by Cynthia M. Braden, LMFT
Erikson describes intimacy as "finding oneself yet losing oneself in another." If the young adult forms healthy friendships and an intimate close relationship with another individual, intimacy will be achieved; if not isolation will result.
What can go wrong in the Intimacy versus Isolation stage of development?
If a young adult desires a close relationship and can't find or keep a satisfying relationship, he or she may begin to feel depressed and isolated. It's not easy when all your friends are coupling up and having children if you want to do the same but it doesn't seem to happen for you. The social and family pressure to do what everyone else is doing can be enormous and terrible.
The basis of this angst at not partnering up is biological programming which drives our desires and behavior to keep the species homo sapien sapien proliferating on the earth. It is a biological process that is happening to us without our specific knowledge as we grow up and reach sexual maturity; the intimacy or isolation process will be continuing for the rest of the lifespan. A person basically leaves their family of origin, and partners up with someone outside their close biological family for their new primary family relationship. The biological urge is often to create a home and have children and raise them better than we were raised. We may not realize that we are responding to biological urges when we start a family.
Alternate situations may occur when people choose education, career or other pursuits over commitment at an early-ish age for example. This is not a problem because a conscious choice is being made to continue the education and delay partnering up for awhile. The important point is that you feel in control of this choice.
Remember, by this time (young adulthood) you are building on the previous developmental tasks and stages, and have some degree of mastery over Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry and Identity. Most (all?) of us have gotten derailed at some point and are not fully whole in all of these areas... maybe we're trying to create intimacy on a shaky foundation. The good news is there is always time to work on these tasks and stages individually or within the context of relationships. The reward is feeling good with a sense of completion, self-mastery and worthiness.
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