Psychosocial Theory of Development: Erik Erikson’s Theory of PersonalityJune 26, 2021
In Freud’s theory of the self, the ego served as a conciliator and mediator between the id and the superego.
Erikson argues that the ego, that is, the concept of self, also has some constructive duties peculiar to itself. According to Erikson, the ego is actually a strong and independent structure that makes up the personality. According to Erikson, identity is a complex internal state that integrates with the past and the future together with the feelings of individuality and uniqueness and displays a continuous structure (Burger, 2006). For this reason, the main task of the self is to create an identity and to try to dominate the environment by protecting it. The identity crisis that people experience when their values and goals are uncertain, which they do not know what to do, are related to the inability to create a strong sense of identity.
In Erikson’s theory of personality, personality development continues until adulthood, unlike Freud. While Freud emphasizes that the first experiences in childhood are effective on later experiences and personality development, Erikson argues that personality development continues throughout life. During this personality development, people have to choose one of two different options that appear in front of them at eight different milestones. At these turning points, individuals may experience depression while making decisions about the path they will choose. The decisions made by the individual affect the personality development and the individual adapts to the decision he makes. This situation shapes how the decision will be made in the next stage and the path that the individual will follow.
It would be useful to consider the important milestones in personality development revealed by Erikson in more detail.
Basic trust versus distrust
Since babies are dependent on the people around them in the first years of their lives, the impact of love and care on babies is very important. When they cry and need attention and love, giving them the necessary care is effective in the baby’s perception of the outside world. Because of this importance, this process constitutes one of the turning points of personality development. The world is now a safe place for babies who receive enough attention and care from their environment and thus create a sense of trust. For this baby, other individuals are loving and humane, so it’s okay to be with other people. Babies who do not receive attention and love from their environment exhibit characteristics such as introversion, alienation, and distrust of others, along with the feeling of insecurity they experience.
The first period covers a period from birth to one and a half years. It corresponds to the oral period from the developmental stages suggested by Freud. In this period, the pleasure zone is the mouth. Sucking or taking in can be shown as the main behavior. During this period, the baby tries to absorb the stimuli around him. It tries to do this both in the form of suction and with other sense organs.
Babies develop feelings of trust or insecurity; It is important whether their basic needs such as nutrition, attention, love and affection are adequately and timely met. In the first year of life, the fact that the parents or their successors, on which the baby is dependent for survival, cannot regularly meet the basic needs of the baby, leads to a feeling that people are reliable or unreliable in the baby. If the baby’s parents or caregivers consistently show due diligence in ensuring the baby’s nurturing, love, comfort, and safety, the baby will assimilate the safety of other people and the world outside himself. Otherwise, the baby will learn not to trust the people around him in the first year of life, and he will probably generalize the feelings of insecurity he learned in this period to all people.
If this period is not spent properly, some oral and ingestion behaviors can often be seen; like smoking. According to Erikson, infants develop a basic sense of trust when they sense trustworthiness in the behavior of their mother or caregiver.
If a child is able to remain calm without unnecessary fear when his mother is away, this is an indication that he has developed a basic sense of trust towards his mother. Otherwise, the baby will start crying as soon as his mother leaves him, even if he doesn’t need it. Here, “I don’t trust you, you’re going to leave me, you’ve done that before.” has a message. Children who have been brought up without a basic sense of trust may be insecure people who are afraid to establish social relationships in their future lives. However, if the person can compensate for this deficiency in the later periods, it can be a self-confident person who can establish healthy social relationships. This is a consequence of Erikson’s antideterministic approach.
To summarize Erikson’s view;
People around me look at me (interest), value me, recognize my existence. They are consistent, consistent, and the same person with reliable precision.