Eric Erikson was primarily a neoanalytic theorist, and in his contention, one’s ego interacts constantly with other individuals within the society, and can be affected by them, as also by the prevalent culture of his society, and ‘Ego’, in this case, refers to an individual’s sense of his own self and his core personality.
One must remember that it was Sigmund Freud who initially conceived of the theory of the five developmental stages that an individual goes through during the course of his life, extending from his early childhood to his adolescence, while it was Eric Erikson who expanded and refined Freud’s theory, and extended it to last from early childhood to old age, and stated that an individual passes through eight stages and not a mere five.
Erikson conceived of the ‘epigenetic principle’ according to which an individual develops through the eight stages of his life by a predetermined unfolding of his personality, and by accomplishing each one of the tasks that he is expected to complete at each stage. Also referred to as ‘developmental tasks’, unless one is able to accomplish these tasks, one would have to face the negative outcome of not having completed the tasks in a given stage.
One example is that of a child in grammar school, who has to be an industrious learner at this stage in his life. If he fails to become so, he may develop an inferiority complex, states Erikson. Furthermore, an individual has to contend with the interaction of opposites that occurs at each stage of his life, and also with the psychosocial conflict that may arise as a result. If the child is able to resolve the crisis at grammar school, he would in all probability remain an extremely confident individual, ready to face challenges, through his life.
On the other hand, if he were unable to resolve the conflict, he may feel guilty all his life. Therefore, this can mean that developmental tasks can be psychosocial in nature, and although one’s ego may be inborn, it would be shaped in later stages through the society that one lives in and interacts with. Ego, therefore, must be nurtured within the cultural and social environment of the individual, like for example, his family, and his school.
These are the eight stages of life, according to Erikson: infant stage from 0 to 1 year, toddler stage at 2 to 3 years, preschooler at 3 to 6 years, school age at 7 to 12 years, adolescence at 12 to 20 years, young adult at 20’s, middle adult stage at late 20’s to 50’s, older adult stage at 50 to old age. (Hergenhahn, B. R. , & Olson, M. H. (2007) According to Eric Erikson, the stage in life that one enters into immediately after the ‘intimacy vs. isolation stage’ is that of ‘generativity vs. tagnation’ when the young adult starts to assume responsibilities at the age of late 20’s, until he is about 50 years or older.
I am a 40 year old divorced female, single parent of two, and I work two jobs and go to school full time. I am also working toward a BA in psychology and have future plans to go on to law school. It is at this stage that I have a strong sense of creativity, and a need to ‘make a mark’ on the world. I need to make sure that the next generation, in this case my children, have a safe and secure life, and I must work hard towards this, in what Erikson refers to as ‘care’.
I feel a love for my children that is boundless and unlimited, and I expect nothing at all in return. In my estimation, this is the stage that represents my current life situation, as I have to struggle everyday with my job and my studies, and I also have to take care of my children, and yet I do feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence at having managed to overcome the hurdles in may way to make sure that the world is not a threatening place for the next generation.
Perhaps, if I had not been able to pass through the early stages of life with success, like for example in the trust vs. istrust and in the autonomy vs. shame stages, I would not have been the confident individual that I am today. I am thankful that I am not ‘stagnating’ at this stage of my life, because this would mean that I have not done anything at all to help the next generation along. If I had been stagnating, then I would feel great ‘despair’ during the next stage of my life, after I turn fifty or so. Today, I am sure that I will be able to look back at this stage of my life when I am an older person, and feel a sense of ‘integrity’.
I will also possess a positive outlook towards my life, and I can look back upon my life and feel gladness that I have spent it well, and better than my neighbor Mike who is an unhappy and gloomy person at heart, perhaps because of the fact that he was not able to resolve the crises that arose at each stage of his life, due to circumstances, or because of his own ego. He is a restless person, who has no sense of security, and who is afraid of taking any sot of risks, because he is afraid to face the outcome.
If I too had not been able to cope with the stages of my life, then perhaps I too would have remained a sad and dismal personality, but since I have managed to cross each stage into the next stage with the positive outcomes that I needed to make me into the positive individual that I am today, I have no regrets, and I will continue to do what I am doing today, taking care of my children, working two jobs, and studying full time. Perhaps Mike my neighbor would benefit a great deal by taking a close look at the common developmental issues that an individual of his age faces at this stage of life. (Niolon, Richard (n. d. )