Psychologist Erik Erikson divided life into eight stages that define our life work from infancy to old age, and last month I discussed the bookend of infancy (Trust vs Mistrust leading to Hope) and old age (Integrity vs Despair, leading to Wisdom). What happens in between?
The life work of teens is Identity vs. Identity Confusion, leading to Fidelity to oneself. For young adults it is Intimacy vs. Isolation, leading to Love. Stages blend together, so that means our kids are trying to figure out who they are, where they are going, and who they are going there with. I just watched the 80’s Brat Pack film “Breakfast Club,” where these dynamics play out in a high school on Saturday detention. Am I a jock or a brainiac? Will I open up or shut others out?
Then we hit the main period of adulthood where we work on Generativity vs. Stagnation, resulting in Care. We create children, new products, ideas, and thus feel alive and deeply invested in people, work, and meaningful concepts. If not, we stagnate, which is one name for middle-aged angst and the blahs! Each stage builds on the next, and we find ourselves returning to earlier stages to work it all out again. The fifty year old reconsiders a new identity leading to different work, or the divorcee faces issues of trusting again and overcoming isolation.
I find Erickson’s stages helpful for navigating life’s snares and successes, and helping my kids do the same. When young love doesn’t work out—the motherly comfort I offer is straight from my psych buddy Erik—It’s a needed step to finding love that does. So we press on for sustaining identity, life-giving intimacy and productive generativity!
Generativity Expressed through Power of Attorney
If you haven’t made a Power of Attorney for Finance and Health Care, it is time to generate one, which can result in your loved ones providing you with much better care. Or for you to offer more effective care to others. If you are in the “sandwich” stage of life, you need to think about your kids over 18 and your parents.
- Power of Attorney: The document that outlines your choices regarding either health care or finances.
- Agent or Attorney-in-fact: The person who enacts your choices when needed.
- Advance Health Care Directive: A Power of Attorney document that names your Health Care Agent and choices about end of life care.
Who should make a Power of Attorney for Health Care or Finance?
Anyone over 18 years of age.
How do I do it?
I recommend doing it with a lawyer. In preparation for the visit to the lawyer, these forms are helpful for thinking about the decisions you make. If using forms alone, choose the ones that follow the suggested wording/format in the California Probate Code. See the “Resources” tab on my website for forms and informational links.
Dear Mr. Vernon, we think you’re crazy to assign an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us…in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.