Home Concepts Adult Development VII. The Preconditions for Deep Caring

VII. The Preconditions for Deep Caring

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William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

We have now set the stage by introducing the fundamental theme of our play: deep caring. We have identified the four roles of generativity and have identified the cast members who not only are providing the action but are also providing much of the script. We have also acquainted you with our four Featured Players. One more task needs to be completed in setting the stage. We want to provide a preliminary backdrop for this generativity play. What is required for someone to be generative? What do we need to engage in deep caring?

We specifically propose that deep caring requires the capacity to see our complex, unpredictable and turbulent world from several different perspectives. It also requires the willingness to act courageously in the midst of this complexity, unpredictability and turbulence. To understand how this capacity and willingness unfold, we turn to the remarkably insightful work done by William Perry (1998) concerning cognitive and ethical development. Perry conceived of a four stage developmental process. He identifies the first stage as Dualism – the tendency of some men and women to place everything into one or two categories: true/false, good/bad, honesty/dishonesty, etc. This dualistic stage often remains intact for many men and women as they mature, leaving them cognitively inflexible and often unable to generate much empathy or caring toward those people who are different from themselves in terms of race, ethnicity, political attitudes, abilities and disabilities.

These are the people who tend to stagnate later in life, finding it impossible or undesirable to support and encourage the younger generation (Generativity Two) or to provide support and encouragement to members of their community and the activities that nurture this community (Generativity Four). If they are active at all in their community, it is likely to be focused on a “special interest” project that is narrow in scope and often self-serving. While they may be interested in the preservation of traditions and heritage (Generativity Three), it is often at the expense of alternative traditions and heritages established by people different from themselves. The third role of generativity among those who are Dualists tends to be destructive and either short-lived or enforced through violence and repression (as in “Generativity” Three of the Third Reich).

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