Erik Erikson was a German psychoanalyst who brought a lot of elements to better understand the human mind.He was born in Frankfurt in 1902 and died almost a century later, in 1994, in Massachusetts (United States). His name is one of the most connoted in the field of science of the mind.
Erik Erikson's main contribution was in the field of evolutionary psychology.He stated the existence of eight stages in man, each with its own characteristics,successes and losses. Even though he worked as a psychoanalyst, his ideas were taken up by humanistic psychology.
"In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity."
As often happens in the life of great psychologists and psychoanalysts,Erik Erikson's childhood was not without problems.His father abandoned his mother at the time of his birth. Erikson's mother was a young Danish woman who raised her own son. She then married a pediatrician of Jewish origin.
The early years of Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson's mother did not tell her that her father had abandoned her. Maybe that's why he grew up as a kind of aimless rebel.He was scattered and had no clear goals in his life.Although he was a good student, he did not stand out and seemed distracted, worried.
When the school was over, he decided he wanted to be an artist. A stage marked by instability began. He took classes and alternated between this activity and trips to Europe to learn about the continent's artistic events.He sometimes lived like a wanderer and slept under bridges.
After that,Erik Erikson wrote a work:Autobiographical notes on the identity crisis. He talks about those years during which he did not know exactly what direction to take.
At age 25, Erikson wanted to have a more orderly life.One of his friends advised him to go to an experimental school.It was led by Dorothy Burlingham, a very good friend of Anna Freud. From that moment, he began to glimpse a path and build a life project.
He became interested in pedagogy and obtained a certificate in "Montessori Education". Then, thanks to the influence of Anna Freud, he studied infant psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytical Institute. Later, he decided to become an analystand Anna Freud helped her acquire the title of psychoanalyst, a condition required to begin as a therapist.
A little later, Erikson married a dancer. The years that followed were marked by the rigor of the Second World War.The latter forced him to emigrate to the United States where he soon became a professor at Harvard University.He met some people who inspired him a lot. Erikson also worked at Yale University and the University of California.
The evolutionary theory of Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson worked on a large number of topics.However, his theory of psychosocial development allowed him to occupy a central place in the world of psychology.He integrated his knowledge in pedagogy, psychoanalysis and cultural anthropology. Moreover, he reinterpreted the phases of psycho-sexual development as stated by Sigmund Freud.
He created the psychology of the self, which he sees as the essential force of human life. He also attached great importance to the social aspect and biological development as determining factors in the life of the individual.He enunciated the following theory: at each stage of life, one acquires certain specific skills that determine later evolution.These skills are mainly of a psychosocial nature and involve a conflict between the previous stage and the new one.
The eight stages of man, according to Erik Erikson, are, in order:
- Trust vs distrust
- Autonomy vs shame and doubt
- Initiative vs guilt
- Work Applying vs. Inferiority
- Quest for an identity vs spreading an identity
- Intimacy vs. isolation
- Generativity vs stagnation
- Integrity vs hopelessness
Erik Erikson's theory had a great impact in the field of American psychology. This impact then spread around the world.Today, Erikson still has a strong influence in research and in the therapeutic field. This is an interesting point of view, deeply human and, above all, hopeful.