The 8 Stages of Life That Make or Break You
We are defined not just by who we are in the present, but by how we managed our past experiences.
Erik Erikson, the psychoanalyst who coined the term, “identity crisis,”1 found that humans typically go through eight stages of life.
Born in Germany, in 1902, to Danish parents but raised by a Jewish stepfather, Erikson grew up with a different upbringing from his peers.
In 1927, the psychoanalyst Anna Freud (Sigmund Freud’s youngest daughter) invited Erikson to teach at a private art school in Vienna.
Erikson began his training in psychoanalysis, becoming deeply influenced by Freud’s ideas on how childhood upbringing impacts people’s personality and growth. And he realized the following:
“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.”
But he felt that Sigmund Freud’s theories on childhood overly emphasized the role of sexuality in human development. Erikson believed that social and cultural factors played a more significant role in how we develop as humans.
So he broadened his study of Freud’s theory, and focused instead on understanding the interaction between:
- A person’s biological being
- Individual psychological traits
- Cultural and societal upbringing
Erikson studied and interviewed children of different cultural and societal backgrounds. And he found that people’s personality traits unfolded in 8 stages.
As we go through each stage, we experience certain challenges and setbacks. If we resolve these challenges in a positive manner: We grow. But if we don’t, we stagnate.
The 8 stages of development
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the most recognized theories of personality in psychology. Erikson suggests that an individual’s personality develops throughout their lifespan, and this development…