I remember sitting through my required psych class for nursing thinking that this was the most boring class in the world. Maybe it was the professor, or maybe food coma was setting in because the class was after lunch. Either way, I usually spent my time in that class playing Warcraft or struggling to keep my already small eyes open. I was eighteen; the world I pondered consisted of GPA, extracurricular activities, and friends. Of course, the “older and wiser” me doesn’t think that psych class was completely bullshit in hindsight. One particular topic from that class that my mind wanders to a lot is Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. The bulk of the stages cover infancy to childhood where much of our psychosocial behavior is shaped. I’ll share the 8 stages for reference.
1. Trust vs. Mistrust
2. Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt
3. Initiative vs. Guilt
4. Industry vs. Inferiority
5. Identity vs. Role confusion
6. Intimacy vs. Isolation
7. Generativity vs. Stagnation
8. Ego integrity vs. Despair
Stages 1-5 occur between infancy and adolescence so I’m going to bypass those ones, unless you really want me to talk about why I chose not to share my toy car with my kindergarten neighbor on a carpet square. (I was just a big meanie! Ha!)
At the bedside, I’ve witnessed a lot of people at the end of their lives. Some were aware of the situation, and others may have been confused about reality and unable to comprehend their deteriorating health status. With dying people, I always wonder if they consider their life fulfilled. With my non-psych specialty, I occasionally find it difficult to determine ego integrity and despair. Of course, there are blatant people where you know they are at peace with themselves, their family, and their god(s)/God. Or on the contrary, there are some that wallow in all their regrets, overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and despair. There are also those that vacillate between ego integrity and despair; they are content with their life as a whole, but have some significant regret.
I would assume the majority of us would choose ego integrity over despair. I mean, who doesn’t want a life fulfilled? Isn’t that why we continue to live and to strive for what we think is best? I would be lying if I didn’t say that I hope my loved ones and I can achieve ego integrity at the end of our lives. Those people that possess that inner calm, knowing that all is right with their lives, are truly amazing. Witnessing people achieving that kind of peace leaves me speechless. As of now, I strive for ego integrity. Can I say I have met it wholly? No, but that’s why I’m a floundering 20-something year-old. Not to mention, I’m stymied at Erikson’s intimacy vs. isolation stage. I’m just glad I eventually shared my toy car and got past Erikson’s childhood stages 🙂