Relationships are hard work. However, it’s an essential ingredient to a good quality of life. This is why psychologists encourage building healthy and fulfilling relationships.
In the 20th century, Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, released his philosophy on the eight stages of development. This article will focus on the sixth stage: intimacy versus isolation.
The sixth stage of development
According to Erikson, the sixth stage usually occurs between the ages of 19 and 40, when most adults try to develop intimate and loving relationships. Although the word ‘intimacy’ might induce thoughts of a sexual relationship, Erikson qualifies all types of relationships that are healthy and fulfilling, which includes close friendships.
Choosing intimacy entails openness and honesty. Achieving intimacy requires putting yourself out there and having that trust returned.
On the flip side, isolation refers to the attempt to avoid intimacy, which can be driven by hesitation to open up to others or a fear of commitment. It can be the product of a self-destructive cycle which often begins when a relationship falls apart and ultimately results in social isolation and depression. Without courage, it is impossible to stop this self-destructive cycle.
If you have been rejected in some way in the past, you may find it easier to withdraw and separate yourself from others. However, separating yourself from others for long periods can lead to low self-esteem, making you less likely to venture out and develop new friendships.
How do you achieve intimacy?
Learning how to build and maintain healthy relationships is essential to achieving intimacy. It’s also vital to resist the tendency to isolate yourself from others, in spite of being hurt in the past. Ultimately, successfully achieving intimacy requires you to be open and honest with yourself and others.
We understand that for some, this is easily said than done. If you are having a hard time opening up to others, talking to a therapist might be helpful as they can help you understand which behaviors prevent intimacy.
What happens if you fail?
According to Erikson, individuals must go through each stage successfully. Failure to do so means that the individual will have a hard time at the next stage.
For example, stage five highlights the importance of developing a strong sense of self-identity. Without this, cultivating healthy relationships will be a challenge. And without the capacity to build and maintain fulfilling relationships, the seventh stage—the ability to create or nurture projects or individuals that will outlast the individual—will be especially difficult.
The consequences of retreating to isolation don’t stop there. Long-term isolation can be detrimental not only to your mental health but also your physical health. According to research, loneliness and isolation can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Be your own advocate
Healthy relationships are beneficial for many reasons, especially for new amputees who may often feel alone during the first few months, even years, after amputation. It’s essential to be open to new relationships as well as maintaining the good ones through open and honest communication.
If you realize that you are prone to isolation, we highly suggest working with a therapist who can help you understand why you isolate yourself. He or she can also help you come up with strategies that can help you create and nurture good relationships.What do you think of Erikson’s take on relationships? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.