Orphan Rescue and Resolve Developmental Delays

As a coach (with a pioneering visual approach) I’m a huge proponent of literally mapping out your vision (your desired destination) as well as your game plan (actions to reach that destination). However, I’m an even bigger proponent of clarifying and doing your INNER WORK … getting to the heart of what is causing interference (resistance) with what you want … if writing and implementing a vision and action plan just isn’t enough to quickly manifest what you want (which in many cases it isn’t).

Sometimes the interference is recent, easily identified and quite easily resolved.

Other times the interference has older roots and requires archeological excavation — and often the help of a good coach or therapist to help clarify and resolve legacy issues from our backgrounds … even stretching back to roots in adolescence and childhood.

I’m in the midst of developing a new product that brings these legacy issues out into the light of day so they can be seen and worked with — a step-by-step process with visual map and instructions that I’m calling “Orphan Rescue” (the orphan is a part of you that is back in your past … that has been re-activated by whatever problem or trauma is happening from your present). Identifying your orphan(s) and resolving the original incident(s) that traumatized them can have profound effects on your current adult situation — enabling you to finally get the results you want in your grown up, present day life.

I’ll write in more detail in future articles about the specifics of Orphan Rescue and opportunities for doing this powerful process. However, right now I want to share some foundational information about developmental stages — the areas of human development that your younger self (your orphan) may not have properly or successfully completed earlier in life. Understanding these developmental stages can be very eye-opening and give you clues about the natural steps of human maturity that you may have got stalled in — and how you can complete those steps now … in order to get the results you want in your adult life.

The model I am about to share with you comes from the wonderful work of husband-wife team, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt – authors and pioneering relationship therapists. They elegantly summarize these stages in ‘The Psychosocial Journey of the Self’ model in their classic best selling book Keeping the Love You Find (a book I recommend left, right and center … for relationship dilemmas as well as other life issues).

This information on developmental stages is helpful not only for coaching clients wanting to make breakthroughs in their adult lives, but also for people who are in business or personal relationships with these people and for anyone who is a parent (in the midst of helping your children navigate these delicate developmental steps).

SHIFT-IT Mini RetreatThe Psychosocial Journey of the Self

Below are the six stages of child and adolescent development: Attachment, Exploration, Identity, Competence, Concern and Intimacy … and their appropriate timetable.

As Hendrix writes:

“Each phase has its own agenda, its own tasks to perform. Though all of life is, in some sense, a development process, the first four to six years, when we are most dependent, receptive and malleable, have a profound effect on the rest of our lives.

Each stage is built upon the preceding one, each is the foundation for accomplishing the task of the next stage. At the end of each phase, another task emerges whether the preceding task was completed or not. So how we negotiate the hurdles of each stage determines how freely and capably we can move onto the next.

At each stage, there is a norm with a healthy outcome. But if at any point along the way something goes wrong with the way we are nurtured, we instinctively find a way to compensate for what is lacking, in order to survive. But it is a defensive move, and in our desperation and ignorance we develop a maladaptive way of coping with the task at hand. It leaves a weak spot in our development. Lacking in vital skills, and weakened in confidence, we resort to inadequate responses which accumulate like scar tissue around the central core of our wound. Like Sisyphus, we end up pushing a big stone uphill wherever we go, limiting our ability to live and relate in adult life.

Since inevitably our caretakers were to some degree less than perfect at all stages (remember the standard of perfect bliss set in the womb!) we all carry forward some degree of maladaptive response from all stages. We are all wounded, to some extent, at every stage of development. But there is almost always one stage in which we really got “stuck”. This may have to do with our inherent temperament and how we responded to a particular problem: more likely it is the result of the way our caretakers handled a particular stage. Their own needs and adaptations may have made some phases harder for them to cope with than others: parents who dote on a newborn infant may feel threatened when he starts to move out into the world, or may be too rigid to mirror the child’s fantasies as he tries to establish his identity. They may be uneasy with the juvenile’s attachment to his peer group, or the adolescent’s venture into sexuality. It can happen that the parents are less available at a particular stage; they are arguing, there is a newborn sibling, an illness, or a cross-country move.

Whatever the case, the major task left uncompleted, or improperly completed, at this stage will have followed us through life, and will turn out to be the core issue around which our current problems turn. Unless some later life experience has broken the maladaptive pattern – a drastic change in the parents’ lives such as a positive new relationship (in the case of a single parent), significantly increased time and energy for the child, a major shift in the way the parents treat the child during adolescence – those primitive old-brain adaptations are still with us. Moreover, the accumulating coping mechanisms have a ‘snowball’ effect. The earlier in life we get “stuck” the more inadequately we handle subsequent stages, and the more debris and maladaptive behavior accumulate around the core problem.


Stage One: Attachment (Reaching/Existing)
0-18 months: Emotional Security

Close the gulf of separation that opened up so threateningly at birth, and securely reattach to the nurturing, protective source of survival. Respond to an internal mandate to exist. Develop a sense of being a separate being in a safe world with the power and wherewithal to get what you need. The sense of security established at this stage sets the tone of the rest of the journey through life. It is the foundation of our response to life’s perils and pleasures.

