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Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic theories were first founded by Sigmund Freud; they also included psychological theories of a very famous theorist Erik Erikson, who had a very broad history with modern psychology with the psychodynamic approach. This psychodynamic approach showed that the normal functioning of the human being was usually based upon all the forces which existed within the inner self of a person, especially when the person was unconscious, and the personality structures which were usually very different in different individuals (Fromm, 2000).
Erikson stressed on the psychoanalysis, which was seen to shift its emphasis on the ego’s roots in the social organization. Erikson’s theory was focused on the development of children with a greater sense of personal control; he believed that control of the functions of the body led to a sense of independence. Erikson’s social development theory also differed from Freud’s theory since he did not emphasize so much on the fact that the unconscious mind was inaccessible as compared to Freud, who put in a strong emphasis on the idea. He believed that the future views of people could affect their personalities as compared to Freud, who put in less emphasis on the matter (Weiland, 1993).
The theory showed how an unconscious state can influence human behavior; the theorists had a very strong believe that the human mind was composed of the ego, id, and super-ego. Erickson believed that these three elements made up the personality, and the unconscious mind made up of the super ego and the id, which are usually in conflict with the ego, the conscious element of the human mind. The ego is believed to be the most functioning element of human personality, which exerts the conscious control being the mediator between the super- ego and the id. The id, on the other hand, is known to seek pleasure blindly, which is commonly based on the pleasure principle, and the ego seeks pleasure using rationality rather than irrationality. The super -ego is that element that represents the moral system in humans.
Erickson’s theory also incorporated cultural and social aspects like gender which has brought up a number of critics to the theory. Erickson made the assumption that throughout all the cultures and genders there exist the same and identical psychosocial crises and that the solutions which are offered by the different cultures to these crises. Erickson later accepted that his theory was limited and that it would not be applicable to all the different people in the different cultures of the world. The development of personality in different people from different cultural backgrounds and of different genders is absolutely different, which explains that these developments do not actually follow the theory, which was brought up by Erickson. This is because this theory does not include all people and all cultures; it only focused on the people that Erick came across and was able to study which explains why the theory is limited.
In this theory, Erickson presents a comprehensive explanation on how personality develops. He developed the theory, when he was working with children studying their behaviors, which showed that what he concluded in his theory was purely based on what he was able to observe from the children’s behaviors. The main reason as to why very many people find this theory by Erickson to be very useful is that Erickson did not over rely on the Freudian psychosexual theory and ideas for relevance instead, he mainly developed his own ideas from the practical research which made his ideas to be very unique since they were based on a field research, which he spent his time researching during his clinical work in the mental health cares (Fromm, 2000).
Erickson tried to explain the development of personality, where he came up with eight life theory stages, where his theory was mostly based on the challenges that a person usually faces in his lifetime and how he solves those problems and challenges.
Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust
This is the first stage of the theory by Erickson, which shows that the psychosocial development usually occurs the time between birth and the age of about 1 year old, which is a fundamental stage in the life of an individual. According to his theory, trust can be based on the caregivers of a child. Therefore, if a child is able to trust the people that he lives with, he would feel secure, and if a child is not able to trust those that he lives with, then he will be filled with fear and may end up believing that the world is against them and unpredictable.
Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
This is the development stage, which takes place in the early childhood where the child is usually focused on personal control. In this case, Erickson differed with Freud who had believed that an activity like toilet training was just a vital part of the whole development process. Erickson strongly believed that when a child was able to control his body, then it would eventually lead to a sense of independence of the child and also the feeling of self-control. This is where the children who are not able to control their body functions often have a sense of self-doubt and inadequacy (Weiland, 1993).
Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt
This is the stage, where the children are able to assert power and control that they have over the world, where they can easily demonstrate it through social interaction and playing with other children. The children who are able to complete these developments end up being capable and having the ability to lead the other children, while, on the other hand, the children who fail this development stage often have a sense of guilt and in most cases they have a lack of initiative (Weiland, 1993).
Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority
This is the stage experienced by children who are around 5-11 years where the children have social interactions and have a sense of pride where they have to be motivated and encouraged by the parents and the teachers in school, which makes the children to believe in what they do or can do. The children who lack the motivation and encouragement from the teachers and parents often doubt their abilities.
Stage 5: Identity vs. Role confusion
This is the adolescent stage, where children often like exploring their independence and develop the sense of the self where if they are encouraged, they will have a strong feeling of independence and self-control, while on the other hand, the children who lack the support often feel unsure about their desires and beliefs and in most cases, they often feel confused and insecure about their future.
Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation
This is the stage, which covers the early adulthood, where people try to explore their personal relationships. Erickson had the believe that it is vital for young adults to develop relationships with other people, which are based on commitment, where he also believed that these commitment relationships are strengthened by a strong sense of the person’s personal identity which he believed are very important in building relationships (Cherry, 2011).
Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation
This is the stage, where there is the focusing of the family and careers where all those who are very successful feel that they have greatly contributed to the world and those who fail often have the feeling that they have been unproductive and uninvolved.
Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
This is the stage, which involves the old age and is in most cases focused on the reflection of the past life where the successful people feel that they are satisfied and have a sense of integrity and wisdom. Those who have failed feel wasted and mainly have regrets and they are filled by bitterness and despair (Cherry, 2011).
4) How does the theory address changes in personality over the lifespan?
According to Erickson, this theory addresses all the changes in personality over the lifespan. This is because he strongly believed that the ego identity kept on changing so as to be able to respond to the changing experiences and other information, which were as a result of the interactions in the society. Erikson believed that throughout the developmental stages of a child’s lifespan, each stage is usually very different and it has different personalities, which have positive of negative impacts according to the child’s reception (Weiland, 1993).
Erickson believed that the ego identity is capable of changing due to the new experiences that people have with one another and that what motivates a person’s actions and behaviors as a sense of competence. All the stages in the theory of Erickson are mostly concerned with competency in the lifespan of an individual. All the stages of his theory made him believe that a majority of people are able to experience conflicts, which in most cases often result in a turning point in personality over the lifespan. These conflicts are usually mainly centered on the development of a psychological quality or the failure to develop the psychological quality. This theory by Erickson gives a description of all social experience impacts of a personality over the whole lifespan.
5) What do you think of this theory?
I think that this theory tells much about what happens to a child’s lifespan and it makes sense to me, because I also believe that the behavior of an individual can be determined since psychopathology is an aspect of our everyday life, because personality development usually begins in the childhood. This theory can make us to be able to understand our children’s behaviors and the reasons as to why they behave in the way that they do and it can also help us to be able to formulate solutions to these problems that the children can have due to some challenges in their developmental stages, which can make them to adapt a negative behavior.
The reason as to why I think that the theory adequately explains the concepts of personality, is that the Erickson’s 8 stages theory is very reliable and relevant in the modern society since it is an original theory, which was not based on the ideas of the founder of the psychoanalytic theories, but from his own observations and research. I strongly believe that the theory by Erikson brings out future hypothesis, which Freud’s theories failed to cover in the 20th century. Freud’s theory represents the traditional theorist’s theory which was for the 20th century, but the theory by Erikson is a theory, which has been developed to represent the modern psychoanalysis (Cherry, 2011).
I think that the theory is seizing to be valid over time, because time is changing a great deal and the development stages are also drastically changing. This is so, because children are progressing at a very faster rate that the age which Erickson had brought up the theory. What I think should be added to this theory is that there should be researched done on children’s developmental stages so as to be able cater for all different cultures and genders and also the changing times which are making the theory to be outdated since the life expectancy has also dropped significantly. It is very important for the future research on psychoanalysis, since there is the need for this research to meet all the needs and the perspectives of the future generations. This research might be of great benefit to the society, because there is the evolving on newer ideas, which may help in therapy. The shortcomings of these personality theories are those that they cannot be proved scientifically, because their propose structures are immeasurable.