I knew someone once who started almost every piece of advice with, “I was feeling that same way about a month or two ago.” Whether that statement was true or not, it always got me steamed up. I don’t exactly know why. I just know that every time I heard that phrase I wanted to pick the world up and drop it on someone’s head a la Lil Wayne.
I’m in this Psychology of Personality class this quarter, which is really swell. And I enjoy it a lot. But I have a major beef with all of the personality theorists that we’ve studied so far. They all think that development is linear – that as we come across new conflicts and resolve them, we become a more full and better person. And I just think that’s silly.
Right now, we are learning about Erik Erikson. He believed that life development consisted of eight epigenetic stages. That’s just a fancy way of saying that each stage grows on top of the other and that if we get messed up in one stage, then it ruins the other stages for us. Each of these stages is marked by a conflict, and if we navigate the conflict correctly, we learn a new “ego skill” or virtue. The conflict in the first stage, for instance, is trust vs. mistrust. And if we navigate it correctly, we acquire hope. That first stage happens before we are a year old.
I don’t even know how to understand this.
These conflicts are never resolved. Aren’t we constantly dealing with whether or not to trust the world? Or take Stage 3’s conflict, initiative v. shame and doubt. This supposedly happens before you are 6. But pretty much every college student I know routinely bounces back and forth between hard-working and lazy, self-loathing bum (myself included).
I don’t think there are “teenage” problems or “adult” problems or “kid” problems in this world. I just think there are people problems.
What are your people problems?