Change, Growth And The Life Cycle (1)


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. . Once there was a couple with serious problems in their marriage. They asked the advice of a counselor in a last attempt to resolve their conflict. After some sessions, the counselor confronted the couple with the bottleneck; a difference in emotional age between the two. It appeared that one had the emotional age of 18 whereas the other’s emotional development got stuck in early childhood. The couple was married for quite some years, had become parents and their children were soon to leave home . . .

. .

Life is (not) a moving staircase where you move gradually from one level to another without noticing it. Sometimes it looks like that, but in order to manage change we need to be aware that the different levels are not accessed without taking a step that brings you to the next level as in a game, where each level has its own difficulties and challenges.

Everyone can recognize the fact that a person’s life traverses several stages - infancy to the old age, writes Christopher Alexander in his twenty-sixth pattern (A pattern language) called “life cycles. ” Each stage is a discrete reality - according to Alexander – with its own special compensations and difficulties. He quotes Erik Erikson, a Danish psychologist who has categorized these (eight) stages in the life of a human being:

  1. The infant that deals with trust vs. mistrust. The relationship between the infant and the mother. The struggle for confidence that the environment will nourish.
  2. The very young child. Autonomy vs. doubt. The relationship between the child and parents. The challenge to stand on one’s own feet in the experiences of shame and doubt.
  3. The Child. Initiative vs. guilt. The relationship between the family and friends. Search for action and construction checked by fear and guilt of own aggressions.
  4. The youngster. Industry vs.inferiority. Relationships to the neighbourhood, school.
  5. Youth. Identity vs. identity confusion. Relationships to peer and “outgroups” and the search for models of adult life.
  6. Young adults.intimacy vs. isolation. Partners in friendship, sex, work. The struggle to commit oneself.
  7. Adults. generativity vs. stagnation. The relation between a person and the division of labor, and the creation of a shared household. The struggle to establish and guide versus the feelings of stagnation.
  8. Old age.integrity vs.despair. The relations between a person and his world. Acceptance of one's life versus the despair that life has been useless.

According to Erikson, each stage has a development task and a person should resolve this task before he can move forward to a next phase. As mentioned by Alexander - these stages are discrete realities. We need to make sure that we are aware when we finish one stage and when we enter a next stage. Each stage has its own difficulties and compensations. If we do not manage to overcome the difficulties of one stage, will will not be able to manage the challenges of the next stage.

To be Continued.

© 2006 Hans Bool

Hans Bool is the founder of Astor White a traditional management consulting company that offers online management tools. Have a look at some of our free management tools


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