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Adult Development Stages & Phases
It is often assumed that childhood development is the only thing that can be studied about growth. Adult development is interesting as well. Little in our culture encourages us to look for answers to such important questions as to know who we are and why we are here as we emerge from young adulthood to old age. When we study adult development we take into account the first 18 years of life. We are taught that the quality of our life will improve primarily if our external fortunes improve, especially if our beginnings were solid and stable. There is a part of every person that wants to become a whole, developed person as lifes difficulties are navigated. This involves relationships, jobs, self defeating habits, our bodies and health.
No matter what life circumstance that we find ourselves in, we go through predictable processes that help us get through, developing our abilities each time to go into the next one. We experience many cycles during our adult development starting with a wake-up call. This can be a situation or life event that throws us off balance whether it is an illness, major life change such as marriage, death of a loved one or birth of a child. These usually create a change in the way we see ourselves and people around us.
There are two ways we respond to wake-up calls. One is to try to unconsciously maintain status quo based on the ways we have always been. The other is to see the experience as an opportunity to learn new things. For example, if someone suffers a heart attack, they can choose to cope by continuing to smoke, overeat or over react to stressors based on the ways that were learned earlier. On the other hand, suffering can be seen as a chance to transform lifestyle choices and relationships to account for the lessons from the wake-up call. These lessons are emotional, mental and physical ones and we often can only work on one area at a time in our lives. For instance if we have a major health problem or a severe physical injury, we often let our emotional or mental or spiritual life lessons go temporarily to focus on our physical well being.
As we choose to transform, we learn to be discerning about our options, open up to many possibilities, take care of ourselves with compassion, to do inner work finding out why we are here in this world and how we can become authentic and optimistic. The heart attack victim can learn to understand the ways in which they can invite healthier alternatives into life rather than just focus on how to make the pain go away.
The final stage involves a period in which the lesson integrated comes from the gifts of the transformation. What can follow is greater relaxation, joy, productivity and love into life and relationships. Priorities get rearranged until the next wake-up call which will be seen sooner or felt less intensely next time.
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