Tag Archives: How to Live

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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How to Live: The Wisdom of the Enneagram in a Nutshell

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How to Live:

“Improve yourself and become the best possible version of who you are. Care for others and be responsive to their needs. Show initiative, enterprise and style.  Be imaginative and creative; appreciate the power of  beauty and the gift of the arts. Think deeply and broadly about many things. Be loyal, reliable and trustworthy. Enjoy life; celebrate moments of natural ecstasy and spiritual epiphany. Take charge and influence others as a servant leader. Cultivate inner peace and make peace in the world.”

Commentary: It’s customary for the nine points of the Enneagram to be treated as nine different personality styles, and I have no objection to this approach as long as individuals are not narrowly “scripted” and “type-cast” for life, or even “from all eternity.” I agree with Walt Whitman that “we contain multitudes” and that while “nature” certainly plays in important part in personality development, as does the culture in which we come of age, there surely remains at least some small but important element of free will and existential choice about which potentialities we develop and which we allow to remain dormant and undiscovered. Some people develop in such a way that only one or two narrow sides of their personalities are developed, while other persons with more heterodox dispositions and radically open orientations dare to develop many different sides of their character, intelligence and temperament. When such persons have grown into full maturity we sometimes refer to them as “polymaths”, “polyhistors” or simply “renaissance men.” Any narrow fixation within one of the nine personality points of the Enneagram, and any dogma that rationalized that fixation, is detrimental to the full development of the full spectrum of human potentialities within a single individual. When asked on occasion by friends and acquaintances which of the nine points of the Enneagram most describes me I’m tempted to say, “Well I value thinking deeply and living creatively, so I guess that makes me a Five and Four. But at the same time I value improving myself and caring for others, so I guess that makes me a One and Two. But actually I also appreciate the need to show initiative from time to time, and even to take charge when there’s a leadership vacuum. So I guess this makes me a Three and Eight. OK, I also appreciate loyalty, reliability and trustworthiness from my friends, and I try to exemplify these values as well, so I guess this makes me a Six. But I’m not done. I would say that I know how enjoy life, to have a good time, to savor the sensuality, beauty and enchantment of life, to experience passionate intensity and ecstatic joy from to time, so I guess this makes me an Eight. Finally, I must confess that I highly value times of solitude and serenity, of be and peace with myself and seeking to be a peacemaker among others, so I suppose that makes me a Nine.”

Different people know us in different contexts and tend to project upon us those temperamental qualities that fit that particular context. But if we are honest with ourselves we will probably have to admit that there is always more to us than meets the eye, more than others see of us in a variety of different but limited social contexts. What matters is that we learn how to live life fully and freely within many different adaptive contexts and through all the changing stages and circumstances of life, that we become many-turned individuals, in other words, “men and women for all seasons.”