[Continuing the Your life back on track article series from Jessica Kasevich of JK Therapy...]

The Five D’s of Dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge

By Jessica Kasevich

In the United States, dodgeball was primarily played by kids in grammar school ages 6-11 until recently.

About ten years ago, dodgeball hit the young adult community as an intramural sport. The goal of the league was to help its members meet new people and have a little fun after a long day at work. Whether or not grown adults should be playing a grammar school activity is a topic in and of itself, however this piece will focus on what people’s lives could look like if they continue to dodge the bullets of life in adulthood: feelings of being unfulfilled, loneliness and depression.

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson discusses difficulties achieving certain milestones in Young and Middle Adulthood and how these achievements, or lack there of, impact how ones life plays out.

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a neo-Freudian psychoanalyst from Denmark who became a leading figure in the psychosocial study of human growth and development. Erikson organized life into eight stages of development from birth to death. In each of these stages milestones are supposed to be achieved in order for one’s personality to develop positively.

  • Birth to 1 year (Trust vs. Mistrust)
  • Ages 1-3 (Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt)
  • Ages 3-6 (Initiative vs. Guilt)
  • Ages 6-Puberty (Industry vs. Inferiority)
  • Adolescence to Young Adulthood (Identity vs. Role Confusion)
  • Young Adulthood (Intimacy vs. Isolation)
  • Middle Adulthood (Generativity vs. Stagnation)
  • Senior citizens (Ego Integrity vs. Despair)

If these milestones are not achieved a deficit in ones personality and ability to navigate through life will occur, making it difficult to feel fulfilled.

Even though Erkison breaks these categories up by ages the ultimate goal by the end of one’s life is to achieve these milestones before they reach the final years of their lives.

Having trouble moving on in life?

In Erikson’s stage of Young Adulthood, occurring between the ages of 18-35, the goal is for individuals to find meaningful relationships with friends and potential life partners. If coupling is already successful in this stage and the couple wants children, they usually begin a family at this time (Arlene Harder, “The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson,” p.9).

If individuals are having difficulty forming meaningful relationships in this stage, individuals’ social networks usually begin to diminish. It is also found that individuals will also start to isolate themselves out of the frustration of not being able to connect with others (Harder, p.9).

“It is human to have a long childhood; it is civilized to have an even longer childhood. Long childhood makes a technical and mental virtuoso out of man, but it also leaves a life-long residue of emotional immaturity in him.”

– Erik Homburger Erikson

We all know some of these people who are unable to master the tasks in this stage: the person who NEVER leaves their apartment in your building, single friends who constantly complain that they do not have a significant other, the serial dater who always reports negatively about the person they met. Other examples: The “friend” who calls only on Friday or Saturday night looking to get on your social calendar because they have no friends of their own. And finally the one who has never been in a serious relationship and who jumps from bed to bed.

A great example of this character:

Charlie Sheen in the sitcom Two and a Half Men:

  • Charlie: “I can’t believe she’s already dating.”
  • Alan: “You’re kidding right? The day after she moved out you ran off to Vegas to marry a stripper.”
  • Charlie: “We grieve in different ways. Besides, the stripper was already married so no harm, no foul.”

The developmental stage of Middle Adulthood usually occurs between the ages of 35 to 55. During this stage the goal if for the individual’s time to be occupied with work, family and societal values (Harder, p.9). We should find ourselves in positions of authority after many years of climbing the corporate ladder at work. By being in this secure position when will be able to strive to make a difference in the world instead of focusing on making money (Harder, p.10). In our family lives we should be striving to share our values with children and our communities (Harder, p.10).

If these goals in this stage are not achieved one may come across as being self-absorbed and unproductive in the workforce, not focusing on making on one’s surrounding (Harder, p.10).

What kind of person is this?

Remember the sitcom Married with Children?

Peg Bundy does a great job illustrating not caring for the greater good through these statements directed toward her husband Al:

“Sooo… we’ve certainly learned a lot about each other. We have no opinions on politics, religion, science, starving people, nuclear holocaust or recycling. The only thing we seem to feel strongly about is we both hate that painting behind Jay Leno.”

An example to outline what being stagnant in ones career path appears to be is seen by Mr. Homer Simpson’s remarks when he is found sleeping on the job:

HOMER: “I’m awake. I’m awake. I’m protected member of the team. You can’t fire me, I quit! Please, I have a family.”

Can the Sheens, Bundys, and Homers of this world change?

Can they confront their deficits to become what Erik Erikson saw as successful adults, forming health relationships with peers, their community and their family’s? Will they “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge,” moving away from their problems, fear and anxieties or, will they grab the bull by the horns as White Goodman so eloquently stated in the move Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story?

As I mentioned in my introduction to this column, life is a journey and we learn along the way. What is important in life is what we do with the knowledge we acquire along the way that makes the difference. Do we sit back and accept the way our lives are going or change them and our futures for the better?

Are we happy, successful and making a difference in our lives and others or are we like the name of the dodgeball team in the movie Dodgeball just “Average Joes?”

Hoboken NJ

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