The below table sets out Freud and Erikson’s separate theories on what we need at any given stage to develop into the people we become.
Birth to 1 year
A child's primary source of pleasure is through the mouth, via sucking, eating and tasting.
|Trust vs. Mistrust|
Children learn to either trust or mistrust their caregivers.
Children gain a sense of mastery and competence by controlling bladder and bowel movements.
|Autonomy vs. Doubt |
Children develop self-sufficiency by controlling activities such as eating, toilet training and talking.
The libido's energy is focused on the genitals. Children begin to identify with their same-sex parent.
|Initiative vs. Guilt|
Children begin to take more control over their environment.
The libido's energy is suppressed and children are focused on other activities such as school, friends and hobbies.
|Industry vs. Inferiority|
Children develop a sense of competence by mastering new skills.
Children begin to explore romantic relationships.
Identity vs. Role Confusion
Children develop a personal identify and sense of self.
|According to Freud, the genital stage lasts throughout adulthood. He believed the goal is to develop a balance between all areas of life.||Intimacy vs. Isolation|
Young adults seek out romantic love and companionship.
Generativity vs. Stagnation
Middle-aged adults nurture others and contribute to society.
Integrity vs. Despair
Older adults reflect on their lives, looking back with a sense of fulfilment or bitterness.
Similarly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pictured below), also highlights what matters to us at different stages in time:
What spurred on my current interest in what we all want out of life was a discussion on topical chat show ‘The Wright Stuff’ during which panellists, callers and audience members shared the four thoughts, emotions or pursuits that shaped their life’s – the things that mattered. One caller explained that exploration, adventure, consciousness and ethics were what mattered to him, my mother ventured health, love, contentment and happiness and achievement for all those she loved. One particularly apathetic panellist, Frankie Cocozza could not see beyond the superficiality of sating his own desires for fame, sex and drink. But what the show was inviting us to do was look deeper, and to think about what we really do want, not what we think we want, say we want, pretend we want, or what others want for us.
What are your deepest darkest desires? What is your untold wish? What would bring you happiness? What do you want life to give you? What do you want from others? What matters to you?
Do you want power, success, contentment, love, to make a difference, to win awards, to be recognised, to be applauded, accepted, to push boundaries, to be free?
At any given stage in time, what we want may change. We may decide we want to learn to paint or play the saxophone. We may end relationships, pursue new careers or move house. What these changes really reflect is that something in us wants something different. I believe deeply, that outside of what culture, society, religion, media, and even those that love us dictate; we know for ourselves instinctively what would make us happy. If we hack away at the superficiality of appearances, material possessions and renown, what do we really want? A desire to be beautiful and admired would suggest what we truly want is acceptance and admiration. Cravings for material wealth would suggest a desire for stability and security. Renown would suggest we want to be recognised for an achievement and for others to recognise what we are capable of.
In light of this, I have tried to narrow down my own wants and dreams, my own expectations and desires for my life into four sections, which truthfully is a difficult thing to do.
Until my mother suggested health, this one did not even enter my mind, but without health, mental, emotional and physical, we can’t achieve much at all. It’s easy to take for granted the ability to walk, see, hear, speak, sleep soundly and know that another day is sure to follow. Someone suffering with cancer, dementia, depression or severe arthritis, can’t necessarily see past the pain and misery of day to day existence to the dreams that lie beyond. Health is important and essential for all else to follow. For this reason, I hope that life blesses me with good health so that I can make my dreams come true.
All the worlds a playground and I believe each person deserves at least one adventure. We are obsessed with films, music, games and the internet. This suggests to me that we all enjoy getting lost in alien worlds, that are often virtual and artificial, but how amazing would it be if our adventures could be real, tangible, could become a memory? Your idea of an adventure might be a love affair, travelling the world, going on a road trip or camping in the woods. I have a deep desire to see the world and take it all in for the rush of the new and the exciting and for the newfound appreciation of home when I return. I hope that the world always interests me and always offers voyages, exploration and adventure.
Your successes and achievements may not comfort you when you are sick but I believe each person is born with their own unique interests, talents and motivators. To live life making a living out of the talents, passions and interests that bring you joy and fulfilment is something that matters a lot to me. Essentially we live in a world of offices and retail and many of us have to settle for these positions at one time or another. I wish that I am free to use my talents and interests to provide my source of income and bring about my own success.
I would think this one would be on everyone’s list. It is after all, the most important thing. Love for your family, friends, neighbours, communities, animals, nature and yourself. Love for the small things that make you smile and the big things that change your life. Joy and gratitude for the things that go right, and acceptance and tolerance when things go wrong. Love makes the world go round and I wish that my life is filled with people and things to love, and that they’ll love me too. Individual relationships may not work out and people may let you down, but love is not restricted to one person or one experience. True love is the love of life and of living and of sharing that with all you meet, however long they may be with you.
What four things form the bedrock of your life? I hope that you achieve them and bring them into action whenever and however you can.