"The personality is engaged with the hazards of existence continuously, even as the body's metabolism copes with decay."

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Erik Erikson (1902-1994)

  • "The personality is engaged with the hazards of existence continuously, even as the body's metabolism copes with decay."

Psychosocial Stages of Development

  • Psychosocial: the environment the child is in interacts with the child's heredity. More than just sexuality is involved. Development addresses all the areas of one's life


Each stages is characterized by:

  • A crisis taking the form of a dilemma (ex: trust vs. mistrust)

  • Though one part of the dilemma sounds negative (ex: mistrust), it is important and needs to be integrated.

  • For example, one would not want a child to approach life with a totally trustful attitude. A child needs to have enough savvy to know some things can't be trusted, and enough positive experiences to have a "basic trust", the resulting virtue or strength is hope.

Erikson's stages

  • In the attached table you will find:

  • The 8 stages (+Freudian equivalents)

  • The dilemmas

  • The social radius (who do people connect to at each stage)

  • The dominant ways to relate for each stage

  • The virtues/ego strengths that can emerge

  • The positive social patterns that develop (ritualizations)

  • The negative unbalances that can develop (ritualisms)

For each stage

  • Look at how these elements are connected. Create examples for each stage.

  • How does a particular dilemma resolve itself into the development of a given virtue?

  • How can a given positive social pattern develop (ritualization)?

  • How can some things go astray? (ritualisms)

Our sense of identity

  • Develops progressively through the stages, all through our life time.

Facets of identity

  • Spiritual/religious identity

  • Cultural/ethnic identity

  • Gender identity

  • Professional identity

  • Social identity

  • Etc…

Developmental Themes

  • The dilemmas that Erikson proposes for the developmental stages are truly themes we wrestle with all through life, they just get more salient at some times.

  • For example: though most of you are theoretically in the intimacy vs. isolation stage, issues of hope, will, or purpose are still important.

Eriksonian Virtues and Scripture

  • In the slides that follow, Erikson's definition of a virtue is given (from Insight and Responsibility (1964) --New York: Norton pp 118-134).

  • Some scriptural considerations follow.

  • What connections do you see between psychological themes and virtues as Erikson sees them, and one's spiritual development as a Christian?

What themes are salient for you?

  • This link leads you to a set of questions about each developmental theme.

  • Answer the questions, and score them according to the instructions.

  • What are the two most salient themes for you at this time?

About hope

  • 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.

  • Compare Erikson's definition of hope with the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11. What dynamics are the same? Of course Hebrew 11 is talking about humans in general, not little children, but before God we are are small children, aren't we? And could some of the foundations of our adult faith be rooted in some of our experiences as little children?

About will

  • WILL is the unbroken determination to exercise free choice as well as self-restraint, in spite of the unavoidable experience of shame and doubt in infancy

  • What is the positive value of shame? (granted of course that we should not build our all identity on it) Consider Jeremiah 6:15 (read around it for context). What are the people lacking, and how does that get them in trouble?

About purpose

  • 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.

  • Guilt is defined in Erikson's theory as "the capacity for self-condemnation". It implies both cognitive reflective ability, and also the ego strength to be able to tolerate that inner disapproval. True guilt is healthy.

  • Read Psalm 51 and reflect how the guilt experienced by the psalmist can be an asset to his relationship with God.

About competence

  • COMPETENCE is the free exercise of dexterity and intelligence in the completion of tasks, unimpaired by infantile inferiority.

  • A good example of competence and the obstacles to it can be found in the parable of the Talents MT 25:14-28

About fidelity

  • FIDELITY is the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems.

  • Perhaps one of the most lovely examples of fidelity is the whole story of Ruth (Book of Ruth, entire book --promise Ruth 1:16-18

About love

  • LOVE is mutuality of devotion forever subduing the antagonisms inherent in divided function.

  • Read Paul's definition of love in ICor 13

About care

  • CARE is the widening concern for what has been generated by love, necessity or accident; it overcomes the ambivalence adhering to irreversible obligation.

  • A widening concern: we are to care not just for our family, or for those who love us, but for all --as all become our neigbors. Look for example at the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)

About wisdom

  • WISDOM is detached concern with life itself, in the face of death itself.

  • This sort of way to look at life in the perspective of something greater than us can be found in Proverbs 1:1-7 (and in the rest of the book). Though, for a look at life in the face of death, go to Ecclesiastes --which is NOT a sad and depressed book… only a wise one, full of paradoxes.

The End


~johluc -> Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
~johluc -> Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

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