April 25, 2017

Two Young Adult Obsessions

Identity Development

“Love and work are the cornerstone of our humanness. ” -Sigmund Freud

Recently I had a conversation with an old Episcopal priest who is also a well seasoned therapist. He casually brought up the two tasks that many young adults (as well as other life stages) wrestle with: work and love. I was struck by how this reality is reflected in the thought life and conversations of people surrounding me.

What are the 20s and 30s obsessed with? Figuring out their vocation! Finding the love of their life!

Freud may have been onto something.

I want to push this idea further. These two tasks are really about identity. A strong sense of self is developed through industriousness, risk-taking, failing, and ultimately seeing what a person is made of. An identity is formed through thoughtfully examining experiences and noticing who we are in them. A strong sense of self is developed over time through the work of life.

And without identity, can a person truly be intimate with another? Can you share yourself if you truly don’t know yourself?

Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, developed a progressive stage model that build upon itself (think pyramid in shape). Mastery in one stage is the supportive foundation laid towards probably mastery of the next stage. Insightfully, he places identity formation as foundational, with the next stage being intimacy or the opposite of isolation.

We must know who we truly are in order to truly share ourselves in genuineness with another human being.

Industriousness, more than ever, has become about finding ourselves. I believe young adults desire congruence with who they are and their vocation. And in developing a deep knowledge about who you are, through work and just life, you can deeply share yourself with another in relationship.

Putting in the hard work of figuring yourself out has long-term payoffs relationally. Turns out work and love are a worthwhile obsession and endeavor.

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