Stages of Development and Lifetime
The content which will be covered here is collected through various experiences of client work and educational stances of my practice. Upon observation from numerous clients, mostly women, as well as taking consideration to the everchanging social structures and environment, the incoherent and unpredictable world-wide views circulating over vast majority of individuals of all ages, there appears to be a hypothetical structure here that will be posed. This structure is one that identities various crisis points and dilemmas in the life of an individual through different time periods, taking into consideration and using Morris Massey’s Value Development Stages as guiding points to some stages. These stages and their various dilemmas focus on women, mostly Westernized women from different cultures and religious backgrounds, from the ages of childhood through until late fifties.
Before we display the stages, we will briefly summarize some key terms to be noted which will help in the discerning and assimilating further the content.
The key consequence of consciousness is a sense of self and identity .Self is a result from self-consciousness joined with physicality, a recognition that ‘’I’’ experience and its my experience, ‘’I am’’
In order to define the self, we must also define and distinguish between concepts of: self; self-concept ; identity ;personality.
The concept of self is a process of reflexivity according to G.H.Mead(1934) it emanates from the interplay between I and Me. Reflexivity also known as self-awareness is the ability to be both subject and object to yourself. In a way, it’s a special form of consciousness of oneself which is considered the ultimate feature of the human condition.
Self-concept is the sum total of the individual’s thoughts and feelings about himself or herself as an object (Rosenberg 1979). Please note that the word object is in no way identified to the word objectification and has no negative connotations merely neutral explanatory one.
Self-concept is composed of various identities, attitudes, beliefs, values, motives and experiences along with their evaluative and affective components (eg self-efficacy or self- esteem) in terms of which each individual define themselves.
Identity refers to who or what one is and the various meanings attached to oneself by self and others. From a sociological perspective, the concept of self -identity refers to the self- characterizations individuals make in terms of group memberships, social roles and categories as well as the various character traits an individual displays and other attribute to them on basis of her/his conduct. To put it in a nutshell, identity is the most public aspect of self.
Personality, in general refers to the various psychological traits, motivations, dispositions and patterns of thinking and feeling. ( Singer and Kolligian 1987).
The self is then a part of personality that is aware of itself and defines itself in terms of these qualities. Please note that we will not delve here into depth of personality theory or clinical psychology but rather the social structure and personality is selected of higher importance.
Our identity is the most public aspect of our self.
According to Foote(1951), individuals have multiple identities and these identities are in fact active agents which influence one’s behavioural choices. They thus provide behaviour with meaning, goals and purpose.
Stone(1962) distinguishes between identification of vs identification with. Identification of- is to distinguish between various persons and positions in society identification with- to take on an identity. Thus the notion of self and identity are separate. Identity is not a substitute word for self but rather a situatedness of the person in terms of standing in the context of a particular relationship or group.
Another important term is role-identity, where the character and role an individual constructs being as an occupant of a particular social position; the social structures to people. The multifaceted nature of self (each being an identity) is tied to a multifaceted nature of society (McCall and Simmons, 1966).
We search for the self in others and others in self, as Wilder(1986) argues, groups which we categorize others have relevance for our own social identity.
All in all, self-conceptions are the products of various imminent processes (those that directly infringe on us) with socializing consequences such as : learning of social roles, values and beliefs; language acquisition; commitment to identities or adjustment of identity loss and the processes of social comparison, self-attributions and reflected appraisals.
Self-Defences and Deceptions
When the self is as a motivational system, the important consequence which follows is the emergence of various distortions and deceptions one participates in, in order to maintain valued self-conceptions.
Social interaction itself is highly selective and self-serving, people choose others who like them or groups as reference or comparisons to themselves, as such individuals engage in various strategies to protect their self-esteem. These strategies may even be self-handicapping, that is self-defeating actions(eg student not studying for an exam the night before an exam) before a performance so they will have a ready-made excuse for failure (Rhodewalt et al, 1991).
