Generative Science

Putting the Fire in the Equations; Generating multilevel dynamical processes in Physics and Psychology

Physics Articles / Talks / Bibliography   |   Psychology Articles / Talks / Bibliography  |  Search

Development of the Creative Individual

By John Curtis Gowan

San Fernando Valley State College, Northridge, Califomia

Robert R. Knapp, Publisher, San Diego, California 92107
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS NUMBER 73-179138, ISBN 0-912736-11-9

Complete Gowan books at Northridge website

From Chapter 2 "Developmental Stages"

Periodic Aspects of the Theory of Developmental Stages

It is surprising how few researchers or theorists have considered periodicity as a function of human development, despite the ample opportunity for its observation both in the natural elements (the Mendeleev periodic table) and in human biology (the menstrual cycle in women). Periodicity occurs when the same pattern of events is seen to run through a higher development as has been contained in a corresponding pattern from a lower sequence. Mathematically, l-n isomorphisms are discovered due to the influence of two overriding independent variables. In the periodic table of the elements, these are the numbers of electrons in the shells and the number of protons in the nucleus. Awareness of these variables helps us to fill spaces in such a model and hence to make predictions and draw conclusions and extrapolations. This must be done with caution because, while nature is generally orderly, it may provide some surprises since the world of experience is often more complex than man's anthropomorphic view of it. Even the periodic table reveals this in its divagations among the rare earths. While being aware of the possibility of periodicity in human development, which would point to underlying variables, attempts should not be made to fit the theory of developmental process into a Procrustean bed. Thus it is possible to speculate that since Freud's five affective developmental stages fit rather neatly the chronological ages of Piaget's five cognitive stages, and since Erikson has built four more stages out of the last Freudian (genital) stage, some future theorist may find four associated cognitive stages in adulthood - it is possible, but we should be unhappy if it does not quite match.

The goodness of fit of the Freudian (sexual libido), Eriksonian (ego strength) and Piagetian (cognitive development) theories to developmental stages is remarkable, however. When these various views are brought together synoptically, one begins to sense periodic rhythms, which reveal that the whole conceptualization of developmental stage theory is more significant than has been heretofore realized. Indeed, these stages may be divided into a tripartite grouping, depending upon the direction of the attention of the psyche, whether outward toward the world, inward toward the self or with love toward another person.




3 it, they



1 I,me



2 thou






Erikson virtues
























Erikson virtues




Concrete operations






Formal operations










Adult Erikson



Erikson virtues






26-40 (?)





40 - onward



Figure 1. Developmental stages (after Erikson and Piaget).

Figure 1 clearly shows the periodic nature of developmental stages, consisting of triads of stages of infancy, youth and adulthood. The horizontal triads consist in reality of three categories: the world, the ego and the other, with the third personal pronoun (it, they) characteristic of the first stage, the first personal pronoun (1) characteristic of the second, and the second personal pronoun (thou) of the third. We have dubbed the columns "latency," "identity" and "creativity," respectively, and indicated the Eriksonian and Piagetian names for the stages-taking the liberty of filling in some guesses for the cognitive aspects of the latter three stages. Thus the diagram becomes an open-ended periodic table of developmental stages which may be used as a model for testing and hypothesis making in regard to developmental process.

Each stage has a special relationship and affinity for another three stages removed from it. Stages 1, 4, and 7 (trust, industry and generativity) are noticeable for a peculiarly thing-oriented, sexually latent aspect dealing with the relationship of the individual with his world of experience. In stage 1 it is the world of precepts; in stage 4, the size, shape, form and color of things and what one can make out of them; in stage 7, the world of significant others (such as children) who are not love objects in a libidinal sense. This may also broaden to the world of ideas, formulas, productions, art creations and other "mental children." Freud by naming the fourth stage "latency" intuitively grasped the thing-oriented, nonaffectively valent nature of this stage and its columnar family. The drop in sexual interest as the child "cools" it through the oedipal resolution entering stage 4 is particularly noticeable. He literally stops trying to "make people" in favor of making things. Not so easily spotted-because often adults have difficulty in entering the generativity period-is the sexual abatement in favor or nurturance of children or sublimation to create some innovative production which occurs with parenthood or mastery of some medium. It is as if the "name of the game" changes so that the primary attention is focused off libidinal drives to other more thing-oriented objects.

A second common aspect of the first, fourth and seventh stages is the immersion in the world of the senses. It is a practical time when things get done and changes occur. In combination with this regard for the external world, there is a certain calmness or coolness of the ego which results in a lack of self-consciousness. The infant, the boy and the parent are so busy with their activities, so completely absorbed in experiencing, that they have little time to assess their feelings or to search for their identity. After the tasks of this stage are completed, they will return to a new identity search on more advanced levels, fortified with their accomplishments in the real world.

