Stages of development by E. Erikson - Psychoanalysis...

Erickson's development stages

Erickson gives a systematic exposition of the "eight stages of a person". It is an extended concept of the classical psychoanalytic theory of development introduced into the system. In the early period of psychoanalysis, there was not yet a systematic and comprehensive concept of human development after the oedipal phase was completed. It was believed that the child enters a latent period, when his impulses become less intense and better controlled. At the beginning of adolescence, only partial control over impulses is possible, since as a result of genital maturation a stream of stimuli falls on the adolescent. Its task is to release the "energy" invested in incestuous objects, and re-invest them in the relevant facilities. It was hoped that by that time he was already sufficiently identified with the parent of the same sex with him, and this should help him to master a vital labor role. In this case, the task of development is to some extent carried out. Sexual maturity is achieved, the profession is chosen. Ability to "love and work" comes to the fore, and the individual becomes "protected from neuroses."

This review is to a certain extent simplistic. However, it reflects the starting point, when in the theory of neurosis of adults, there was an urgent need to develop new approaches and classifications. It was here that Erickson made a significant contribution, for which he received universal recognition. As always, he from the very beginning criticized the psychoanalytic theory of child development and the available clinical data. At the same time, he sought to correlate the stages of development replacing one another in a certain sequence and to trace the entire life cycle of a person. Erickson found that during a person's life there are specific problems for each phase, which he must deal with in a timely manner. If this does not occur, then a mental defect that assumes this or that form is formed.

For each such problem, within the life cycle, there is a critical stage, and each of these stages leaves behind - in terms of the quality of the task that needs to be addressed - in a certain respect, the "good" and bad & quot ;. This means that Erickson paid particular attention to the specific quality of the strength (or weakness) of I , which should appear at the end of each phase.

The first stage: basal trust as opposed to basal distrust. This period, in accordance with the dominant structure of drives, is called the oral phase in classical psychoanalysis. If we turn our attention to the formation of the structures of the ego, we will see in this process much more than just the development of psychosexual tendencies and fantasy based on it, which, as a result of their satisfaction or frustration, determine the properties of these psychic structures. What Erickson called basal trust, you can observe in a functioning mother-child dyad. The child normally eats and sleeps; The gastrointestinal tract is not stressed, there are no colic; Excretory functions work flawlessly. A child who experiences all this constantly, thanks to a loving and caring mother, acquires a rudimentary sense of the identity of the ego. Everything looks as if the child has sensations and images that he "recalls" on the occurrence of which he can count and which arise from him thanks to trusting people. The mother turns into an "inner self-confidence," and her presence and her assistant function in situations of unbearable tension become predictable. It is this awareness of the "reciprocity" gives the child the feeling that he can always get what he needs most, and that his mother will take care of him. From this reciprocity the first social achievement of the baby arises.

Severe frustration at this stage is reflected in subsequent years in special character traits and mental disorders. In the worst case, such frustration of reciprocity can lead to an inability to synthesize and, as a consequence, childhood schizophrenia.

This problem can not be understood quantitatively. The final result can not be explained solely by the amount maternal love. In different cultures, the newborn child is treated differently. Care of the child is normal if the mother performs her functions from a genuine sense of conviction, i.e. when this feeling reflects the mother's connection with the values ​​and knowledge inherent in her culture. Usually this manifests itself in an institutionalized form of reverence, drawing its strength from the corresponding image of the world. So at the very beginning of life in the act of faith and trust occurs the "encounter" infant, parents and society.

Second stage: autonomy as opposed to shame and doubt. The maturation of the muscular structures, including the musculature of the sphincters, leads to the development of the infant with two modalities - "retention" and release & quot ;. Each of these modalities has both a positive and a negative impact. You can greedily hold as if it is a question of life and death, but you can also hold and persist without giving up. Similarly, you can free yourself from spite and in revenge or easily and generously part with things. Internal body products are neither alien nor bad for the child. The main thing here is what the child feels: whether he gives these products himself or they are taken from him. This dilemma of a young child can really be described as follows: "Who controls me and my body?". Especially vulnerable in the child is the "ass", which he himself is not allowed to see. The likelihood of feeling unprotected is great; rear can see others, and this causes alarm; the child is ashamed of what he produces (or does not produce) at the wrong time or place. Erickson says that doubt is a brother of shame. A person who has not developed an autonomous sense of his own responsibility always has some doubts. For all that he leaves behind, he is afraid of criticism and condemnation from other people. The introjected consequences of this important phase are expressed in relation to the individual to the institutionalized principles of law and order.

