Home Concepts Adult Development Deep Caring XXXIII: The Origins of Generativity in the Soul

Deep Caring XXXIII: The Origins of Generativity in the Soul

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In his masterful analysis of generativity, McAdams might be inclined to identify George Bailey’s story as a narrative of redemption. It seems that generativity is, at the very least, an effort to somehow redeem our own life as we come toward the end of it. In his own assessment of late life developmental challenges (as illustrated in the movie, Wild Strawberries), Erik Erikson (Erikson, Erikson and Kivnick, 1986) writes about the need for each of us to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have inevitably made in our life. McAdams similarly writes about forgiveness (redemption) and aligns this forgiveness and redemption with the psychological and spiritual pull toward generativity (McAdams and Logan, 2004, p. 25):

What is the connection between redemption and generativity? First, some adults see their own generativity efforts as explicit attempts to redeem their own lives. . . . Second, generativity itself entails an implicit understanding of human redemption. The hard work that the highly generative adult displays in his or her efforts to promote the well-being of future generations may entail a good deal of pain, suffering, and sacrifice. But the hardships of today may pay off in the future. Sense of sacrifice and hard work, therefore, may lead to scenes of blessing and reward — a redemption sequence of sorts. (McAdams and Logan, 2004, p. 26)

A similar perspective is offered by Yamada:

I suggest that generativity concerns not only future generations for which we cannot care directly. It seems to me that generativity should be interpreted as an intergenerational life cycle or in an even broader sense as a spiritual life cycle implying continuity of life that stretches both forward and backward. I do not mean that we should accept the existence of the soul, the spirit, reincarnation, or an afterlife. Rather, I think that we should acknowledge the question of afterlife may be a universal dilemma for all of humankind. .  . . A redefined generativity responds to humankind’s deepest need for the succession of life by acknowledging the continuity of life, death and rebirth. (Yamada, 2004, p. 109)

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