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  • Writer's pictureHenrietta

A new stage of life?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

We move through our lives from one stage to the next. New born babies become babies, then toddlers, then small children, then school children and young people etc etc etc. Each stage presents with new challenges; for example, when toddlers realise they can affect their world and don't have to do what they are told - we call that "the terrible twos" complete with tantrums. And it results in them becoming a small child

As adults we carry on growing and developing too, or we can if we are allowed to by those around us and we let ourselves!

Sometimes we get stuck in one stage, and that makes transition to the next stage more difficult - the adult version of the tantrum happens. And as an adult it affects more people than when a toddler works out they are a person and don't have to do what they are told.

Sometimes we are prevented from growing - coercive control, bossy partners, health, work, commitments, even fear holds us back.

But the need to grow is within us and will come flooding out when it can - maybe a good time, maybe a really inconvenient time.

We have to complete each stage to get to the next, and a thing called a "normative crisis" happens as we outgrow the stage we are in. Erik Erikson gave it that name in his book about the stages of psychosocial development (Erikson, 1950). The word "normative" indicates that this is a perfectly normal stage of life, but that doesn't make it comfortable or easy at all.

In later life, after the mid 40s, we have to decide whether to carry on growing or whether to "stagnate" (Erikson's word). That is, do we carry on growing and learning, or do we settle down.

This is hugely challenging as we may be around people who want to do one and we want to do the other - the choice then is to either move on, or to stay and change what we want, again within the constraints of our life.

I've been at this point recently and feel myself coming out through it. Some people I love are ready to settle down, at exactly the same time that I'm ready to start growing again

It hurts - it hurts seeing people I love behaving in a way that I wouldn't

And this is the hard bit.

We are all individual humans. What is right for me is not right for everyone I love. I'm living my life, and they are living theirs, and I don't know what is best for anyone else. I am responsible for living my life. That's it, mine and no-one else's

So my role is to support their personal choices whilst I carry on with my own journey through life.

It is called "respect" and it's sometimes really hard. The harder it gets the more important the respect for the individual becomes...

Erikson, E, 1950, Childhood and society, Norton, USA

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