By contrast with the previous, the second, fifth and eighth stages are ego bound, ego oriented, and ego circumscribed. They are all about "me" (my identity, my existence and interpersonal relationships and my salvation). They are times of searching introspection, of withdrawal rather than return, of defiance of authority, rather than obedience to it, and of "marching to the music of a different drum." In each of these periods man tries to come to terms with himself. In stage 2 he finds his identity or ego, in stage 5 he redefines it in terms of what he can do as a young adult, and in stage 8 he again redefines it in terms of the meaning of his life and death in the cosmos.

Parents and society often find those involved in this set of stages rather difficult to live with. Whether it is the infant's negativism, the adolescent's clamor for independence or the budding saint's march to the sea to make salt, the attitude and action of the individual is frequently anathema to authority figures, be it active resistance or passive disdain.

For the individual in these times of withdrawal, it is very easy to believe that no one understands us, that we are somehow different, unique and incongruent with the rest of humanity. We often spend too many hours in self-examination, either in reproach or adulation with "the world forgotten and by the world forgot." If the world is "too much with us" in stages 1, 4 and 7, it is too little with us ofttirnes in stages 2, 5 and 8, for we are busy examining our own navels. One consequence of this overemphasis on introspection is a kind of moodiness which results from the discrepancy between what the ego wants itself to be and what it finds it can be and do.

Stages 3 and 6 (initiative and intimacy) deal with the love relationship and its expansion from narcissistic self-love through oedipal love of parents to generalized heterosexual love, to fixation on some individual person. (For all we know there may exist stage 9, where agape love, in the manner of a Buddha or Messiah embraces all mankind.) Since love is requisite for creation on a mental as well as a physical plane, it is not surprising that stages 3 and 6 have special interest for us as students of creativity. We have already described in chapter 1 how creativity first develops in the initiative stage from the control over the environment experienced through the affectional approach of the opposite-sexed parent. A similar feeling occurs in the sixth stage (intimacy), when adolescent creativity is normally enhanced through the inspiration of the opposite-sexed beloved figure. In the latter instance, however, biological consummation can in some cases reduce the high energy potential aroused so that it is more often when this consummation is delayed, or prevented at least in part, that we get great art, music and literature. Obviously this kind of situation differs with different individuals, some of whom (like Elizabeth Barrett Browning) find fulfillment in love and block in the frustration of it.

In consequence of the connection between love in our lives and creativity, if we want to become creative, we should put more love into our lives. Most of us live on a starvation diet so far as love is concerned. What man could not create if he were universally admired, valued and inspired? This principle is not to imply that sexual freedom or promiscuity is a prerequisite for creative action, but it does suggest that more openness and demonstrativeness in love and affection in all our social relationships, more awareness of our feeling aspects and less inhibition of them might open up doors now closed by custom.

Barron (1968) reports that creative persons find other ways to deal with impulse than suppressing it. Who has not found inspiration in the unexpected valuing of himself by another? Indeed, this phenomenon and the power release that accompanies it is one of the great sources of energy in group therapy sessions or in Rogerian basic encounter groups.

In saying that stages 3 and 6 are those in which the 1-thou relationships and creativity are particularly emphasized, I do not mean to imply that creativity is completely absent at other stages of development. It is just that the developmental process naturally emphasizes these factors at these times. Love and hence creativity may enter our lives environmentally at any time, and to the degree that one is found in abundance the other is likely to be present. In these instances, something personal has occurred-sorne vivid experience or significant relationship not predicated in the developmental sequence-and it is this personal good fortune, rather than the developmental syndrome, which has released creative power. If latency stages 1, 4 and 7 may be described as "cool" and the identity stages of 2, 5 and 8 are introspective, then stages 3 and 6 may best be characterized as loving, spontaneous and joyful. Here affectional impulses are at their height; here one gives the identity one has just discovered to another; here the world and the self become fused in the wonder of the beloved-the up phase when all goes well and one is comfortable and sure of one's beloved results in great happiness. But when one is alone, and things are scary, without one's beloved (who may be paying too much attention to a younger sibling or a rival lover), then one is consumed with jealousy and lives in the depths of despair.