With regards to self-serving distortions a particularly interesting question is, does the self deceives itself in this process?. The condition of self-deception, defined as knowing something about oneself that is true and at same time believing it is not true, is a paradoxical and yet highly common condition. Sartre(1958) viewed self-deception to be a characteristic of life in modern society and at same time the major obstacle to being an authentic self .
Attitude is defined by Eagly& Chaiken(1993), is a favourable or unfavourable evaluation of an object; attitude is also an affect for or against an object(Thurnstone, 1931). Likes/dislikes, love or hate, admiration or scorn, all these preferences involve a positive or negative affect toward or evaluation of some object or circumstance. This can be anything- person(s), group(s), institution(s), belief(s) or a concept such as the attitude itself.
It can be assumed that an attitude itself is an underlying disposition or a hypothetical construct, that is manifested in specific behaviours-directly or indirectly and verbally or nonverbally. Consider below the model constructed by Fishbein and Ajzen(1975):
Beliefs about object X -> Attitude towards X -> Intention toward X -> Behaviour toward X
This model shows that a person’s total set of beliefs about an object leads to an overall tendency towards a positive or negative evaluation; their overall evaluative attitude shapes their intentions to behave in positive or negative ways toward the object; and these intentions (unless checked) lead to behaviours that are, as a whole, positive or negative toward the object.
Value, defined by Rokeach (1973) is ‘’an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable’’ to its opposite. He further argues that values are more important than beliefs, among other reasons because they occupy a more central position than attitudes in one’s personality and are therefore determinants of attitudes as well as of behaviour.
From the point of view of Neuro Linguistic Programming, particularly the works of Carmen Bostic St.Clair and John Grinder, values are termed as what we hold most dear to us, the importance of something/someone and worth. Values also provide our motivations for doing what is deemed important to us in life, as well as offering evaluations. What’s quite important here to mention, once again, is that values are mainly unconscious as well as have a synaesthesia to them. This means that when a value is thought of or expressed there is a strong kinaesthetic attached to the word. They offer us unconscious blueprints which are placed or imprinted through developmental stages of one’s life; institutions of family and environment; personal experiences.
Beliefs, on the other hand, are more conscious than values. They are the generalisations which we make to support our value(s). These generalisations are about ourselves, our actions, intentions, others and systems. Therefore a belief system is a cluster of beliefs that support a value.
Core beliefs and values are formed through conscious and unconscious modelling(identification); significant emotional events which can be either positive or negative; conscious and unconscious decisions we make; and routine experiences and behaviours.
Value Developmental Stages
Sociologist Morris Massey proposes that we are not born with values but rather that the go through three developmental stages, these are: Imprint Period; Modelling Period; Socialization Period.
The Imprint Period
Up to the age of seven, we are like sponges, absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. The confusion and blind belief of this period can also lead to the early formation of trauma and other deep problems.
The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. This is a human construction which we nevertheless often assume would exist even if we were not here (which is an indication of how deeply imprinted it has become).
The Modelling Period
Between the ages of eight and thirteen, we copy people, often our parents, but also others. Rather than blind acceptance of their values, we are trying them on like a suit of clothes, to see how they feel.
The Socialization Period
Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, we are very largely influenced by our peers. As we develop as individuals and look for ways to get away from the earlier programming, we naturally turn to people who seem more like us.
Other influences at these ages include the media, especially those parts which seem to resonate with our/the values of our peer groups.