Third stage: initiative as opposed to guilt. This period of life is often called the oedipal phase. The child seeks to penetrate, conquer and overcome. He allows events to happen and wants to be their cause. The sense of one's own power and the growing ability to imagine lead the child to imitate the actions of adults and fantasize about their own grandiosity. These functions are too intense and, for biological reasons, doomed to failure. The child is small and unable to prevail over adults and take on their real functions. This stage is a kind of competition that can lead to a feeling of defeat and castration. "Here," says Erickson, "there is a fateful scrapping, a major transformation of emotional energy, a gap between a person's potential victory and potential total destruction." For from that moment the child will always live with a sense of inner discord. " That is, there is a discord between the enormous growth potential, on the one hand, and the introjected parent instances, on the other, which actively influence the self-observation, self-control and self-punishment of the child. Therefore, the result of this period of life is simultaneously a bitter feeling of guilt (due to the prohibitions imposed on oneself) and a sweet feeling of owning one's own initiative.

Fourth stage: productivity versus the feeling of inferiority. This stage is different from all the previous ones. Because it does not have a new source of internal disorder. For this reason, Freud gave it the name "latent period". Meanwhile, the child becomes prepared for systematic training. In cultural cultures, he must go to school to learn to read and write. People who do not yet have literacy, he is trained in things related to his natural environment. The child superseded and sublimated his desire to subordinate other people through an open attack. The desire to become a father or mother gives way to physical and technical perfection. Now the child must learn to achieve recognition through actual achievements. The feeling of your real strength is reinforced by mastering new skills. The child learns the technological foundations of his culture. In primitive societies, this process is immediate, as the child is trained in the obvious functions that he can observe with his parents. In complex industrial societies, the role of parents, especially of the father, is not so clearly defined. The school becomes almost a society in itself, and the main danger is that a child can acquire a sense of inadequacy and inferiority. But there is another, unfortunately, too common danger. To eliminate the consequences of previous phases and overcome feelings of inferiority, many children show excessive diligence. Strict self-restraint in the form of exclusive attention to work can lead to the child becoming a thoughtless conformist, into a kind of machine that others can easily exploit.

The fifth stage: identity as opposed to the uncertainty of roles. Childhood has come to an end. And with the onset of puberty begins adolescence. The sense of identity, which can first be relied upon, is questioned. Rapid changes in body size and upcoming puberty do not allow a teenager to feel who he was before. With the question "Who am I?" The important question is: "How do I seem to other people?". Entering into groupings reduces the fear of being a stranger and different from the other teenagers. Youthful "love" provides the opportunity to project my own image of I to other people and see it more clearly in a mirror image. All the previous battles are committed once again. But now they are taken out of their families, and "innocent spectators" give roles that they did not ask for. Such roles are called friend or enemy - these are people who would like to be similar or who should be rejected.

As a result, young people who are not sure of their gender identity are in utter confusion, which often causes psychotic incidents or misdemeanors.

The complexity of integrating roles and abilities into reasonable perceptions of the future profession causes a lot of fear among many young people. Erickson says about this: "Therefore, the sense of identity I is the accumulated confidence of the individual that the identity and continuity also correspond to the identity and continuity of his existence in the eyes of other people, which are confirmed in the real perspective life path .

The sixth stage: intimacy as opposed to isolation. Only when a young person has enough a strong sense of identity, he is ready to connect his identity with the identity of other people.

This requires willingness and willingness to associate themselves with a partnership with a particular person. That is, a great ethical force is needed to connect oneself with such relationships, especially if they require significant sacrifices and compromises. Erickson writes: "The body and I must now control the modalities of the bodies and nuclear conflicts so as to fearlessly confront the situations of loss of self where commitment is required: in orgasm and sexual intercourse, in close friendship and physical confrontation, in experiences of inspiration, generated by the mentor, and intuition, coming from the depths of the Self. If a young man for fear of losing I avoids these experiences, it can lead to a feeling of deep loneliness and eventually to complete self-focus, to the loss of the outer world. "

Only now can real genitality be fully manifested, since a significant part of the sexual life preceding these obligations refers to an activity whose purpose is to acquire identity. Much of what Freud said about sexual love was extremely simplified and presented in such a way that the ability to regular orgasm is an indispensable condition for the so-called sexual maturity. What does genitality really mean? Erickson (according to Z. Freud) defines it as follows: the reciprocity of orgasm with a beloved partner of the opposite sex with whom a person wants and can have mutual trust and with whom he can and wants to harmonize life spheres (work, product of offspring and rest), so that the offspring can also provide all stages of satisfactory development.

If the capacity for intimacy has not been sufficiently developed, it often leads to isolation, which in turn causes mental disorders, depressive self-absorption or problems related to the characteristics of the character. On the other hand, also in marriage, isolation of a special kind is often encountered: isolation by two, protecting both partners from the need to encounter and cope with the next critical stage - the development of the ability to produce offspring.

Seventh stage: the ability to produce offspring as opposed to stagnation. The ability to produce offspring involves an interest and desire to actively participate in the formation of a new generation. This means that men and women have a real need to develop the capacity for self-giving in spiritual contact and in satisfying the biological needs of a loved one. It also means so strong love that a person gives himself and his life to make the life of another person meaningful and rich. This introduction of libidinal energy leads to the expansion of the interests of I and enhances the sense of life. And vice versa, where this important development for an adult does not occur, the impoverishment of the individual begins, and stagnation becomes a constant companion. Such people are in a useless search for the "answer"; with tedious obsession they are looking for intimacy that can never bring satisfaction. They have an indulgent attitude towards themselves, and, in effect, they are inspiring themselves that the world can not give them personal joy. They give up deep human feelings for the sake of superficial sensuality.

