As a student I remember having a very fond interest in certain psychologists primarily Sigmund Freud as we all know and love, or despise and Erik Erikson.
The main factor that stood out to me about Erikson is that he went beyond the initial stages of life, stating eight stages of psychosocial development to the cycle of life contrary to Freud’s five stages of psychosexual development, we do develop further beyond our childhood.
One of the very interesting stages in Erikson’s theory is the final stage, Integrity vs. Despair. This stage is very crucial in terms of our perspective of life and death, quite fascinating indeed.
This stage hits us during old age, primarily individuals who are 65 and older. During this point in our lives Erikson’s theory states that we reflect upon the lives we have lived and we either feel a sense of fulfillment or we are full of despair and regret.
So those who feel fulfilled will gain integrity and wisdom whereas, those who look back and feel regret will feel bitterness at the life misspent.
I find this theory very interesting when looking at the social stereotypes of the older crowd which, are usually on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The main stereotypes that I would like to focus on state that older people are grouchy and cantankerous, older people are weak and helpless, and on the opposite end, older people are sweet, kind and at peace with the world.
When combining these stereotypes with Erikson’s final stage, our oversimplified statements actually bare some sense of truth to them. What Erikson seems to portray is the idea that successfully passing through this stage is ultimately decided by our mentality.
Depending on how the older generation perceives death will relate to their perception of their life. An individual who is satisfied with their life will welcome their inevitable death more so than one that shows regret and falls into a depressive state upon realization of this inevitable outcome.
Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development is full of many interesting stages, and old age is something we all will hopefully go through so make sure that every decision made is something you want to do and will not regret in the future.