Erikson's concept of ego

Biographical information
- born in 1902
- illegitimate?
- Scandinavian in appearance
- raised by mother and Jewish stepfather
- conflicting family heritage
- discordant social expectations
- sense of not belonging in his family
- "dropped out" in order to "tune in"
No doubt my best friends will insist that I needed to name this crisis and to see
it in everybody else in order to really come to terms with it in myself. (1975, p. 26)
- became involved with Freud's circle
- compromise between his "bohemianism" and need to be productive
- identified with being a psychoanalyst
- worked with children (developing identity), WW II veterans, & native
Americans (loss of identity)
- known for his psychoanalyses of historical figures e.g., Luther, Gandhi
Core Concepts
- ego identity formation
- developmental progression of stages
- ego strengths for each of the stages
Erikson's concept of ego
- finds creative solutions to problems
- combines "inner readiness and outer opportunity"
- renews effort when thwarted
- master of the id, the external world, and the superego
- may be troubled, but potentially strong
Erikson's Psychosocial Stages
- eight stages of ego development
- first five build on Freud's psychosexual stages
- one's ego develops in union with the biological stages
- foundation of personality
- each stage focuses on a "crisis"
- successful resolution of each crisis allows moving on to the next
- successful resolution means a "favorable ratio" exists of the negative and
positive poles"
"Each comes to its ascendance, meets its crisis, and finds its lasting
solution during the stage indicated. But they all must exist from the beginning in
some form, for every act calls for an integration of all." (1963, p. 271)
- each stage signifies a widening of the social world
1. Trust vs. Mistrust: Hope
- consistency, continuity, and sameness in the caregiver's responses
- what the child has learned to anticipate nearly always materializes
"Ultimately, children become neurotic not from frustrations, but from the
lack or loss of societal meaning in these frustrations." (p. 250)
"Hope is the enduring belief in the attainability of fervent wishes, in spite of
the dark urges and rages which mark the beginning of existence." (1964, p. 113)
2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: Will
- "Muscular maturation sets the stage for …holding on and letting go."
(1963, p. 251)
- free choice
- requires gradual and well-guided experience of the autonomy of free
- self control without loss of self-esteem vs. loss of self control with foreign
Initiative vs. Guilt: Purpose
- "…undertaking, planning and attacking a task for the sake of being active"
(p. 255)
- can initiate actions, thoughts and fantasies
- learns to cooperate with others
Purpose …is the courage to envisage and pursue valued goals uninhibited
by the defeat of infantile fantasies, by guilt and by the foiling fear of punishment
(1964, p. 122)
Industry vs Inferiority: Competence
- builds on the acquired trust, autonomy and initiative
- coincides with systematic instruction, usually outside the home
- primacy given to wish to learn
"The child's danger, at this stage, lies in a sense of inadequacy and inferiority."
(p. 160)
Identity vs. Role confusion: Fidelity
- physiological changes
- facing adult tasks ahead
- compare view of self with public image
- integrate roles and skills learned earlier with present needs
moratorium – identity confusion
foreclosure – committed without experiencing a crisis
"Fidelity is the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledge in spite of the inevitable
contradictions of value systems." (1964, p. 125)
Intimacy vs. Isolation: Love
- fuse one's identity with that of another
- ready to commit to a relationship of mutual trust
- "regulate" the cycles of work, procreation and recreation
- true mutuality in sexual expression
Generativity vs. Stagnation: Care
- transcend self-related interest
- concern with the generations to come
- includes productivity and creativity
- "…dependence of the older generation on the younger one."
"Care is the widening concern for what has been generated by love,
necessity, or accident; it overcomes the ambivalence adhering to irreversible
obligation." (p. 131)
Old Age
Integrity vs. Despair: Wisdom
- accepting the life that has been lived
- experiencing one's life cycles "as something that had to be and that,
by necessity, permitted of no substitutions: it thus means a new, a different love
of one's parents" (1950, p. 268)
- one's individual life is but one life cycle in the flow of history
- confirmation of one's life
Carver & Scheier, p. 289: According to the principle of life-span
development, all periods of a person's life are important, infancy through
adulthood – even old age. (oops!)
"…in the center of psychic disturbances are unconscious strivings
developed in order to cope with life despite fears, helplessness, and isolation. I
have called them "neurotic trends. (1942, p. 40)
Basic Anxiety – experience of helplessness
"It may be roughly described as a feeling of being small, insignificant,
helpless, deserted, endangered, in a world that is out to abuse, cheat, attack
humiliate, betray, envy." (1937, p. 92)
Basic Hostility – has to be repressed
Coping with basic anxiety:
Compliance (self-effacing)
- need for affection and approval
- need for help, protection, guidance
- restricted, narrow life
If you love me, you will not hurt me.
Aggression (expansive)
- need power and control
- mastery over others
- want prestige
If I have power, no one can hurt me.
Detachment (withdrawal)
- need self-sufficiency
- perfection
- restricted narrow life
If I withdraw, nothing can hurt me.