Adult Coaching Issues: (how this plays out in SHIFT-IT Coaching context) Underlying orientation and relationship to life (feel secure or not?). Life viewed as safe/supportive/abundant or unsafe/unsupportive/scarcity? Develop safe and secure feel to being in the world.


Stage Two: Exploration (Exploring/Becoming)
18 months – 3 years: Differentiation & Intact Curiosity
Once infant gets source of supply stabilized, s/he is anxious to explore the world. Task is to be able to securely leave caretaker’s side to function on own, with confidence to return to a secure and loving home base. Goal is the ability to separate and explore confidently while still being attached. Need to explore and return to things as we left them is the same whether we’re two, or six, or forty-six.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Ability to try new things or re-engage with old passionate interests (with support of self and significant others). Mid-life career changes. Education and training explorations. Ok with trying new things just for pleasure/joy (not necessarily have to make money at it – joy is important and valuable too!). Stability of home and partnerships (do you have proper support?).


Stage Three: Identity (Asserting/Being)
3-4 years: Secure Sense of Self

Embark on process of becoming a self. Develop stable and consistent inner image of self and a correspondingly firm and constant inner image of significant others. Individuation. Determination of who you are and who you are not. Select what is congruent with your inner feelings, construct positive self-image and firm identity. Integrate good and bad traits and heal splits. Experience significant others as imperfect but constant, thus guaranteeing emotional stability.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Clarify your own likes and dislikes. Become your own person with own, distinct personality. Own/accept negative and positive aspects of self. Acceptance of genuine and authentic self by self and others. Find and express own unique voice. Ability to handle criticism and rejection by those who are not match to authentic self.


Stage Four: Competence (Competing/Doing)
4-7 years: Sense of Personal Power to Achieve
Discover personal power and its limits, as well as determine what belongs to you and what doesn’t. Competent in the management of self in the world of others and things. Experiments with effect you can produce on world by impacting with strength. Extent and limits of personal power in the social world. High level of self-esteem due to being able to manage your environment effectively.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Develop true personal power in the world. Overcome victimization and learned helplessness. Strength. Capability. Look after self. Create functional lifestyle (adult finances, home, profession, etc). Build profession/business, web presence and brand around authentic self and legitimate skills.



Stage Five: Concern (Sympathizing/Caring)
7-13 years: Concern for Others

Realize we are not center stage in life’s pageant. Shift agenda of search for healing and wholeness beyond family to larger world, to non familial adults and to peers. Attention turns to world outside self and home. Concern for peers. Foundation for relationships with equals. Conscience. Internal control. Morality of cooperation. Ready for larger social world. Belong to and become intimate with peer group. Attach to peers. Belonging.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Problematic issues with colleagues and business partners. Inability to bond with professional peers. Competition. Feeling left out / alone. Cooperate with others in field/industry. Friendship challenges or shifts. Problems with sense of belonging, acceptance by peers. Inability or challenges in ‘finding your tribe’, being accepted and accepting. Grandiosity or low self-esteem.


Stage Six: Intimacy (Integrating/Loving)
13-19 years: Intact Sexuality, Ability to Love
Adult Coaching Issues:

Establish satisfying sexual and emotional intimacy. Parents accept budding sexuality of emerging adult while providing model of appropriate behavior as to the boundaries of intimacy (“we are close and loving with each other, and we want the same for you. We are going to support you. We hope you find a nice girlfriend/boyfriend. We look forward to getting to meet and know him/her”). Impulse toward intimacy viewed as right and natural.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Difficulties in wanting/establishing satisfying love relationships. Sexuality or sensuality problems. Fitness, weight and food challenges. Gender and sex roles.


Adulthood: Generating/Creating
19+: Responsibility to Self and Society
With the stages of development completed (at least to some satisfactory degree) we are able to create lives of individual and collective meaning. Creating a personally satisfying life for ourselves and contributing to the advancement of others and society at large. Ongoing evolution of positive expansion.

Adult Coaching Issues:
Mission/purpose. Creating functional place for self. Contribution and meaning. Legacy. Giving back and paying forward. Mortality. End of life considerations. Soul’s journey.


So What / Relevancy:
The wording and summary of the stages is Harville Hendrix. Again, I highly recommend accessing his work in its full form. The ‘Adult Coaching Issues’ under each stage are mine. As The SHIFT-IT Coach, people come to me for help in specific areas of their life that either aren’t working or they want to make a significant expansion on. Over time and through the Orphan Rescue work I’ve been developing, I’ve come to appreciate how our adult dilemmas that we bring into a coaching container often have their roots in our earlier developmental stages. So I’ve listed out the typical things I coach my clients on and where on the developmental spectrum these issues fall. Often we uncover orphans and memories as these exact ages that, once softened and soothed, provide great shifts in our adult results.

Consider These Stages For Yourself:
If this information is resonating with you (and in particular if you are a Biz and Life Accelerator or SHIFT-IT Central client) I invite you to study these stages and their corresponding coaching issues to see which stage your current coaching dilemmas fall into.

SHIFT-IT Mini Retreat

Which stage(s) were problematic for you as a child or adolescent? Which ones did you more or less successfully complete? Which ones do you sense there may be some inner work still needed? Which coaching issues are ones you are currently dealing with or will be soon? Answering these questions can give you (and your coach) valuable information and clues on where to direct your coaching and Orphan Rescue work. Happy integrating and maturing!

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