The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10

THE LIFE CYCLE:
INTRODUCTION

Theodore Lidz

THE PSYCHODYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING Of the personality and its disorders rests heavily upon the study of the life cycle. The commonalities and similarities in the course of all lives make possible the generalizations and abstractions necessary for the scientific study of the personality. Although no two persons are identical and no life stories are the same, the basic themes are limited and it is the variations upon them that are infinite and inexhaustible. Behind their individual uniqueness all persons are born with physical endowments that are essentially alike and with similar biological needs that must be met. Like all living things, they go through a cycle of gestation, maturation, maturity, decline, and death. In common with all humans, each individual starts life totally dependent on others and remains immature and dependent for many years, during which he forms intense emotional ties to those who nurture him— bonds that must be loosened sufficiently to enable him to live without them and to form new meaningful relationships. He requires many years not only to mature sexually and physically but also to learn the adaptive techniques he needs to survive and guide his life; and he depends upon a society to provide his essential environment. He possesses the unique human capacities for language and tool bearing, and he depends upon verbal communication for collaboration with others, upon thought and foresight, and upon his ability to change his environment to meet his needs. Alone among animals he is aware of death and his position in his course from birth to death. Man's life is never static, for the passage of time of itself changes his functioning. Each phase of the life cycle brings new potentialities and closes off old ones; the opportunity and challenge must be met and surmounted for the individual to be prepared for the next phase.

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