Ego Integrity vs. Despair: Suzassippi, Artist-in-Residence 2021 at Taylor Hill Cottage

Chicago Cityscape

Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of human development has often been criticized as we learn more about the wide variations in human development.  It is one of the first theories I learned as a social worker, and while it—like all theory—has flaws and is not totally universal, it also has been useful to me.  I have been thinking a lot about developmental stages of late.  The final stage Erikson discussed was 65+, Ego Integrity vs. Despair.  Essentially, ego integrity is acceptance of the life one has lived and that it enables us to feel whole, complete, and satisfied.  If not, and having seen our lives as unsuccessful in the sense we thought it should be, feel dissatisfied, leading to despair.  Despair = loss of hope.  Hope is the ego quality of the first stage of development: Trust vs. mistrust.  If our needs are met, we develop a sense of trust that the world is a safe place and we will be okay.  Hope is the quality that enables us to persevere, even in the face of failure or loss.

It is not that one at this stage of life has only the option of ego integrity or despair, but that like all of life, it is a balance, sometimes perhaps skewed in one direction and at other times going the opposite way.  We are never completely all one thing or nothing.  Erikson described his theory as “a tool to think with rather than a factual analysis” (Erikson, 1964 as cited in McLeod, 2018).

The stage just prior to Ego Integrity vs. Despair is Generativity vs. Stagnation.  I see these as intimately connected, and indeed, we know that stages of development are not linear, or steps that lead to the next level the same as climbing stairs.  We might get on and off a step, perhaps hang out on a landing for a bit as it were. 

This year I decided to make Christmas cards.  At first, I only sent a couple to my long-time friend, and in the first one, noted that “Yes, I am still pretending to be an artist.”  On the next one, I signed it “Mississippi Artist-in-Residence.”  Then I started making them and sending them to all my friends.  Christmas is over, and I am still making cards for Happy New Year notes.

I cannot see myself ever becoming stuck in stagnation.  There is far too much that interests me, challenges me, and the generally present desire to make a difference and matter—to leave things better and to nurture a world where we all feel supported and loved and safe.  Sometimes that is due to my academic work, my practice of social work, and more so of late, my desire to create art in whatever way appeals to me.  I am drawn to shape, color, texture.  As I have continued, I find things that work for me and others that are just practice gone awry even with the best of intention and desire.  It brings me joy either way as I continue to strive toward where ever it is that I am going with this. I am blessed to have this time in my life and I shall treasure it.  I feel happy…and when times come that I am not, then I will feel that feeling, too, knowing as always that the balance is necessary and I can weather the storm.

This entry was posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Mississippi and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Ego Integrity vs. Despair: Suzassippi, Artist-in-Residence 2021 at Taylor Hill Cottage

  1. socialbridge says:

    Long may the happiness continue, Suz. I simply love your attitude and the cards.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. peggyjoan42 says:

    Hope life always bring you joy. Being older has not caused me to lose my thrill for things in life. Staying happy is the road to a long life. Art is an expression of ourselves. I have done many artistic things in my lifetime and shared them with others. So make those cards and send them to your friends. It is an expression of love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Betty says:

    Love the cards! Very artistic! I agree we all fall somewhere in the balance on each spectrum. Our thoughts could very even by day – depending on our mood. I also “question” the ages for each spectrum. So much depends on our health and how we feel. So nice to hear you can’t imagine yourself on the stagnation end. I can’t imagine myself there either. So many interests! However, it could happen, maybe due to a health or age reason – which is all the more reason for us to “seize the day!” Thanks for an interesting post to ponder!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Betty for adding to the perspective of the conversation. I actually thought about you when I was talking about art and interest. I absolutely agree that health and disabilities and many things can alter that–it is why I never take it for granted that I am thus far fortunate and know it, and why I feel a sense of obligation beyond myself. My mother was so incredibly talented and interested and then her vision, hearing, and physical abilities were gone and her world absolutely changed. I think that is why what matters is what we do now, with the opportunities we have. I have so enjoyed adding to my perspectives and interests through you and Peggy Joan!


  4. Betty says:

    You are welcome. Yes, somehow through the magic of WordPress, the three of us (Peggy Joan, you and me) are somewhat “kindred spirits.” Although, I think both you and Peggy have more raw artistic talent. Your cards were impressive, and Peggy Joan’s paintings were impressive as well. It is great we all have different gifts, but the best part is the enthusiasm, interest and passion for life we all share. Reading these blogs is inspiring. I recently saved a pretty glass jar (from Aldi’s, that had stuffed peppers). This was inspired by your post talking about your mom saving those pretty blue bottles. 🙂 What I’ll do with that jar, I do not know. But when I do know, I’ll be ready! Best to you and all your projects in 2021!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Awesome! I have a large collection myself of bottles and jars. And Peggy Joan is the one with the artistic talent for drawing and photography, but I do appreciate all kinds of art and talent–even my own when I am pretending I am an artist. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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