by Gerald Schueler, Ph.D. © 1997
Developmental psychology now looks at the entire life span; from conception to death and generally divides a typical life into nine developmental stages. Although the traditional stages described by Piaget (cognitive), Freud (sexual), Erikson (task-oriented choices), and others are still used, there is a greater emphasis today on adulthood and the second half of life. Transpersonal psychology has adopted two models or paradigms that demonstrate the developmental stages of humanity from a transpersonal viewpoint. These models are Jung's spiral model and Wilber's linear model. It is likely that both models will be discussed and used by different psychologists for some time, depending upon their personal preferences.
Cognition. An act or process of knowing. Cognition includes attention, perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, imagining, thinking, and speech. Attempts to explain the way in which cognition works are as old as philosophy itself; the term, in fact, comes from the writings of Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of psychology as a discipline separate from philosophy, cognition has been investigated from several viewpoints (Encarta, 1995).
Ego. Used in the Jungian sense of consciousness as opposed to the unconscious. Ego equates with the personality.
Peak Experiences. "Transient moments of self-actualization" (Maslow, 1971, p. 46).
Self-Actualization. An on-going process whose goal is full consciousness awareness and full use of one's abilities (Maslow, 1971).
Until the seventeenth century, there was almost no interest in developmental stages of life. The historian Philippe Ariès wrote that most of Europe believed that children were miniature adults with small-scale adult traits. At the age of six, they were generally considered to be adults. However, the attitude toward children began to change when Locke taught that all children begin with a "blank slate," and develop by means of a series of experiences and associations. In the nineteenth century, Darwinian evolution helped people to view life as a slow growth through a series of stages, from simplicity to complexity (Hunt, 1993).
Developmental psychology, as we now know it, began in 1879, when Wilhelm Wundt (1977) established his psychological laboratory. G. Stanley Hall (1904), the founder of child psychology, and student of Wundt, set up the first experimental lab in the United States. Like Wundt, Hall was an experimental psychologist, but focused his studies on the child, while Wundt was more interested in the adult (Hunt, 1993).
Hall saw evolution as a metaphor for childhood development (Hunt, 1993). Despite the considerable work of Hall and other developmentalists, such as Romanes, Sechenov, and Baldwin, it wasn't until the 1950s that the term developmental psychology became widely known (Hunt, 1993).
Much of the interest in developmental psychology, in the 1950s, was due to the earlier work of researchers such as Binet, Simon, and Piaget. Piaget, a contemporary and compatriot of Binet and Simon, combined his own understanding of cognitive processes with ideas from other fields such as philosophy, physics, and biology to develop a new theory developmental psychology. Piaget proposed that the processing of incoming data from the environment causes a child's mind to evolve and mature until it reaches an adult-level of functioning at approximately fifteen years of age (Piaget, 1977). Piaget's model of development included four stages which begin in infancy and end in adolescence: the sensorimotor, the preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational (Piaget, 1977).
Today, developmental psychologists look at the life span from before birth, up to, and including, death itself (Craig, 1989; Zimbardo, 1985).
Traditional Developmental Models
It has been theorized for some time that human beings grow and mature in distinct stages. The following three developmental models are typical of traditional psychology:
Piaget, a cognitive psychologist, was called a structuralist because of his concern for the structure of thought (Craig, 1989). Piaget used the term schema for mental structures that process information, perceptions, and experiences. He believed that we all have schemas which fit our experiences through the process of assimilation. New experiences must be accommodated into existing schemas. His stages of mental development are:
Sensorimotor. The first stage is from birth to about two years. In this stage, schemas are concerned with actions such as looking and grabbing.
Preoperational. The second stage is from two years to about seven years. In this stage, symbols are used to develop language. Thinking is very concrete, irreversible, and egocentric.
Concrete Operations. The third stage is from seven years to about eleven years. Thinking tends to be logical, can handle mathematics, and is able to classify things.
Formal Operational. This last stage begins at about twelve years and here thinking has the ability to handle abstract concepts.
Freud lived during the Victorian era, and it has been suggested that his theory, largely sexual, was a reaction against his time (Craig, 1989). The five stages of his psychoanalytic model are:
1. Oral - early infancy
2. Anal - ages 1 to 3
3. Phallic - ages 3 to 5
4. Latency Period - ages 6 to puberty
5. Genital - after puberty
Freud's developmental stages revolve around sexual development, and end with the genital stage at puberty, the period of normal adult sexual behavior (Craig, 1989; Darley, Glucksberg, and Kinchla, 1991; Zimbardo, 1985). Both Freud and Piaget focused only on the early part of the human life span. Piaget was concerned with cognitive development, and Freud with sexual development. Neither gave much attention to adults.
