There are 8 stages of psychological development through which humans go throughout their lifetime, according to psychologist Erik Erikson. The final stage (after age 65) is Integrity vs. Despair. This stage involves a review of one’s life, ideally resulting in a sense of integrity. I recently went through this existential process. This is a summary of that process:
I was born into a missionary family in Hawaii in 1952. My parents were highly sophisticated, intelligent, musically-gifted, beautiful charming people with very high standards. My older sisters were known for their beauty, giftedness, and were much-admired. Don’t let “missionary” fool you. We lived an upper-middle-class life style. I loved and still love the magical islands of Aloha. Higher Power was profoundly real to me in that paradise as a very young child.
I had extreme medical challenges from birth beginning with asthma (birth), continuing with diabetes (age 4), brain-death/landslide (age 11), blindness in both eyes after receiving a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (age 28), a major heart attack and quadruple bypass at the pinnacle of my career (age 50), and end-stage renal disease/dialysis (age 62). Miraculously and by the grace of God I continue living a happy life and function like a “healthy” person, as I have all of my life.
However, medical challenges defined me since age 4, at least in my own mind. People who knew were sometimes cruel, telling a 5 year old child he was cursed by God, and being denied a few job promotions as an adult. Even my mother and my sisters went through a period of years when they distanced me due to not approving of who I chose to love (eventually they all 3 made amends, and my sisters remain loving and supportive). My father was consistently my biggest supporter.
None-the-less, I learned to use the very high intelligence, attractive appearance, creativity and ability to “charm” that I had inherited. My parents, though at times harsh, supported me and encouraged me to live up to my potential from day one, through their last breaths.
I developed a fierce determination to succeed in life and “make a difference” in the lives of people. I remain devoted to helping children at all stages of development, animals, and the land
My “accomplishments” despite ongoing life-threatening medical conditions and overwhelming anxiety/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (primarily from the landslide and from the years of blindness) include starring roles in musicals, winning academic contests, receiving a Ph.D. from a rigorous university, writing a successful book (highly praised to this day), receiving high recognition as a public speaker and as a university instructor, as well as helping numerous billionaires, celebrities as well as less fortunate people attain a happier more fulfilling life. Looking back, I can see that all of this came as extremely challenging and difficult; though at the time I never thought there was an alternative to driving home to success.
Unfortunately, all of this success did not interpret into confidence. I was deeply (I emphasize “deep” under the surface) insecure, which held me back in many ways, but mostly in relationships. Thank God for the few people who saw past my walls which manifested in rage, entitlement, arrogance and shyness (God forbid anyone should find the damaged person underneath the facade). They are close friends (one person stands out as a major God-send) to this day, and I sincerely pray for blessings in their lives.
As I write this I reflect on what is truly important to me now that I am no longer a slave to success in a career. What is most important in life is relationships and truly making deep meaningful connection with people. I want to encourage everyone in my life to see the beauty inside of them.
I heard a concept from the book Clues (Van Edwards, ): Consistently exuding warmth and confidence is key to being effective in any relationship. I want to consistently exude warmth and confidence, as well as genuine connection and ultimately a healing love.
I can relate to a verse I saw posted on social media: Never forget how far you have come. All of the times you’ve pushed on even when you felt you couldn’t. All the times you got out of bed no matter how hard it was. All the times you wanted to give up but fought through another day. Never forget the strength you’ve gained along the way. ( )
I give glory to our Creator, all the people who chose to believe in me, and to myself who chose to keep trying. Thank God, today I am alive, happy, and have a strong faith.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D., March 4 2022
One thought on “Reflections of a 69 Year Old Man: The 8th Stage of Life”
Thank you for sharing that, particularly with those of us who are resolving Eriksen’s “final” stage.