Home Concepts Adult Development V. Generativity in Four Acts: Expanding and Extending Our Region of Care

V. Generativity in Four Acts: Expanding and Extending Our Region of Care

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So what does all of this mean about the relationship between generativity and deep caring? What does it say about creation of conditions that lead to generativity and deep caring? Stated simply, generativity is about expanding and extending our region of care. We expand this region by moving from a concern about our own family and special projects to a concern about people outside our family — in our organization, in our community and even in our world. This is expanding our region of care by an expansion of space. We also expand our region of care through a wider temporal concern. We look back and forward in time to preserve and propagate our core values and visions.

Playing Many Roles on the Life Stage

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 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 is actually being 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.

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