If Carl Jung divided life into the first and second half…
… psychologist Erik Erickson divided it into eight stages that define our emotional life work from infancy to old age. “Hope” bookends these stages. At the beginning, an infant’s emotional work is to learn Trust versus Mistrust, resulting in a young child having a sense of hopefulness. In old age, the emotional life work is Integrity versus Despair, resulting in wisdom and hope.
The process is backward looking—reviewing life’s good/bad and finding a sense of meaning. It is also present oriented—finding wholeness even in the dis-integration of body and mind. This is challenging, and hits us in first smaller and then larger ways as we age. I injured my back almost 2 years ago now—finding meaning in the midst of physical pain is not a task for the weak of heart. Yet the daily stretching I need to do has added peace of mind.
On the positive side of finding integrity is being a person of hopefulness and not despair, wisdom and not rigid dogmatism. At 26 right out of seminary, I did an internship at a church consisting of mainly folks over 60. I was taken with how the people came in extremes: angry, bitter, and dogmatic OR happy, hopeful, and open-minded. I longed to be the latter, but now appreciate how difficult that is to do amidst life’s realities. As we work towards integrity, what is one life event that needs reframing in order to find meaning and add a new hope to your life?
Next time: What are Erikson’s stages in between infancy and old age?
PLANNING FOR INCAPACITY…NOW THERE’S A CHEERY SUBJECT!
Last month I mentioned how many of you have confessed to me that you need to make or update a will/trust. Mainly people think of needing to do so in case they—gasp—were to die. But the need is just as great in case one becomes incapacitated through dementia, illness, or accident, which is perhaps a scarier thing to ponder than one’s inevitable death. Establishing your attorney-in-fact for health care decisions, finances, and personal care is a gift you give to yourself and those around you who then won’t be left scrambling.
An advanced health care directive and attorney-in-fact for health care is needed for any adult age 18 and older (remember Terry Schaivo). Parents of children in early adulthood may find that if injured, due to HIPAA restrictions, doctors might not allow information or involvement in determining their child’s care, if the child is not conscious and therefore able to give permission for the parent to be involved in health care decisions.
Next Time: More about advance directive and power of attorney.
Erik Erikson, The Life Cycle Completed