Today I want to talk about the third stage of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development model, which is one way of explaining the phases we move through psychologically as we grow. It’s relevant not only to parents, but to us all, as it can help us understand some of the places we may have got stuck in the past, meaning the same themes play out for us again and again through adult life.
Stages 1 & 2 were about developing a sense of trust in the world, and finding autonomy and independence. In stage 3, around the ages of 3-5, this is built on by children learning they have a sense of power, that they can make things happen.
Navigated successfully, we emerge knowing that we can use our initiative and have a go at things. We might succeed, and we might fail, but if we fail we know we’re OK, and we can just try again. We essentially believe we are good inside.
On the other hand, if we have been thwarted in our efforts to use initiative, or have been micro-managed so that we can’t learn how to plan, face challenges and accomplish things, then we may develop a sense of guilt about trying things, we might feel ashamed of ourselves, or be overly dependent on other people. In a nutshell, we might sense we are bad or deficient.
This important developmental stage is best supported by encouraging play and imagination within safe and appropriate boundaries. This can be provided in childhood, but it can also be enabled in later life through reparative experiences, including those in the therapy room.
Watch out for my blog next week talking about stage 4 of the model, and if the themes so far have been speaking to you, reach out for help, it’s never too late to work with these dynamics.