Review Sheet on Erik Erikson
I. SOME BASIC IDEAS
PSYCHOANALYSIS. Erikson commented, "Psychoanalysis is a habit of thinking which reduces every situation to an earlier one." FIXATION is understanding later problems in terms of fixations at earlier levels of development. The term belongs to libido theory. It means that libido never moves away from a certain area in a person's life. In Erikson's view, libido theory served mainly to help organize things at the beginning of psychoanalysis.
SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL FORCES. Work with the Sioux showed Erikson how much mind was influenced by social and historical forces. He asked mothers, "Before white people came, how were your children brought up?" They loved to talk about that and wondered why no one had ever asked them. The historical era we live in plays a big role in our identity. Throughout life we are constantly rebuilding and renewing our identity. Our lives always have a psychosocial aspect. How the person fits into the social structure. A person who doesn't have a place is apt to be more upset, more driven.
IDENTITY IS CENTRAL TO ERIKSON'S THINKING. Erikson coined the term "identity crisis". He lived such a crisis in his own life. At a young age found out his father was really his stepfather. Went to art school against his stepfather's wish before entering psychiatry. Emigrated to the U.S.. In an identity crisis, we feel we must turn one way or another.
Our identities can change. An adolescent may adopt a set of values as part of his or her identity, but they are not necessarily mature values, and may be changed. Early in life, a negative identity may emerge from having been shamed, punished, made to feel guilty. Adolescent may become suddenly aware of the need tor a separate identity from others, different from parents' expectations.
Even if one has solved an identity crisis, later changes can precipitate a renewal of the crisis.
TEENAGERS. On teenagers, he said, "Young people in serious trouble are not fit for the couch. They want to face you and want you to face them." It's a mistake, he said, to treat young people in groups like gangs as people with only negative values. Rather we can see them as people who have gotten sidetracked in looking for the truth.
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF STAGE CRISIS. In a healthy solution to a stage crisis, the positive resolution dominates. At the same time, some contact with the negative aspect is important in development. It doesn't make sense, for instance, to trust ever¥one blindly.
TROUBLE AT ONE STAGE NEED NOT RUIN EVERYTHING. We can develop through a stage negatively and still go on with our lives. You can go on and go through later stages productively or you can not. Then in therapy, you trace your way back to what you missed and work through it.
II. "EIGHT AGES"
1. BASIC TRUST VS. BASIC MISTRUST. (0-2) An infant in this stage is faced with a crisis similar to Freud's oral stage. He or she depends on others to get needs met. If this is accomplished the child developes a sense of trust which carries on. If this crisis is not resolved, may carry a sense of mistrust and fear into adult life relationships. Basic mistrust, if strong enough, may even induce a psychotic break. The person doesn't trust the reality systems of other people.
2. AUTONOMY VS. SHAME AND DOUBT. (2-3) The child becomes mobile with his or her world. Being aboe to move about helps develop a sense of independence (autonomy) if encouraged and there is a consistency from the adult. A child faces failures and inconsistencies feels shame and doubts his or her self worth. Severe toilet training attempts before the child is capable of self control can lead to this outcome, as can unwinnable power struggles with adults. (Adults getting sucked into these power struggles result in the "terrible twos.)
3. INITIATIVE VS. GUILT. (4-5) The child is at a stage comparable to Freud's phallic stage. He inquinsitively explores his or her environment trying new things. If parents reinforce this sense of independence and investigation, the child develops initiative. When the parent is restrictive, the child develops a sense of guilt.
4. INDUSTRY VS. INFERIORITY (6-12) the child starting school is faced with a new social role and of getting approval from others by being able to perform certain tasks. A child not developing these skills and feeling accepted on the basis of competent performance will develop a sense of inferiority. The same applies to household tasks, or tasks learned outside schools in tribal cultures.
5. IDENTITY VS. IDENTITY CONFUSION. (12-18) Freud called this the genital stage. The person strives to find identity and place in the world sexually and socially. Trying to find out what to do with their life. During this stage if past experiences are integrated, and past crises resolved, there will be a strong ego identity. When ego is not strong, there is identity confusion.
6. INTIMACY VS. ISOLATION (19-25) Central focus is need for intimacy. Trouble in this stage is being unable to relate intimately to others. The person may develop a feeling of isolation, feeling alone in the world and with no one to depend on.
7. GENERATIVITY VS. STAGNATION. (26-40) In midlife the need for intimacy is not enough and there is a need to generate oneself in some way. The ability to look outside onself at the world, contribute to it, and in so doing, be happy. The person not able to generate themself in some way becomes self-absorbed, self-centered, and feels a sense of stagnation, asking, "What have I done with my life?"
8. EGO INTEGRITY VS. DESPAIR (41-) If the person has developed a sense of unity within himself or herself there will be ego integrity making old age a happy time. Erikson felt that if you had previous unresolved stages and felt your life full of disappointments and failure, you may experience despair, regret, and hopelessness in later years, being unable to face life at this age.
NOTE: The ages given are approximate, and can differ substantially for different people. Also elements of a process described as dominant at one stage can be present at other stages.