Early supporters of a life-span approach to developmental psychology include the well-respected gerontologists Birren, Neugarten, and Schaie. It was largely through their work that developmental psychologists began to realize that adulthood was neither a stable plateau nor necessarily a downhill slide into physical and mental incapacitation (Rebok, 1987).
Freud's work was further developed by Erik Erikson, whose eight well-known either-or stages are:
1. Trust vs. mistrust (birth to 1½ years)
2. Autonomy vs. self-doubt (1½ to 3 years)
3. Initiative vs. guilt (3 to 6 years)
4. Competence vs. inferiority (6 to puberty)
5. Identity vs. role confusion (adolescence)
6. Intimacy vs. isolation (early adult)
7. Generativity vs. stagnation (middle adult)
8. Ego-integrity vs. despair (later adult)
In addition to creating psychosocial stages where choices must be made (a healthy normal choice vs. one leading to dysfunction or pathology) Erickson also looks at the later part of life which Freud and Piaget ignored. Erikson's stages imply points of distinct conflict in the typical human life cycle (Zimbardo, 1985). His 7th stage, generativity, involves an altruistic commitment beyond oneself, where one helps, in some way, society, friends, or perhaps the next generation. This is a transpersonal stage, where the egotistical self reaches out to others. Erickson's last stage, ego-integrity, however, is meant in the sense that if all of the first seven stages are adequately met, then senior citizens can look back on their lives without major regrets while enjoying a sense of fulfillment and wholeness. The transpersonal ego of the 7th stage reverts back to a strong, but contented, ego prior to death.
The Traditional Life-Span Model
Modern psychology usually divides the life cycle up into nine stages. The nine stages of the Life-Span Model (Zimbardo, 1985) are:
1. Prenatal (conception to birth)
2. Infancy (birth to 18 months)
3. Early childhood (18 months to 6 years)
4. Late childhood (6 to 13 years)
5. Adolescence (13 to 20 years)
6. Young adulthood (20 to 45 years)
7. Middle age (45 to 65 years)
8. Old age (65 years to death)
The above list shows that modern psychology now looks at the full life span from pre-natal to, and including, death.
Transpersonal Developmental Models
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Model
The term self-actualization was originally used by the organismic theorist, Kurt Goldstein to mean the motive to realize all of one's potentialities (Reber, 1985). Abraham Maslow (1968, 1971) later used the term as the seventh stage in his famous hierarchy of needs (Zimbardo, 1985) as shown in the figure below.
The following are the chief characteristics of self-actualized people (Darley, Glucksberg, and Kinchla, 1991):
1. Able to perceive reality
2. Able to accept reality
3. Natural and spontaneous
4. Focus on problems rather than on themselves
5. Need privacy
6. Self-sufficient and independent
7. Appreciate objects, events, and people they meet
8. Have peak experiences
9. Identify with mankind
10. Deep relationship with at least some friends
11. Democratic egalitarian attitude
12. Strongly held values
13. Sense of humor
14. Inventive and creative
15. Resist conformity to society
16. Transcend dichotomies, bring together opposites
My findings indicate that in the normal perceptions of self-actualizing people and in the more occasional peak experiences of average people, perception can be relatively ego-transcending, self-forgetful, egoless. It can be unmotivated, impersonal, desireless, unselfish, not needing, detached. (Maslow, 1968, p. 79)
In Maslow's model, the ultimate goal of life is self-actualization, which is never fully attained but rather is something to always strive toward. Peak experiences are temporary self-actualizations:
In other words, any person in any of the peak experiences takes on temporarily many of the characteristics which I found in self-actualizing individuals. (Maslow, 1968, p. 97)
Peak experiences are temporary stages that we go through as we tread the path toward self-actualization and self-actualization itself is, theoretically, a permanent, or at least a long-lasting, peak experience.
Jung's Spiral Developmental Model.
A model of the psyche based on Jung (1990) is shown below. This model is a dynamic one. The central archetypal Self is at the center of the psyche. The Self looks outwardly at the conscious ego, which interacts with the physical world through the filter of the persona. It looks inwardly at the archetypes of the collective unconscious through the filter of the anima or animus. Assagioli (1993) has a similar model, but he splits the unconscious into three levels: a lower (subconscious), middle (personal), and higher (superconscious).
