The Seven Developmental Stages

BODYNAMICS STARTS FROM the premise that Mutual Connection – (When I am all of me, and you are all of you, can we be in deep connection?) – is the basic drive of development and growth. Our empirical research has shown that there are a series of basic themes around which connection, bonding, and attachment occur. This has led to the Bodynamic model of Seven Developmental Stages. Our clinical experience shows that disturbances in the primary childhood connections in relation to these themes lead to developmental or in some cases traumatic distortions.

WE DISTINGUISH THREE possible outcomes for each developmental stage and its theme. If the parenting is “good enough”, the child will be able to be herself, be in deep relationship, and develop the skills appropriate to that stage (our “resourced” position). If there are severe or early disturbances in a given stage, there will be a tendency to give up the impulse to do and feel things. Abilities and insights will tend to go unlearned or be given up, appearing in the adult to be outside of awareness or missing. (our “early” position). This is the origin of psychological resignation. If the disturbances are less severe of later in the stage, there will be a tendency to hold back impulses to do or feel things, or they may be enacted rigidly (our “late” position). Both early and late positions result in a distortion of self and relationship (of Mutual Connection)

THE SEVEN DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES are named for the main issue or theme dealt with in that stage. Listed in the order of increasing age they are: Existence, Need, Autonomy, Will, Love/Sexuality, Opinion and Solidarity/Performance. For example, the Will Stage, 2 to 4 years of age, has major theme of “Can I be focused, powerful, and expressive, make my own decisions, and still be accepted by my family?” The early position of the Will Stage is characterized by self-sacrificing, the late position by judging, and the resourced position by assertiveness. With this detailed information a therapist can pinpoint the developmental origins of specific issues current in a client’s life. Interventions thus become more precise and age appropriate. This work with developmental issues is complemented, when called for, by the sophisticated Bodynamic approach to working with shock trama or PTSD.


Seven Developmental Stages overview and the character types that emerge from each stage

  1. Existence (womb – 3 months): where a basic imprint of one’s right to exist and sense of being alive is formed, from womb life, birth and early infancy. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can manifest as either a withdrawal from connection and a strong mental life, or as an anxiousness about possible loss of connection to others and a strong emotional energy.
  2. Need (1 month – 18 months): where the infant’s experience of having core satisfaction of basic needs is established in the relationship with the parents, leading to the beginning of self-regulation. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can manifest either as a despairing or distrustful attitude about being able to get you needs met, and not being aware of what your needs are or how to sense satisfaction.
  3. Autonomy (8 months – 2 years, 6 months): The child’s curiosity and life force moves them to explore the world through an explosion of psychomotor skills. An imprint of the child’s impulses toward autonomy is formed. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can lead to a lack of awareness of one’s own impulses and feelings, or to a fear of having to give up one’s impulses and feelings in order to be in relationship, leading to the avoiding of commitments.
  4. Will (2 – 4 years): The child’s at this age becomes able to separate her thinking, intentions, and actions; to make choices and put all her power into her action. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can lead to either acting from a self-sacrificing position and having difficulties in planning, or holding back power and appearing angry, while believing that if there is a problem it is someone else’s fault.
  5. Love/Sexuality (3 – 6 years): Where the child learns to love in a romantic way and learns to integrate heart and sexual feelings. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can lead to a split between loving and sexual feelings, and a romantic or seductive way of being in relationship.
  6. Opinion Forming (5 – 9 years): The child learns to put himself, his center into words, and learns to deal with rules, norms and culture. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can lead to either difficulty in forming and expressing opinions, or having rigid opinions and rejecting those of others.
  7. Solidarity/Performance (7 – 12 years): Where the child finds a place in their culture by learning how to be a member of group and community. This is also a time of acquiring and mastering high level skills. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can lead to a fear of competing or standing out in a group (leveling), or a need to be the star in any group in spite of the consequences for oneself or the group (competing).


Comparing Freud, Erikson & Lowen Character Structures to Bodynamics

Freud Erikson Lowen Bodynamics chracter chart

*For a more detailed overview please read: Bodynamic Character Analysis guide by Jonathan Zerbin

Developmental Splits Video Overview:

1. Existence

2. Need

3. Autonomy

4. Will

5. Love/Sexuality

6. Opinion

7. Solidarity/Performance