Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany. His original name was Erik Salomonsen. When he finished studying school, he attemped to study painting for an year, and that played a big role in his life. While painting children, he had been offeredn a job as a fill in tutor at the Hietzin School by Anna Freud. Soon after his start working there, it was realized his depth of his compatibility with the children and was offered to be teached a child analyst. It’s important to say that that school was organized â€žorganized according to psychoanalytic principles and geared to cooperation with the analyst”. His teacher was Anna Freud, who was the sixth and last child of Sigmund Freud. At the same time he attended a Montessori school to get a degree, together with visiting the meetings of Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where he bacame a member in 1933. His most important work actualy is in United States, where he wrote his books, and most important – his theory for psycho-social development. There he also became one ot the first child psychoanalysts and a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. (Jessica McComas ’00).
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Erik Erikson had accepted all the theories of Freud. He also added the Oedipal complex to his theories. Erikson’s work was more oriented to the culture and the society as it seems in his theory of the psycho-social development. His theory is based on eight stages. In them hi expands and refines the Freud’s theory. He claims that we pass from one to other stage because of our success, or lack of one in the previous. That he calls the “epigenetic principle”. In his theory he has so called “tasks” and “crisis”. The tasks are those things, which we have to achieve during the stage, and uses the crisis in Freudian tradition. He also has an optimal time to pass through one stage to another. When the person is obsessed with the success he could miss some stages, i.e. to go through stages without completing them all. Erikson also tells us about the virtue. That is when we manage one or another stage well.
Dr. C. George Boeree putted the eight stages of Erik Erikson in a charge which looks like that:
I (0-1) —
trust vs mistrust
to get, to give in return
sensory distortion — withdrawal
II (2-3) —
autonomy vs shame and doubt
to hold on, to let go
impulsivity — compulsion
III (3-6) —
initiative vs guilt
to go after, to play
ruthlessness — inhibition
IV (7-12 or so) —
industry vs inferiority
neighborhood and school
to complete, to make things together
narrow virtuosity — inertia
V (12-18 or so) —
ego-identity vs role-confusion
peer groups, role models
to be oneself, to share oneself
fanaticism — repudiation
VI (the 20’s) —
intimacy vs isolation
to lose and find oneself in a
promiscuity — exclusivity
VII (late 20’s to 50’s) — middle adult
generativity vs self-absorption
to make be, to take care of
overextension — rejectivity
VIII (50’s and beyond) — old adult
integrity vs despair
mankind or “my kind”
to be, through having been, to face not being
presumption — despair
He adapted it from Erikson’s “Identity and the Life Cycle”.
The first stage is first year and a half from child’s life also known as “Oral – sensory stage”. The task is forming of trust. The parents ‘part here is very important because they have to learn the child to trust his own body and what to do with his/her biological needs. But the problem is that if the child is given everything he or she may starts thinking that the world is such a safe and happy place, where everything is given to you. So that the child (baby) could misunderstand that everyone is as kind, good and loving as the parents.
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Otherwise, if the parents don’t give enough to the child, developing mistrust is possible. It means that the child will be suspicious around people. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be near the child all the time because a sensory maladjustment may appear. The child may develop malignant tendency or even a psychosis.
The parents need to find the proper balance. Then the child will develop virtue hope. He/she would know that even it’s going bad; they would help him for a better end. The sign that the first stage is passed well is that the child is not overly upset, when it doesn’t get what hi/she wants immediately.
The second stage, also called anal-muscular stage. It between 18th month up to the third year. The main task to achieve is autonomy and to minimize the feelings of doubt and shame.
The parents have to be “firm but tolerant”. That means that they don’t have to discourage their child, but at the same time they don’t have to push it. The balance between them is required. If it’s so, the child will develop both self-control and self-esteem.
This is a difficult, because for the child is easier to develop sense of doubt and shame. The parents have to be very careful, because even a simple laugh in front of child’s efforts may cause doubts in his/her own abilities.
Erikson also talk about Impulsiveness, which is a sort of shameless willfulness, that leads the child, to jump into some things that the child don’t have the proper consideration of his abilities.
Compulsiveness is worse than impulsiveness. That is too much doubt and shame. Everything they do must be perfect and all the mistakes must be avoided at all cost.
Stage three is also called genital- locomotor stage. It’s from three-four to five-six years and the child has to learn initiative and have to avoid the guilt.
The term initiative means “positive response to the world’s challenges, taking on responsibilities, learning new skills, feeling purposeful” (Dr. C. George Boeree). In this stage the parents have to encourage their children to try out their ideas. This is the period where the imagination of the child is greater as never before. This is the time for games, playing, not formal education. But together with the games parents have to be careful of what their children are doing, because they are not capable of planning their own future. It the time where the moral judgment has to arrive. They have to develop guilty for their actions.