In this model, psychic energy flows between all components of the psyche. Jung (1973) called this energy libido. Normally the libido is tuned to specific psychic functions, however, it can be redirected or "canalized" into other channels by the use of symbols.
"I have called a symbol that converts energy a "libido analogue." By this I mean an idea that can give equivalent expression to the libido and canalize it into a form different from the original one." (Jung, 1973, p. 48).
Thus symbols can help us to become conscious of the unconscious, and to be aware of the various unconscious processes going on in our psyche.
The model shown above is called transcendent because the Self transcends the personal ego. According to Jung's individuation process, normal growth is for the ego to develop and mature during the first half of life. During this time, the ego individualizes itself from the unconscious Self. The goal of the psyche during the first half of life is to develop a strong ego-personality. During the second half of life, the ego assimilates the Self, by becoming consciously aware of it (Edinger, 1974). If done properly, this assimilation process gives meaning to the ego as well as a sense of fulfillment.
Both the psyche, and its complex subsystem, the ego, function together in a cooperative symbiotic relationship (Schueler, 1996).
The figure above shows the first of three main stages of this relationship--just after birth. Edinger (1973) points out that "The Self is the ordering and unifying center of the total psyche (conscious and unconscious) just as the ego is the center of the conscious personality" (p. 3). "I have defined the self as the totality of the conscious and the unconscious psyche, and the ego as the central reference-point of consciousness" (Jung, 1989, p. 110). The Self is the integrated or total psyche acting as a unitary system. The ego begins within the psyche as one with, and barely distinguishable from, the Self. Here the ego is present only as a potentiality. Edinger (1973) calls this the "state of primary ego-Self identity" (p. 6).
The figure above shows the second main stage of this relationship. Here the ego is emerging as a separate system. A residual ego-Self identity still remains (in the overlapped area between the two). In this stage, the ego has developed self-consciousness, and has formed a sense of identity. This stage occurs, for most people, during middle age (Edinger, 1973).
The figure above shows the third and final stage. Here the ego has completely formed as a separate system. Edinger (1973) acknowledges that this relationship "is an ideal theoretical limit which probably does not exist in actuality" (p. 6). Like Maslow's self-actualization, this stage is a theoretical goal which is probably never actually attained. The sense of separation of the ego from the Self is completely conscious here, and the ego can view the Self as something entirely different or separate from itself.
According to this model, "ego-Self separation, and growing consciousness of the ego as dependent of the Self, are actually two aspects of a single emergent process continuous from birth to death" (Edinger, 1973, p. 6). The third stage begins what Jung called individuation. Jung viewed the individuation process as the ultimate goal of life. Individuation "is a process of maturation or unfolding, the psychic parallel to the physical process of growth and aging" (Jacobi, 1973, p. 107). The ego's separation process takes place during the first half of life. After this, it's task is to return back into the Self and integrate it. "The integration of the self is a fundamental problem which arises in the second half of life" (Jung, 1985, p. 265).
Because of symbiosis, under certain conditions individual behavior of a subsystem can effect the collective or overall behavior of the entire system. For example, when the heart stops beating, the entire body dies. The death or retirement of a corporation president can effect the organization of which he was but one member. This is also true of the ego, whose behavior can effect the entire psyche (Self).
Jung's model suggests a circle because the end is a re-merging of the ego back into the Self. However, it is actually a spiral rather than a circle:
"Generally, the first half of life is devoted to the cultural process--gaining one's skills, raising a family, disciplining one's self in a hundred different ways; the second half of life is devoted to restoring the wholeness (making holy) of life. One might complain that this is a senseless round trip except that the wholeness at the end is conscious while it was unconscious at the beginning." (Johnson, 1991, p. 10)
There are two major models or paradigms currently guiding transpersonal psychology. The first is the Jungian spiral model discussed above in which:
the ego emerges initially from the deep sources of the psyche; the ego then separates itself from these sources during the first half of life, which is a time not only of ego development but also of ego dominance; and the ego finally returns to the deep sources of the psyche in the second half of life to become integrated with them on a higher, transegoic, level. (Washburn, 1994, p. xii).
The second major model, sometimes called the ladder paradigm, was formulated by the American psychologist Ken Wilber.
