Posted by Valerie Ling on May 30, 2020 at 4:10 AM

I hope to be a "handsome woman". Was how a dinner table conversation started with my family. "What does that mean mum". Truthfully, I don't really know. Remember that old comedy "The Golden Girls"? For some reason I really wanted to be a Dorothy. Tall, stately, poised, the voice of reason and with a slight bite to her. As I approach the age of 50, I look nothing like a Dorothy, and I can't really pull off her sarcasm.


Lately I have been reflecting on the lost conversation of maturity. I think we get lost in thinking that success and achievement will hallmark our lives. Our life's work puts the stamp on who we are. Our estates and assets will ground the reality of what we became and left behind.


Maturity, however, is something quite different. The idea of maturity is foundational in psychological thinking. It is about the growth and development of a human being in their identity, relationships, ethics and moralities, emotionality and their lasting contribution to society.


Erik Erikson's theory of Psychosocial development unfolds human maturity into 8 stages:


1. Trust vs. Mistrust: age 0 - 1½. Here we learn about basic relationships of care and trust and provides us hope, when this does not happen, we are left to feel exposed and we acquire fear

2. Autonomy vs. Shame: age 1½ - 3. We learn we can be independent an have mastery over some things, inculcating a will. If we are put down and criticised constantly we acquire shame.

3. Initiative vs. Guilt: age 3 - 5. At this stage we learn about moving forward and interacting with others. When nurtured we discover our purpose and roles with others, if squashed we acquire quilt in being a nuisance or a burden.

4. Industry vs. Inferiority: age 5 - 12. Here we discover ourselves as the learner, if nurtured we gain competence, if taken away we acquire a sense of failure.

5. Identity vs. Role Confusion: age 12 - 18. This is when we discover who we are, our values, beliefs, aspirations. If nurtured we gain conviction, if thwarted - confusion.

6. Intimacy vs. Isolation: age 18 - 40. This is the time we seek connection and learn to be vulnerable with others. When flourished we gain intimacy, when frustrated we feel lonely.

7. Generativity vs. Stagnation: age 40 - 65. At this stage we seek to make our mark, make a difference and contribute to the world at large. When there is opportunity we find purpose, when we lack this, we feel lost.

8. Ego Integrity vs. Despair: age 65+. At this point we look back and make meaning of the life we have had in totality. What we gain is wisdom, if when we look back we do not see meaning of our life, we feel despair


Maturity is hard work. Productivity, success, busyness, hustle, these do not really mark the Eriksonian stages of development or maturity. That sort of hard work is noisy. The work of maturity is equally in the quiet, contemplative, vulnerable, aching spaces. Seeking truth, seeking meaning, seeking connection, seeking service, pursuing wisdom, growing, groaning, celebrating and being.


#maturity #growth #purpose

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