for your readers. Sometimes I want more, or just want to see the source of the quote or article. For example the various personality types were a great read, but what was the source? As a therapist and coach, it would be great to link to some of the things you write, but since there is no source for quotes and articles, I would be more inclined to find them and pass them on.

Best regards!


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