When there is too little guilt and more initiative, Erikson calls it ruthlessness. This people make their own plans and don’t care what’s around, no matter of the school or their career. They don’t care who they step on for achieving their goals.
Stage four or latency stage is the period from six to twelve years. The task is to develop industry and avoiding sense of inferiority.
In the life of the child appear teachers and other member of the community. They must learn the feeling of the success, no matter where they are – in school or on the playground. They must learn the rules of the society – how they have to behave and that the success comes because you try hard to achieve it.
The Narrow virtuosity appears when the child is not allowed to be a child, i.e. when parents push their children into one area of competence, without letting them to become competent in other areas.
Inertia includes all who suffer from the “inferiority complex” ( if at first you don’t success don’t ever try again).
The best is to develop the proper balance between industry and inferiority. This is called competency.
The adolescence or stage five begin with the puberty and ends around 18 or 20 years old. The achieving of ego identity and avoiding role confusion are the tasks here. In fact exactly this stage interested Erikson the most.
In this stage you have to understand who you are and how you fit in to the rest of society. You take all you have learned about life and yourself and put the knowledge into practice in the society.
The society provides clear rites of passage to help distinguish the adult. Those are the tasks and the tests in the primitive societies. Without this we will be confused about our own place in the society we live in and will ask to ourselves the question “Who am I?”.
There is a problem with the ego identity- fanaticism and repudiation. When there is too much it’s fanaticism. They believe that this is the only way, everything I black-and-white. When there is lack of identity is repudiation. Those people repudiate their need for and identity. Some of them allow themselves to “fuse” with a group and could involve in destructive activities, drugs and alcohol.
The next stage is the sixth – young adulthood. It’s between the 18 and about 30 years old. The task is to achieve degree of intimacy rather than isolation.
Intimacy is the ability to be close with the others – friends, lover and as a part of the society. You already know who you are and what is your place in the society, so it’s easier than in childhood. There is a problem called “fear of commitment” – an example of immaturity in this stage. “Everything will be all right when I finish school, start a job, get married” etc.
The main problem comes from the fact that our society hasn’t done a lot for young adults. When you get to that age, everyone start having troubles with the isolation of urban living and lack of idea of real sense of community.
When there is no depth in your intimate relationships and the relation with your friends and neighbors it’s called promiscuity. Exclusion is the tendency to isolate ourselves from love and friendship. But if you successfully negotiate this stage you will get a psychosocial strength – love. In the context of Erikson’s theory this means being able to put aside differences and antagonisms through “mutuality of devotion””.
The middle adulthood stage is the next one. It’s difficult to pin a time for it, but it include the period in which we are actively involved in raising children.
Generativity is an extension of love into the future. The parents don’t have to be “selfish”. There is a reality that if we love someone, and he/she doesn’t return the love we don’t consider this as true love. It’s the same with the parents, who have great ambitions for their children and expect a “return on their investment”.
The other aspect – stagnation – is self-adsorption, caring for no-one. That kind of person is a productive member of society. These people care about their problems and their life.
This is also the stage of the “middle crisis”. The most common question in that case is “What am I doing all this for?”. The focus is on themselves, they are asking for whom are they doing all that. Most of the times people separates searching for the answer of that big question.
The last stage – late adulthood or maturity comes after the kids have gone, at about 60. The task is to develop ego integrity and minimal amount of despair. It is the most difficult stage of all. Retire from your job, sense of usefulness and biological uselessness and most of the parents are coming too close to their children (becoming annoying). The ego integrity means coming to terms with your life, and thereby coming to terms with the end of life (Dr. C. George Boeree).
Those who approaches death without fear, that strength Erikson calls wisdom – because “healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death”. He suggests that a person must be gifted to be wise.
Erikson makes a revision of Freud’s theory for the stages. They both say that the child have to achieve each stage (according Erikson – tasks) to be part of the society. The difference is that Freud made his theory on the base of clinic research and interviewing parents and talks about the crisis of self-recognize. In his theory he also talks about the problem with the parents, not because of them and the complex, which may appear during growing up. Erikson gives prominence to the role of the parents in children’s life. Both theories have certain period of time for each stage and explain what kinds of problems may appear during that stage and how to avoid that. In both theories by adolescence, individuals are asked to form a sense of identity. Finally, toward the end of the life, one is asked to form a sense of ego integrity according Erikson. Freud gives prominence to the id, ego and superego.
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