- The child -> little girl : with relevance to above, this will be ages of birth until age of seven known as the imprint period. The environment that’s being absorbed as assimilated is fully done so and here the early memories as well as deep structural imprints will be made. The importance of parents at this point I would ascertain is crucial and even more so in particular, the mother and the relationship with the child. Here the archetype, in its pattern behavioural sense ,of mother is passed on through the five senses and fully absorbed by the child, unconsciously. The kinaesthetic elements and their components of feeling, emotion and expression, internally and externally are learned and assimilated, once again mainly unconsciously. As the child grows onwards from age of five, the moral structure of right and wrong are loosely established. Even though Morris Massey argues that young children are pre-moral ( amoral) that is no real values, I would disagree to this statement only from standpoint of consciousness. It isn’t the matter whether children understand right-wrong and morality to its standard of value system but rather they unconsciously are assimilating their surroundings and binding themselves (extent depends upon character temperament and personality) to their family, mainly their mother. The image of mother, her voice, her movements, her feeling and in early months her smell and taste are all held together and kept buried deep down in memory of child. With relevance to Jung’s archetypes, the mother archetype is one of the most common and universally recognized archetypes in most cultures. Representing the universal, idealised version of motherhood, the archetypal mother is either depicted as the nurturing, selfless carer who protects and provides for her offspring at any cost to themselves or opposite, the archetypal wicked stepmother, or neglectful mother who abandons her child. In most of my cases with clients, any deeply rooted problems they have had experienced in their life, either emotionally, physically or psychologically, we have found great relevance to their relationship with their mother. Cases range from abandonment (emotional and psychological) to abuse (physical; bullying; gaslighting) to even worse still, ignorance and apathy. The onset of these instances would mainly be presented from the age of seven (or earlier) with various degrees progressing onwards to later stages. The roots would be set and instead of flowers blossoming, the garden would be one of weeds and endless replanting, to put it as a metaphor. Even more so, as the child would grow older, they would take with them repressed unconscious patterns, repressed inner child as well as some sort of ‘trauma’ deeply imbedded in their mind, their cognitive and perceptual processes; filters, even more so and worse, their values.
- Girl -> Teenager : With relevance to Value Development, this is the period of modelling, from age of eight until thirteen. Modelling, as defined through the terms of NLP is: the process of extricating and replicating the language structure and behavioural pattern of a selected model who person chooses. Once a model(s) is found there is a process of unconscious assimilation of patterns that takes place. By observation and cognition, the child in this case, would keep replaying the patterns through practice and trial/error until they become idiosyncratic to the model(s) of their choice. In addition to this, with relevance to Morris Massey, this stage isn’t one of blind acceptance but rather trying out and trying on values like clothes and seeing how it feels. At the previous stage, we established the imprints and repressed unconscious patterns and now the layers of self and identity with respect to character and personality start their patchwork. There can also be crisis points when a value is tested through the lenses and filters of the unconscious repressed imprints, which creates a some-what split. For example, the wish to do certain hobbies or model certain people can be an escape or a solidification to the ‘trauma’ of past. The nature of identity, especially as noted above ‘’identification with’’(taking on an identity) is explored as well as the more social, role models. As with values being tried on so do identities, as noted by McCall and Simmons(1966) the multifaceted nature of self (each being an identity) is tied to a multifaceted nature of society and modelling provides an escape or journey to venture into ‘the self’.
- Teenager -> Young Woman: This is the last stage of which we use Massey’s Value Development as reference, this is the socialization period which covers the age of fourteen until twenty-one. This stage is all about integration (or lack of it) within a peer group and social structure. The ‘early programming’ as Massey notes that individuals wish to get away from, is the need to exist independently and yet socially too. Here the self and identity (or identities) wish to merge or find at least coherence. At the same time, the need to find ‘people who seem more like us’ is a tricky task. Firstly, we don’t yet fully know who we are, secondly our early programming and modelling as well as value trying and establishment (or lack of) and thirdly, the deeply imbedded imprints that might lead us to self-sabotage and self-deceive ourselves. Add to that our society which is heavily focused on media, illusion and a certain lens through which social roles or identities are presented, values adhered to and belief systems. The deception of liberty and the danger of ‘tribal’ mentality along with identification and assimilation within peer groups. The force and nature of our strongest part of self is here to be expressed: sex and sexuality. Please note sex is mentioned here as the act of two people engaged in intercourse and not the male-female aspect of word as we wont delve into that concept here. Who we chose to have sex with, how we express ourselves and many other sexual tendencies is a matter of trends, socialization engulfed within a shell which at the core of it, is still unexplored and misunderstood as it has much to do with our imprints and patterns as any other aspect of ourselves. However, in my personal belief, sex provides an expression and perhaps to some extent liberation (while to others agony or repetition of abuse) that other aspects of who we are cant quite express within a similar outlet or domain. For this reason, we will not delve further into this topic here but can be found in section of Sex and Dating.