The key question of both the third and sixth stages is, "Am I in control of my environment through the aegis of my beloved or is my environment in control of me?" Developmental tasks of different periods have a different flavor, however, even if they refer to the same basic issue. 'Me possessive jealous oedipal love of a son for his mother in the third stage is different from the heterosexual genital intimacy of a young man in the sixth stage. Both of these stages give creativity an extra impetus, but the two kinds of creativity have different flavors and characteristics. This fact has led many researchers to note that the child's creativity is not the same as the creative production of young adults. The creativity of the third (initiative) stage is exhibitionistic, dramatic, often repetitive and generally fragmentary. The creativity of a young adult is characterized by more unity, coherence, daring and brilliance. It is truly novel, and often displays scope, mastery and vigor. Whether the one develops into the other depends, of course, on environmental conditions. A good start helps the growing child to a more open style of life. Environmental deprivation, however, may force him to become destructive or hostile or fall by the wayside. Even too much success in the initiative period may give his creativity a "kooky" turn which does not allow him to integrate it into future development or come to grips with the disciplinary skills of the industry period.

Another youth may blossom in late adolescence without the benefits of narcissistic creativity because, having learned his basic skills and formal operations well, he has somehow been able to break through into the creative ground. Longitudinal research may eventually show that form prevails in general and that a good start in the third stage is the best assurance of another successful round in the sixth stage. Incidentally, this kind of longitudinal follow-up is badly needed research. One becomes creative as a by-product of the inspiration of the beloved. One strives to please, and in pleasing the loved one, pulls things out of the preconscious that one hardly knew were there. Or alternatively, because one's mental health is improved, one finds the preconscious teeming with treasure to share with the beloved, and these goodies often bubble forth without conscious effort.

Whatever has potential for creativity has potential for destructivity also. Vishnu and Shiva are but different aspects of Brahma. We do not find it surprising that the young child creates and destroys practically in the same breath. For some reason, however, we are surprised that university students, deep in the intimacy period, who are denied their creative outlets through stereotyped teaching of obsolete curriculum and authoritarianism, turn to destructiveness in trying to express themselves. Our Puritan ethic of inhibition is also offended when the same youth demonstrate the more undiscriminating and public forms of love and affection. Perhaps we would do better to ask if there is a message for us in this unacceptable behavior and to consider what we might do to make higher education more innovative and more humane.

Just as one finds in the horizontal variable in the Mendeleev periodic table of the elements a basic explication of nature in the number of electrons in the outer shell, so one would expect to find similar basic properties in the column headings of our periodic table of developmental process. It is evident from several sources that this is so. What has been disclosed here depends, however, on one's frame of reference. A semanticist or grammarian would note that we are dealing with the personal pronouns: first person, the self; second person, the other; third person, the world. A religiously oriented individual, noting that our column heads can be described as ego-presence, creative-love and thing-latency would naturally think of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. From a psychological point of view, it is not so much that these theological terms are valid as that they represent an early attempt, necessarily clothed in religious language, to approximate three fundamental aspects through which man's mind apprehends reality. The three developmental thrusts are continuous but with different emphases recurring periodically in elaborated and elevated forms.

Open-Ended Periodic Table of Development and its Implications

One of the consequences of setting the Mendeleev table up in periodic form was that it was left open ended with blank spaces for elements not discovered at the time of its publication. Mendeleev, indeed, predicted the existence of helium, then undiscovered. Spaces for other heavier atoms were left blank until filled in by the results of discoveries in radioactivity and atomic research. It is evident that an open-ended model is most fruitful in being able to accommodate without modification new discoveries in science. It is indeed heuristic in the best sense of the word.

Setting up the developmental stages in periodic style immediately confronts us with a similar fascinating problem in open endedness. Are there rarer or as yet unknown stages of cognitive development to go with the already found Eriksonian stages? Are there advanced affective stages which have rarely if ever been observed in any human? How do such putative stages fit the literature of creativity, psychedelia and illuminations We enter here on speculation early developed by Bucke (1 929) in Cosmic Consciousness, but further discussion of these possibilities will have to be deferred until chapter 7.

Before leaving this matter, however, it should be noted that periodicity is a method employed often to secure the occurrence of a function whose continual operation would place too much tax on the energies of the individual. The breeding season or rut in animals is a good example. By this means a sequence of process is devised, which allows for the orderly discharge of activities which could not take place continuously.

When traffic flowing smoothly and constantly along two intersecting highways reaches an intersection at a grade, some change has to take place. A traffic light permits the flow of traffic first on one road and then on the other. This cycle is necessary not only at a highway junction but wherever full communication flow would overload a given station.

It is so with man, especially with regard to those functions which would either require too much expenditure of energy or which are emergent in the sense that they are grasped only by superior individuals for a short time when they are in top mental health. Because man cannot apprehend all aspects of reality at once, reality has to be ordered by man into a cyclic or periodic succession of partial views. Thus in physics we get the wave and the corpuscular theory of light. We find the mind alternatively using cognitive and affective means to sense the world. The periodic aspects of developmental stage theory appear necessary for similar reasons.


Author: I.J. Thompson (except as stated)