When it comes to leading a happier, more satisfying life, the principles of development psychology can be invaluable, giving us a better perspective on ourselves and what to expect as we age. The term “identity crisis” was coined by Erik Erikson, a renowned developmental psychologists and psychoanalysts. He identifies eight stages across the average lifespan. In each, we’re faced with a different challenge. Master one stage, and we gain a new set of skills to propel us forward. Failing to do so can leave us feeling stuck, stunting our emotional growth. Here’s a rundown of the adult stages.
LOVE: Intimacy vs. isolation (ages 18-35). In this first stage of adult development, we focus on forming loving, intimate, long-lasting relationships. Those who struggle will likely have issues with intimacy and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
CARE: Generativity vs. stagnation (ages 35-64). The challenges in this stage revolve around career choices, family relationships, participation in society, and pursuing passions and interests. A lack of success here can lead to feelings of regret about crucial past decisions.
WISDOM: Ego integrity vs. despair (ages 65 and up). Can you accept your successes and defeats? The ability to mourn losses, celebrate successes, and accept the realities of life underlies ego integrity. Failure to do so can lead to profound feelings of despair, sadness and disappointment.
Not surprisingly, our emotional and cognitive development doesn’t stop when we turn 18. Erikson’s developmental model shows that we are meant to continue to evolve and grow. Throughout life, take each stage into consideration when making important decisions. Ask yourself, “Am I where I want to be at this stage in my life?” or, “What should I be planning for as I enter the next stage?”
When necessary, revisit an earlier stage that feels unfinished or unresolved. By doing so, we’re able to question and change our lives, all while gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves, our interests and our passions.