This is the eighth and final post in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here. To see the sixth post on stage 6, go here. To see the seventh post on stage 7, go here.
Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
One of our favorite things to do during family get-togethers, holidays, birthday is reminisce.
As a child I thought our family had all the jokes, but thankfully and beautifully, I grew up and found out every family has their own stories and jokes that are both hilarious and heartwarming. It is beautiful to sit with any family during a meal and hear not only the updates of how everyone is doing but to go back in time and experience an old story for the first time or for the hundredth time and giggle away. Watching everyone get excited about sharing a forgotten detail is fun; listening to people add emphasis to an impossible happenstance or outcome is hilarious. These are some of the best ways to connect with family, whether they are your family or someone else’s.
As adults mature, reflection time can be a gratifying activity. Looking back on accomplishments can bring a sense of pride, feelings of contentment and satisfaction. Gratitude usually follows, just for the experiences, places visited, and especially the relationships and connections encountered.
At the age of 65, adults enter into Erik Erikson’s Final Stage of PsychoSocial Development, Maturity. Maturity or late adulthood carries a conflict between integrity and despair. The pinnacle of this stage is looking back on one’s entire life – all of the experiences, situations and relationships, in a positive light. Erikson posits that coming to terms with and accepting oneself fully, helps create a sense of integrity and completeness.
Living a life of acceptance for the self, assuming responsibility for one’s life, without the possibility of undoing any decision or action, and being okay with it all is crucial to satisfaction with self and with life.
For those unable to achieve this; feeling regret or wishing for second chances to do something over, leads to despair. Feeling that life is unfinished, incomplete or that the self is unrealized can lead to a fear of death. Failing to resolve life’s challenges can leave a person with unfulfilled desires which can lead to a blaming stance. Sometimes bitterness or even disgust are felt.
When a person has successfully faced life’s challenges or has learned through his or her mistakes, they may realize in late adulthood that what they went through, gave them wisdom. They own their decisions, their emotions, and have no regrets, which in turn brings peace of mind.
In therapy, the counselor would help the person in this stage resolve any previously unsuccessful psychodevelopmental stages using a variety of theoretical approaches – existential, psychodynamic, trauma-oriented, and attachment oriented, to name a few. Resolving old issues helps make the person in this stage more free to embrace a hopeful and satisfied stance at the end of life.