- Student -> ?: This stage has been named as student to unnamed, through the assumption and hypothesis that usually (but not definitely) this is the stage most individuals are undertaking some sort of development or work towards themselves. Taking into consideration of recent changes and course of events, in time perhaps this will not be the norm but for now I’m undertaking this generalisation as to establish a category for this stage. In previous decades, though in some cultures still withstanding, the twenties (mid to late especially) was a time when a woman would think of marriage and children however the concept of self-mastery and efficacy as well as other core terms of self (see I am More than my name article) has taken over the role modelling and identification of women. The meaning behind the word and its complex structure as well as various emotions and feelings it carries, has been and still is undermined and misunderstood. It is my opinion that at this stage the first conflict starts, the conflict of who they are- for themselves as well as their inner circle, mainly focused on either fellow students or fellow colleagues in workplace. There is a drive that is pushing forward all those models, patterns, programs and imprints that now need to find a way of life, of expression.
- Wife -> to be or not to be: As above is noted yet not firmly established, the period was twenties, this stage could be that of thirties. Once again using a generalized view towards stages yet with ample examples throughout Westernized societies where in thirties usually women marry and wish (or not) to establish a family. This is the beginning and first part of crisis in a woman’s life: to be married or not; to be a spouse/partner/wife or not. ‘’What does this mean for me now or in future’’; ‘’who am I once I do that (my identity and role)’’ and then the inevitable which would follow usually (though not always) that is, to have a family or not. At the stage it is also crucial, if not done prior, to unify and restore the core energetic unity consciousness, that is the animus and anima. With relevance to Carl Jung, Jung associated women’s psychology with the principle of Eros (Love) as psychic relatedness while men are associated with Logos (the word) as reason. Furthermore, there exists as in the symbolic expression of Ying Yang, a dark in the light and a light in the dark; a female in the male and male in female-Animus and Anima. Anima is described as feminine side of man and animus as the unconscious male principle in a woman. Both animus and anima are crucial aspects to self- development and a principality of a complete and integrated self( see I am More than my name article). Our true self, authentic self and unification can be fully integrated at this stage since it has had the experience as well as readiness to change or re-establish oneself. If not done so, the patterns, imprints and programming will resume and as life unfolds with more responsibilities and roles, the complex and complicated are the feelings and perceptions of ourselves and our surroundings/environment also others. Feelings of apathy or lack of purpose could result in some cases where the focus was either on others- be it family members or institutions like university/studies or work. In most cases loneliness results, since there is emptiness or aloneness, here the split happens not only introspectively but also socially. The pressure or general popular script within certain ideologies where a woman is influenced to pursue and establish a career and not fall back on old role models of housewife or motherhood and carer of family. Through historical times and with progression in the area of freedom there are many respectful possibilities a woman can now pursue and yet women nowadays seem to be more lost, alone, angry and aggressive towards themselves as well as other fellow women.
