According to Erik Erikson, the first developmental stage that someone goes through relates to whether they can or can’t trust others. Now, providing that their primary caregiver, who is likely to be their mother, is consistent with their care, this stage should go well.
This will mean that this parent will need to consistently provide them with food, comfort, and caring. What this will do is help to settle down, if not completely resolve, the sense of uncertainty that they will have about the world.
The outcome of this is that they will learn to trust others, develop a secure attachment and know that people are reliable. This will allow them to develop a sense of confidence in their own ability to get their needs met and to handle a crisis.
With this element in place, it will be possible for them to move into the next stage of their development – autonomy. Naturally, if they feel safe being here and have a sense of trust in the world, it is going to allow them to transition into the next stage.
When they are an adult, so skipping a number of developmental stages, they will have the ability to form secure relationships with others. Emotionally connecting to another and opening up to them will feel safe.
This is not to say that this will just happen with anyone or that they will be gullible – something that is said to happen if this stage of someone’s life is too good - as they should have the ability to be discerning. Thanks to what they experienced very early on, they will have a deep sense of hope and optimism.
As they, along with everyone else on this planet, are an interdependent human being, being able to form close bonds with others is going to not just be a key part of their ability to survive, but also to thrive. Having close connections with others will be an essential part of what allows them to have good mental and emotional health.
Also, by knowing deep down, it’s safe for them to exist, that the world can be trusted, and the belief that they have in getting their needs met, it will be a lot easier for them to be at ease and to relax. They will know that things will work out sooner or later and that they can trust and let go.
A Different Reality
Considering this, if someone had a very different experience during this stage of their life, they are likely to turn out very different. This may have been a stage of their life when their primary caregiver was typically unpredictable and unreliable.
Instead of receiving the care that they needed, then, they would have often been left to cry for long periods and, when they were given attention, they may have often been smothered and felt trapped. This would have been a natural consequence of having a caregiver who was probably unable to attune to their needs, perhaps due to being shut down and disconnected from themselves.
They would have soon come to associate the world as being unpredictable, undependable, and even dangerous. As for other people, these will be seen as being unsafe, untrustworthy and unreliable.
So, although both they and others will be human beings, one will have come to see them as very different. In a way, it will be as if they are a different life form and need to be kept at a distance.
Deep down, the world will be seen as a very uncertain place and they won’t believe that their needs will be met or that other people will be there for them. They can have the need to keep their guard up at all times, out of the fear that they will be harmed by their fellow human beings if they don’t.
A big part of them could spend a lot of time being in a withdrawn state and they could be paranoid at times. As their early experiences will have set them up to be in a defensive position, it will be incredibly difficult for them to relax and to let go, and, sadly, due to what they experienced, they might not have much hope or be very optimistic that their life will change.
A Miserable Existence
One might not have had an intimate relationship or they might have been with people but not been able to fully show up. If they have, they won’t have been able to see the other person for who they were; they would have unconsciously seen them as the parent that they had very early on.
Out of their need to keep people at an emotional, if not physical, distance, they can often feel lonely and empty. The challenge is that no matter how strong their need is to keep people at distance, they will still have the need to connect to them.
What they went through very early on would have been deeply traumatising and this means that, as abnormal as their behaviour may seem, it is completely normal. With this in mind, it will essential for one to compassionate to themselves.
Many years will have passed since their early years but a big part of them won’t have moved beyond this stage of their life. This part, through being in a frozen state, won’t realise that what took place is now over.
If one can relate to this and they are ready to change their life, they may need to reach out for external support. This is something that can be provided with the assistance of a therapist or healer.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.