This is a great day to write about love. In fact, what day isn’t? Second to living it, the best way to celebrate love is to write about it.
But first let’s talk about me. I have fallen in love many times. In college, I had many love affairs. One of them was with a wonderful man named Erik Erickson who also happened to live in Boston but way before I was born, in the 1930s. Of course, I would never meet him. But I knew I loved him the moment I read about his life and work.
Erickson once wrote:
“Every adult, whether he is a follower or a leader, a member of a mass or of an elite, was once a child. He was once small. A sense of smallness forms a substratum in his mind, ineradicably. His triumphs will be measured against this smallness, his defeats will substantiate it. The questions as to who is bigger and who can do or not do this or that, and to whom—these questions fill the adult’s inner life far beyond the necessities and the desirabilities which he understands and for which he plans.”
Erickson is best known for introducing the concept of the adolescent identity crisis. His most famous work was his theory of personality which included Erikson life-stages and virtues. He believed man go through 8 stages from childhood to adulthood. These are more like challenges, games almost, you either win or lose. If you triumph, the virtue is the prize you get and you get to move on to the next challenge. If you fail, all the challenges ahead are potentially compromised. It’s like a video game except there’s hardly a do over. Except for stage 6: Love.
In brief the stages are as follows:
1. Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust (Infants, 0 to 1 year)
2. Will: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (Toddlers, 2 to 3 years)
3. Purpose: Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool, 3 to 5 years)
4. Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Childhood, 6 to 11 years)
5. Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescents, 12 to 19 years)
6. Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young Adults, 20 to 40 years)
7. Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Adulthood, 45 to 65 years)
8. Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Seniors, 65 years onwards)
If you are stuck on 6 don’t panic. A lot of young adults are. Yesterday was a harsh reminder of that. Here’s the good news. Love is a game. Different from the other stages, this is the only stage you get a do over, or two. Guaranteed. The childhood shame, guilt or doubt, the adolescence confusion, the infants mistrust often stay with us as adults. Because as children we had little control over how adequate our caregivers were. But love is all on us.
What are you choosing?