Home Concepts Adult Development Setting the Stage and Generativity One

Setting the Stage and Generativity One

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William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

In essence, we are all actors living on the stage of life–a common metaphor used by many writers, including William Shakespeare. Yet it continues to be a useful metaphor, given what many of us experience on a daily basis as mature adults. We live on a stage populated by many actors – all of whom represent aspects of ourselves, playing many different roles assigned to us by society, genes, and our own proclivities.

This state of affairs was noted with particular insight by Erik Erikson as he moved to psychology from a career in theater. According to Erikson, we are primarily playing out one of eight roles (dramas, scripts) at a particular point in our life. However, the other seven role-players are also on stage. They influence and often are in dialogue with the featured player, and on occasion share a spotlight with the featured player.

The eight roles are identified by Erikson (1963) as trust, autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity and ego-integrity. Many of these roles have received extensive attention by Erikson and his followers, but the seventh role (generativity) has received relatively little notice. We believe it is important to explore and write about generativity because it potentially is in the spotlight for many women and men in contemporary Western societies, and perhaps societies elsewhere in the world.

As already noted, we wish to offer an expanded perspective on generativity that goes beyond Erikson’s initial description. We see that generativity actually is played out in four roles–not one. Each of these roles requires the actor to step into the spotlight at one or more specific times during the life play. As we enter the final stage of our life, these four roles of generativity often interweave in exceptionally complex and marvelous ways—and they are ways that can be enhanced by the insights and guidance provided by a profession coach.

The Cast

Having outlined the roles to be engaged in this play about generativity, it is time to further set the stage by introducing the men and women to whom we turn for insights and narratives about generativity and deep caring.

Consulting With and Coaching Mid-Life Clients

Our first source of narratives and insights come from the men and women with whom we have interacted over the past 30 years in our work as consultants and coaches to individuals and organizations. Our clients have told us a great deal about their own lives and the challenges they face.

While we hope to have been of use to these men and woman (who are usually in their 40s, 50s, and 60s), we also have learned much from them as gifted and insightful leaders, innovators, and creators. We have drawn extensively in this set of essays from them. Some of these narratives are reported in three books and articles we have written: In Our Fifties (Bergquist, Klaum and Greenberg,), Men of Autumn (Bergquist,2012) and The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups (Quehl, 2012)

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