We can not forget that there are many people who remain childless or who for various reasons never enter into marriage. Nevertheless, many of them are able and willing to help society in the upbringing of a new generation. They do this with love and self-oblivion, which positively affects their lives.

Summing up, Erickson says that not only the man performs the paternal function for the children, but on the contrary - the child performs the paternal function for the man. For without children who need to be protected and to be taken care of, a man and a woman feel themselves immobilized.

Eighth Phase: Integration I as opposed to despair. The integration I, spoken of by Erickson, represents the final synthesis of all parts of the personality and, it can be said, the culmination point of the development of all qualities. I. Human life has become a single whole. It has acquired meaning and order, not excluding cowardice and all that does not fit into the strict framework. In the depths of the soul, a person is satisfied, because he can accept and admit that he lives at a certain time and was brought up in a certain family. He developed his skills in the range of opportunities and constraints given to him and can actively use them. He achieved integration, which in its form corresponds to his nation, epoch and living space; he transformed it anew and is satisfied. The consequence of this integration is a sense of morality and an orientation toward moral values. It means that a person is a link in a chain that equally covers the life and the age of parents and ancestors, both the life and the age of descendants that were born through his own efforts and from his own body.

On the other hand, an individual who has not managed to actively satisfy his needs and at the same time has exhausted himself, becomes a narcissistic object of his own despair. Such a person has not managed to gain confidence or feel confidence in others; he did not take the initiative to do something for society, and did not find close friends, did not produce children, or did not create any works. The result is a stunning feeling of our own uselessness and worthlessness of our own life, which in turn manifests itself in the most diverse forms of rejecting oneself and other people. Nothing makes sense. Death is the meaningless end of a meaningless life. It can no longer be perceived as the inevitability of fate, but causes excessive fear.

The complete opposite of this sad position is described by William Butler Yates in one of his poems, written under the impression of a scene carved from lapis lazuli from the life of Ancient China. Two old Chinese people climb the mountain to get to the house, which is high, but still only halfway to the top. They stop, look up and down and ask the musician to tighten a sad melody. Death is near and yet: "Their eyes are among wrinkles, eyes, sparkling old eyes, are brave."

At the end of the section on the eight stages of human development, Erickson discusses his ideas about epigenesis: in principle, the human person develops according to a predetermined, innate plan. It can be compared with a temporary plan for the intrauterine development of the most important bodily organs in certain phases. That is, a person has some kind of internal energy, due to which at certain periods of his life he encounters the most important conflicts of social interaction. A variety of societies are arranged in such a way that they can tap into this potential. They contribute to its maximum manifestation and are channeled into channels that enrich both the individual and society.

In conclusion, Erikson, using the table, demonstrates the connections that predominate in the relationships of the opposite properties of I. For example, if a child introjects a stable relationship of basal trust and basal distrust, then this ratio in the next critical phase, . in the phase of the desire for autonomy, will expand by one parameter. As an autonomous personality, he gets experience in that he can rely on himself and on the functioning of his intestines.

Table 8.1

◘Psychological concept (by Erickson)


The ultimate form of self-acceptance of self-acceptance, of life, wisdom

Stage 8 Old age after 50 years


Disappointment in life


Creativity, favorite work, parenting, caring for children, satisfaction with life

Stage 7 Maturity to 50 years


Devastation, stagnation, regression


A sense of intimacy, intimacy, unity with people, love

Stage 6 Youth from 20 to 25 years old


Isolation, loneliness


The whole form of egotism, finding one's self, self-confidence, recognition by people

Stage 5 Juvenile Age

11 to 20 years

Identity diffusion, anxiety, loneliness, infantilism, unidentified self, non-recognition by people, "confusion of roles", hostility


Self-confidence, competence

Stage 4

School age from 6 to 11 years


Inferiority, lack of faith in one's own strength


Initiative, commitment, activity, enterprise, independence

Stage 3

Preschool age

3 to 6 years


Passivity, imitation of samples, fault


Autonomy, independence, neatness, will

Stage 2 Early age from 1 to 3 years old


Doubt, shame, dependence on others


Basal trust in the world, optimism, desire for life

Stage 1 Infancy


Basal mistrust of the world, pessimism, the desire for death

In Table 8.1, the diagonal displays the sequence of a person's psychosocial development. Of course, this development does not occur in pure square cells. As we have already seen, different cultures attach different importance to the individual aspects of each phase. That is, there are peoples whose representatives stay at a certain stage of development longer than others. What appears at the same time in an individual, and what society first develops from its members, is consistent, therefore, with the way psychosocial interactions are carried out. Erickson emphasizes that his table is just a diagram by which to represent the continuum of critical interactions between the individual and society.

thematic pictures

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