Wilber's Linear Developmental Model.
According to Wilber (1993 ) human cognitive development follows a straight ascent from pre-egoic levels to egoic levels to, finally, trans-egoic levels of development.
This paradigm can be called a ladder paradigm because it conceives the path of development as a level-by-level ascent up a hierarchy of psychic structures (e.g., cognitive structures, moral structures, self structures). (Washburn, 1994, p. xiii).
Wilber's model thus uses the "structures" of Piaget. According to Wilber's model, the structures of any psychic level are merely potential until development reaches the level to which they belong, at which point they become active, and subsume and reorganize preceding or lower structures and thereby assert themselves as the new governing structures of the psyche. "Evolution is a process of transcend and include, transcend and include" (Wilber, 1996, p. 30).
The figure above is sometimes called Wilber's Spectrum of Consciousness in which consciousness itself is broken up into a wide range or spectrum as follows:
a. Shadow. The level contains "the disowned, alienated, and projected facets of the ego which now appear to be external" (Wilber, 1993, p. 130). In Jungian terms, the basic duality at this level is the persona (outward) and the shadow (inward).
b. Ego. This level is characterized by the duality of soma and psyche. "We define the ego as a more-or-less accurate mental and symbolic representation of the total (but biosocialized) psychosomatic organism...[which] at this level...is, in essence, nothing but a bag of edited memories" (Wilber, 1993, p. 124).
c. Bisocial. These bands represent consciousness that is higher than normal ego-oriented consciousness but not yet at the Existential Level. Identification is transiting from the everyday personality to something higher; the focus here is more on humanity than the personal individual. Its primary functions are:
1. Perpetuation of duality.
2. Gives feeling of being a separate being.
3. Reservoir for abstract intellection.
4. Reservoir for ego characteristics.
d. Existential. Here consciousness sees itself as separate from its environment. Consciousness is dualistic. This level is the beginning of time and space.
e. Transpersonal. These bands represent consciousness at the transpersonal level in between the existential level and the pure subjectivity of the Level of Mind. They represent the point where nonduality first splits into duality.
f. Mind. This is the highest, which Wilber (1993) calls "Absolute Subjectivity" and forms the foundation or Ground for all of the other levels of consciousness. Here consciousness is non-dual.
Although Wilber's model is complex, it is a serious attempt to synthesize psychology, psychotherapy, mysticism, and the world's religions. The basic assumption of the model is that human personality is a multileveled manifestation of a single consciousness, and can be likened to the electromagnetic spectrum of physics. The thrust of the model is that the different psychological schools "cut up" consciousness; each focuses only on certain specific bands within the spectrum. Thus using the model, all of the schools of psychology can be brought together into a single continuum by clarifying all of the Western (and Eastern) approaches to psychotherapy. Freudian approaches, for example, are useful for people near the Shadow Level, but beyond that point they are no longer effective. Transpersonal psychology has value only for those who are cognitively functioning within the transpersonal bands, and so on. Wilber's model is one of linear evolution:
Evolution is a wildly self-transcending process: it has the utterly amazing capacity to go beyond what went before. So evolution is in part a process of transcendence, which incorporates what went before and then adds incredibly novel components. The drive to self-transcendence is thus built into the very fabric of the Kosmos itself. (Wilber, 1996, p. 23).
Developmental psychology now looks at the entire life span; from conception to death and generally divides a typical life into nine developmental stages. The traditional stages described by Piaget (cognitive), Freud (sexual), Erikson (task-oriented choices), and others, are still used today. However, there is a greater emphasis today on adulthood and the second half of life, probably because our society is aging and the number of seniors who need therapy is increasing. Furthermore, transpersonal psychology has added a whole new dimension to developmental psychology by postulating a life goal of transcendence. This goal can never be completely achieved, but is rather gained in degree during the second half of life.
Transpersonal psychology has adopted two models or paradigms that demonstrate the developmental stages of humanity from a transpersonal viewpoint. These models are Jung's spiral model and Wilber's linear model. The jury is still out on which model will prevail although Washburn (1994) suggests that the differences may be cultural. He views Jung's spiral model as being Western and Wilber's linear model as being Eastern. This researcher would suggest the opposite possibility owing to the high regard for cycles and spirals in the East (reincarnation, for example). Whatever the case, it is likely that both models will be discussed and used by different psychologists for some time, depending upon their personal preferences.
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