Development in 7-Year Periods

Let’s start at a simple understanding of the developmental view of a person.  The primary focus is on the first 28 years, divided in to four 7-year periods.  In a sense, the first 28 years is the spring of a person’s life and is instrumental in preparing a person for the remainder of their life.

An interesting place to start the discussion of developmental stages, is with James Hillman’s “Soul’s Code” (1997).  Hillman proposes the “Acorn Theory;” which is the idea that a person has a unique destiny, imperative or purpose. 

"The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling" outlines what he calls the "acorn theory" of the soul. The theory states that all people already hold the potential for the unique possibilities inside themselves, much as an acorn holds the pattern for an oak tree. The book describes how a unique, individual energy of the soul is contained within each human being, displayed throughout their lifetime and shown in their calling and life's work when it is fully actualized.

Hillman argues against the "nature and nurture" explanations of individual growth, suggesting a third kind of energy, the individual soul is responsible for much of individual character, aspiration and achievement. He also argues against other environmental and external factors as being the sole determinants of individual growth, including the parental fallacy, dominant in psychoanalysis, whereby our parents are seen as crucial in determining who we are by supplying us with genetic material, conditioning, and behavioral patterns. While acknowledging the importance of external factors in the blossoming of the seed, he argues against attributing all of human individuality, character and achievement to these factors. The book suggests reconnection with the third, superior factor, in discovering our individual nature and in determining who we are and our life's calling.

Hillman’s idea is that a person searches for his or her own acorn/self.  Winter’s process of introspection, the search for existential meaning, discovering a seed that has germinated and taken root.  This is much like Hillman’s notion of growing down or “rooting in the earth” and fits well with the metaphor of gardens of the soul.

A place to start is to ask a few important questions.  By asking these questions, you start on the path or adventure in which you will discover the answers.  They are simple questions but resonate deeply.  The three questions are:  Who am I?  What is my passion or purpose? And what am I to do about it?  The answers to these three questions help to orient, ground and give meaning to our growth.

An easy way to think of development is in terms of 7-year chunks of time.  In each developmental stage, there is a different task to accomplish.  The first three developmental stages are heavily influenced by the child’s environment.  Subsequently, parents are instrumental in these first three stages of development.  The child’s parental environment and climate help the child to develop the knowledge, skills, strategy and opportunities to pursue their life’s calling.  When viewed over a lifetime, the parental influence is brief but critical.   There are many aspects to the parent-child interactions.  However, two central aspects are worth noting.  First is the “relationship.”  The parent’s view of their relationship to their child sets the tone or quality of the relationship.  So the question is what is your primary role in the relationship to your child and helping them to discover and grow their acorn? 

The second central aspect is to understand that “structure and consistency leads to predictability.”  Children want to make sense of their world, to know how to participate and navigate in the world.  Thus, a parent helps establishes a meaningful and structured environment.  Hopefully it is a structured environment that is consistent.  This helps a child to learn how to predictably respond to their environment and thus manage their own behavior.  Kids may complain about structure or routine; that it is the same old thing.  But they need this, because it makes their life predictable.  For example, if the child’s family life and environment is chaotic and unpredictable.  What will be the child’s mode of operation or their behavior?  Generally, the child will respond in one of several ways.  Perhaps their response is anxious, fearful or unsure.  They feel like they are walking on eggshells; unsure of themselves and how to respond.  Perhaps the child determines that it does not matter what they do.  Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it does not.  It is a gamble, so they might as well do whatever they want.  The problem is if there is no structure, consistency or predictability; the environment does not support consistent feedback or learning on how to navigate effectively.  That is to orient, plan and execute in a meaningful manner.

The next few posts are going to present a simple view of the developmental tasks of each stage.  The primary focus will be on the first 28 years, divided in to 7-year periods.

The first 7 years are about a person establishing a core sense of them self, the world and the future.  The second 7 years is about socialization and normal behavior.  The third is about discovering who they are, their passions and learning about the skills to make things happen.  Lastly, the 20’s are about making the commitment to yourself.  It is the down and dirty; the grit of taking responsibility and ownership to make it happen.