Almost every description of middle adulthood sucks…
As I was writing a book and doing research on lifespan development, I reconnected with some of my therapy training. It’s funny what happens when you re-read a certain adult development stage when you’re actually in that stage.
When I was working on my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, I was in my early 30s. Now in my 40s, as I re-read Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, I was struck by how jaded and wrong his concept of ‘middle adulthood’ is.
First of all, let’s get clear on Erik Erikson. Born on June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany, Erikson was a neo-Freudian teacher who had no formal degree or training… and still held teaching positions at the University of California Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, Austen Riggs Center, and the Center for Advanced Studies of the Behavior Sciences.
Bravo that he could allow his talents to speak for themselves and let’s be clear- the history books call him a ‘psychologist’ and he had a private practice in child psychoanalysis but no formal higher education training in psychology.
Contextual analysis and understanding of the historical environment in which our ‘theorists’ grew up matters. Informed consent is all about having all of the appropriate information BEFORE we make a decision about what we choose to buy into.
So Erikson grew up in a time of war. He had questions about his own identity and managed to create a life that he wanted for himself, despite many, many obstacles. Ambitious, yes. Determined, yes. But none of that means his ‘theories’ were correct.
Let’s talk about his ‘theory’ of psychosocial development. More specifically, let’s start with the fact that his theory focuses on psychosocial crises at each stage of life. A bit negative, wouldn’t you say?
Not to mention the fact that he so incorrectly identified the psychosocial crisis of ages 12–18 as “Identity vs. Role Confusion.”
Umm… most of my 40–50 something year old friends are still asking “Who am I REALLY?”And I would think we continue asking that question (and reinventing ourselves based on the answers) throughout our entire…