Dr. Jane Loevinger

Dr. Loevinger at Washington University in St. Louis, was the premiere researcher into Human Development (or lack thereof) from 1950 through 2000. My own research, from 1982 through the present, relies heavily on her model and measure of maturation across the lifespan, including normal, arrested and accelerated development.

These developmental considerations along with my experiences in treatment programs, educational programs, and the evaluation of over 6,000 of Dr. Loevinger’s Sentence Completion Tests – along with its applicability to roughly 1,000 alcohol clients, spouses, and others – led to my Guide: “AA: Who it Helps, Who it Harms, Who It Kills & Why.”

Loevinger noted that maturation is essentially becoming more self-aware and developing the skills that allow us to function comfortably in a world of unknowns. She’d have said, “developing a tolerance for ambiguity.”

That begins with not looking for a clear path that doesn’t exist nor assurances that don’t exist either.

This is the difficult world of learning to tolerate not knowing and adjusting to what is, today, without regard for what may be in a week, month, or year. It’s really how life always is but most of the time we have enough pseudo-certainty to avoid the reality. Now, with the virus, personal circumstances, and all of the disruptions and negations we can’t easily avoid life’s realities.

So! Slow down! Manage your days, not the rest of your life. How things are is our new normal for at least the next 6 months. That’s what must be accommodated, not fought or anesthetized – and it’s great practice for getting older too!

Instrumental Competence

During these days when nothing much seems “normal”, it may be helpful to reflect back to when today’s normal was in fact “normal.” Those were those days when diseases ran rampant and neither cures nor vaccines existed. In my youth, measles, chicken pox, and measles X2, were considered normal childhood diseases, whooping cough was a frequent visitor (it nearly killed me the summer before first grade, thank you Bobby Watson) and polio was every parent’s summer time terror – and those are the days the anti-vaxxers would have us return to.

However, for those of us who survived, and that was most of us, there were benefits to growing up in those bad old days. The main one was “instrumental competence.”

And that would be? Simply that we grew up learning how to do stuff. Not video games, but real skills. We could tell time, change a tire, read a map, drive a nail, use a level, saw a board, use a measuring tape, and repair all sorts of things.

So a bit of advice to the grandparents – and a few of the parents – among you, our readers, who have a bored pre-adolescent driving you crazy? Teach them how to do something.

Want to know where to start? Try measurement. Cups, pints, quarts, gallons, liters, grams, miles, kilometers, pounds, ounces, yards, acres, sections, and so on. Add the conversions (“a pint’s a pound the world around”) and nothing gets these lessons headed in the right direction faster than baking where the finished product is ample reward for learning the lesson.

Eventually, work your way up to map reading. After reading, writing and arithmetic, no one is more illiterate than one who can’t read and use a map – all sorts of maps: road, topographic, folded, globes, currents, rivers – with a few star charts thrown in.

Nothing limits people more than basic incompetence and that applies not just to literacy but also the ability to make things, fix things, and understand how things work. Not bad for finding your way through the world when you phone stops telling you where to go, too.