Negotiating Our Life Stages and Developmental Tasks

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Ecocentric Development 8 Stages Diagram

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The above charts include the human developmental life-stage models of Eric Erikson, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Chris Cowen, Don Beck and Ken Wilber. Many others have constructed similar models that suggest that: (1) human experience involves a variety of developmental tasks; (2) that we encounter these developmental tasks in a series of life-stages; (3) that our developmental tasks and life-stages occur within difference domains of knowledge and dimensions of experience. All of this relates to my most recent blog on the developmental task of “saging” within the “senior years” after we have completed the earlier life-stages associated with childhood, adolescence, young adulthood (marriage and family) and mid-life (employment and career). Each life-stage presents us with new existential questions and new challenges to change and grow. In Jung’s model the second half of life involves a shift from our outward “persona” within various social roles to our inward personage as a self-reflective human being. Eric Ericson views the later developmental stages as involving Generativity and Integrity. Abraham Maslow views the higher developmental tasks as involving our ontological “Being needs” for self-actualization and self-transcendence beyond the meeting of our basic “deficiency needs” for survival, security, belonging, achievement and status. In the Spiral Dynamics model we have second tier developmental needs for Integration and Wholeness beyond first tier preoccupations. These represent cultural memes and ascending waves of evolutionary development. Ken Wilber places these emergent Spiral Dynamics within the context of his “All Quadrants, All Levels” (AQAL) “integral model” that includes the Internal, External, Individual and Collective dimensions of life.

As human beings we may become fixated upon any of the life stage developmental tasks so that we ignore everything else or refuse to travel the rest of the journey. We see this with individuals in their 20s and 30s or even their 40s who are still living the developmental tasks associated with adolescence or the teen years. We see it with some persons in their 60s who are attempting to repeatedly re-live the first half of their lives all over again in the American cult of perpetual youth rather than gracefully grow in wisdom, maturity, wholeness and integration. Each life-stage and developmental task has a beauty and charm as well as a difficulty and perplexity that is all its own, and the best thing we can do is to embrace the gift and challenge of each new task rather than life in the past.

One thing I’ve discovered about the aging (and saging) process is that I have become more clear in my own mind and resolved in my own heart about those “simple things” in life that I most deeply cherish and savor. “My Favorite Things” include the rising of the sun, the romance of the moon,  the stillness of the night, the bird song of the morning, the dew upon the earth, the contemplation of being, the mystery of life, the quest for wisdom, the wonder of the cosmos, the grandeur of nature, the scent of flowers, the therapy of water, the power of music, the magic of art, the grace of movement, the elegance of dance, the treasure of books, the enchantment of poetry, the delight of humor, the deliciousness of food, the refreshment of drink, the sensuality of the body, the nobility of the mind, the cultivation of literacy, the practice of civility, the reverence for life, the empathy of compassion, the bow of admiration, the embrace of affection, the gift of friendship, the courage of leadership, the commitment to service, the sharing of community, and the joy of celebration. One can  cultivate “a simple and quiet life” of inward gratitude and serenity and of outward kindness and hospitality as the crowning achievement of the journey into wholeness.

 

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