Erik Erikson a Summary of Biographical Information Term Paper

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Erik Erikson

a summary of biographical information about the psychologist Erik Erikson

The work of Erik Erikson is like that of Freud it touches upon the individual growth but while Freud analyzed himself, and stated the growth in terms of the very infant, after which he assumed that the mind does not adapt or grow, in the sense of the personality, except ego, though himself an ego psychologist, Erik's works are different because unlike Freud he did not stop at the formative years. Freud did not have an identity crisis which Erik had, and which seems to have dogged him all through his childhood and adolescence. This can be noticed from his "career, his theories, and his impact on psychoanalysis, psychology, history, and the broader culture." (Douvan, 1997)

There are major elements in his theories that are threaded together. One is the growth during adolescence, and creation of internal values, building tastes, and nurturing one's own talents. This is based on the person's culture which also influences the creation of the individual identity, is basically based on his own life experiences. Nevertheless they have had absolute influence in the general thought in developmental psychology. Needless to say, he has gone far away from Freud when he extends not only the growth and change to adolescents but even to adults and very senior persons. He proves that life is in continuity and we change as we undergo various experiences based on our own individual identity. The origin of these concepts, as stated has a root in his own life. The impact of history and culture on development on which he basses the development of the ego psychology stems from his own personal history and individual qualities he cultivated. (Douvan, 1997)

Most of the theories like Freud, stems from his own life. He was marginalized in his childhood and he was seeking his own identity in the U.S. As an immigrant. He had to find cultures that were different from his native culture and his adopted culture to allow for his expansion even so much as to avoid a loyalty oath for a faculty position in California shows that at the younger years he was indeed in a psychological trauma. There were a lot of paradox in his own lie which he also found in the society, and this created his own principles and values, but at the same time he acknowledged those values of the society that he felt was conductive to growth. (Douvan, 1997)

That is an important fact, because we see the dualistic approach, where the individual raises his own values, from his own experiences or what he or she wants to be- the ideal and then find the social mores that are acceptable to the ideal. His life thus can be seen as an alignment between his inner quest, as a young man wandering to find a solution too his deepest yearnings, and the periods when he finds that building his identity is a hard work and deep process, and that was even more painful with his issues with his patrimony, and the society that marginalized someone without paternal care, combined with the fact that his esteem suffered actually created an identity crisis. (Douvan, 1997)

The sum of his contribution therefore can be the observation on how the individual builds his identity and how these processes are changed as the person grows, and how the society and environment that is around the person actually creates the personality, and personal paradigms. Thus the greatest inspiration that other psychologists have not explored is the fact that a person can change his values, definition of himself and personality by simply changing the environment and the self-image that was created by 'the mass of the society'. (Douvan, 1997)

His observations have weathered criticism and the test o time and the close scrutiny of researchers. Thus even after more than thirty years after the publication of his book "Childhood and Society," Erik Homburger Erikson his book is still the most influential book and theory for psychologists of this time. There are many theories that like his 'epigenetic' theory of the stages of human life, "which models the complex interactions among the biological, psychological, and social factors that shape an individual's life, is still the most comprehensive account we have of human development throughout the life cycle." (Erikson; Erikson, 1981) According Joan Mowat Erikson, his wife, he is an artist at heart, and also was a healing medium that created several program for activities for psychiatric patients o which she is also a part. Thus we could say that Eriks theories will stand a better preference with a holistic approach to development although psychologists like Watson have gone on to improve upon the concept of personality and society, the foundation was laid by Erik.

2) The psychologist's theoretical views and research contributions

There is a distinct contribution in the definition of not only the personality but the way the human builds his or her ego, and thus defines himself or herself. Erik Erikson changed the concept of Ego by observing how the ego maintains its identity throughout the human life cycle. According to him, social forces also shape the ego, as much as the biological and psychological forces that the human encounters. Though the model is based on the theory of Freud, the distinction is that Erikson's theory differs from Freud's drive theory and the motivator is the ego. The biological and social circumstances of a person largely determined the personality. The change with Freud comes with the observation that development occurs continuously from birth to death. (Berzoff; Flanagan; Hertz, 2011)

These are based on social relationships, values that are inherited from peers, and some of these either is conductive to the development of the ego or is restrictive, identity thus is a set of patterns that become accepted and is a continuity based on values, integrity and social status. This occurs more as a result of the interaction between the person and the social settings. Thus the influence of a person's culture on the formation of his or her identity is important. Thus his stand is that "if everything goes back to childhood then everything is someone's fault, and trust is the power of taking responsibility by one's own mind." There are many stages of development of the ego beginning from childhood, and this result in mastering the environment, creates a unified personality, and has a very precise perception of the world. The core of all this is the identity the person creates within him or herself. (Berzoff; Flanagan; Hertz, 2011)

These according to the development theory comes in stages of the person's growth and follows a set pattern, and is foremost shaped by the environment and the culture in which the individual finds himself or herself. Erikson added three more important development stages to Freud's theory of psycho sexual development. Freud's theory ends with adolescence, while the developmental theory of Erik goes beyond that and suggested that people grow and expand beyond adolescence too. Though the earlier stages of the development theory also insists on the early stages being concerned with dominant biological organs and the same psycho sexual stages, his difference in approach can be seen in the fact that these biological timetables are extended throughout his life. The critics suggest that some adolescents do not adhere to these stages and in cases where there are extreme conditions they don't seem t master the environment. They go for negative safety. There are some exceptions in the case of some cases of psychopathology too.

Schlein (1994) in his essay says that Erik Erikson was best known for his work on stages of development across the life span; there is a lesser known, but significant contributions to the psychotherapeutic method with children, adolescents, and adults, respectively. (Schlein, 1994) That was a broad spectrum in which he played an active role as an enquirer. Yoder (2000) contends that "the concept of "barriers" provides a means by which to describe external influences associated with adolescent and young adult ego identity exploration and commitment processes which affect and possibly limit individual developmental options." (Yoder, 2000)

Thus Erikson's assumption based on the observation that personality is a sum of personal growth and communal change, later researchers like Marica have created the identity status paradigm with socio-cultural variables which may have impact upon individual internal psychological function. (Yoder, 2000) That the theories are very relevant today is the core of the argument.

3) How these theories and research can be applied to daily living in 2013

Today the world is in chaos in the sense that those values that have bound the society have changed. Today people are in great stress and have to fit into a continuous pattern of change. From children who are pressured to get better education and grades, to families that have broken up, financial problems and general unrest in society, the society has been shown to shape the individual ego. Thus in the…

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