- Mother -> To be or not to be: As noted above, the second part of crisis in a woman’s life is whether to have a child or children. Here the matter is even more complex in its layers than above stage, since usually (though not always) due to career pursuits or other, the time period (biologically) may be coming to its end and in many ways even more pressure to the choice to be made or not. In previous times, for example 1950s, there was a mass hypnosis that was established through infrastructure of family and asserted values as well as socially though media etc. The values at that time, though not different from now or any other time, was family. The difference is that the script of this mass hypnosis that created trance nowadays is a different one. We have focused on individualistic values and motivation of self and have consciously or unconsciously sacrificed the social structure of family- in its truest sense, as a wholeness that integrates all individuals and society. This statement is rather generalised viewpoint and observed through the prism of Westernized society as well as media-influenced value systems. The inherent desire, dare say need, to reproduce, to share and extend oneself with another has in many ways lost its core meaning. There is a proposed structure, a social imprint, that still exists, that is one of family and its strengths but for many women, the desire and inclination towards the identity and role of mother is in many ways warped. Another very important point to note here, is once again our relationship to our mother as well as the early imprinting period. This aspect can greatly influence our choice whether or not to have a child or the dilemma of the type of mother and role they will fulfil.
- After-Kids Emptiness -> Making of The Crone: if the woman does pursue motherhood, there is a last stage of crisis, that in my experience have found to be very common and is in many ways the final and ultimate crisis: Who am I now? What am I now?. After the kids have grown up and left home, many people suffer the ‘empty nest’ syndrome but this stage here will focus only on the introspective aspect of woman. At this stage, which like above doesn’t have a set age but usually (though not always) may happen at the ages of fifties towards sixties. There may appear an emptiness or confusion on an unconscious level perhaps even sadness which the person cant put a finger on. All imprints, programming, experiences have had their full displays yet when at this stage a person feels constricted that is the last resort left to identify the deeply held repressions as well as any strong emotions and baggage they have been carrying. The result at such a stage is a feeling of absolute freedom, stability in themselves, a true form of authentic self and the making of a crone, or archetype of Wise Woman. The archetype of the Wise Woman is a woman that is moulded by her experiences and lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Carl Jung refers to this archetype as an individual’s ‘’mana’’ personality. The ‘mana’ represents a primordial energy that, if properly embraced, can assist the individual to grow and/or transform. If not properly embraced, however, it can cause the individual into disintegration and destruction. It can be seen as the spiritual in human form or as here in this stage as a woman who has accepted her choices, embraced and overcame her obstacles and has grown through her mistakes. At this point, a newly found freedom and eagerness at the later stages of life are embraced with great enthusiasm and acknowledgement of wisdom.
- Mead, George.H.(1934). Mind, Self and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Rosenberg, Morris. (1979). Conceiving the Self. New York: Free Press.
- Singer, Jerome.L., and John Kolligan, Jr.(1987). Personality: Developments in the study of private experience. Annual Review of Psychology 38:533-574.
- Foote, Nelson.N.(1951). Identification as the basis for a theory of motivation. American Sociological Review 26:14-21.
- Stone, Gregory.P.(1962). Appearance and the self. In Human Behaviour and Social Processes, ed. Arnold.M.Rose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- McCall, George.J., and J.L.Simmons(1966). Identities and Interactions, rev. ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Wilder, David.A.(1986). Social categorization: Implications for creation and reduction of intergroup bias. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 19: 293-355.
- Rhodewalt, Frederick, C.Morf, S.Hazlett, and M.Fairfield.(1991). Self-handicapping: The role of discounting and augmentation in the preservation of self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61:122-131.
- Sartre, Jean.P.(1958). Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. H.Barnes, trans.London: Methuen.
- Eagly, Alice, and Shelly Chaiken(1993). The Psychology of Attitudes. New York: Harcourt Brace.
- Thurstone, L.L. 1967. The measurement of social attitudes. Pp.14-25 in Readings in Attitude Theory and Measurement, ed. Martin Fishbein. New York: Wiley.
- Fishbein, Martin, and Icek Ajzen(1974). Attitudes towards objects as predictors of single and multiple behavioural criteria. Psychological Review 81:59-74.
- Rokeach, Milton(1973). The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press.
- Bandler, Richard and Grinder, John (1975). The Structure of Magic. California: Science and Behavior Books, Inc.
- Bandler, Richard and Grinder, John (1976). The Structure of Magic II. California: Science and Behavior Books, Inc