Erik Erikson (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
German-born American psychoanalyst best known for his work with children and adolescents.
Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to Danish parents. As a youth, he was a student and teacher of art. While teaching at a private school in Vienna, he became acquainted with Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. Erikson underwent psychoanalysis, and the experience made him decide to become an analyst himself. He was trained in psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute and also studied the Montessori method of education, which focused on child development. Following Erikson's graduation from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933, the Nazis had just come to power in Germany, and he emigrated with his wife, first to Denmark and then to the United States, where he became the first child psychoanalyst in Boston. Erikson held positions at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Judge Baker Guidance Center, and at Harvard's Medical School and Psychological Clinic, establishing a solid reputation as an outstanding clinician. In 1936, Erikson accepted a position at Yale University, where he worked at the Institute of Human Relations and taught at the Medical School. After spending a year observing children on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, he joined the faculty of the University of...
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Erikson, Erik Homburger (1902-1994) (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Erik Homburger Erikson, American psychoanalyst, was born on June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt-am-Main, and died on May 12, 1994, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Erikson was the son of a Danish mother and unknown father. His step-father was a German pediatrician in Karlsruhe, and after Erikson left home his mother and step-father, both Jewish, moved to Palestine. In Vienna, Anna Freud became Erikson's analyst in 1927, and he graduated as a child analyst from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933. Artistically inclined, Erikson said that he was first attracted to Freud's ideas by the magnificence of his German prose.
He entered Freud's circle in the summer of 1927, when he was working as a painter of children's portraits without any firm professional goals. An old school friend was at that time the director of a small progressive school in Vienna run by Dorothy Burlingham and Eva Rosenfeld, both close friends of Anna Freud.
Most of the children at the school were in psychoanalytic treatment, and a number of the parents were undergoing analysis. Erikson was hired to paint the portraits of the four Burlingham children. After a brief period as a tutor, Erikson was asked whether he would consider becoming a child analyst profession he had not heard of before.
By the end of 1933 Erikson had settled in Boston, Massachusetts. He worked in private practice as a child analyst, the first male in that field. He also was associated with the Harvard Psychological Clinic under Henry A. Murray, and did research at Yale. In 1939 Erikson became an American citizen, changing his name from his step-father's Homburger to the self-created Erikson. Later he moved to Berkeley, California where he became one of the founders of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society. After a 1951 loyalty oath controversy at the height of the McCarthy period, Erikson resigned from the University of California and moved to the Austin Riggs Center in western Massachusetts. In 1960 he accepted a prestigious university professorship at Harvard College.
Always uncomfortable in academic life, since he himself was without any formal training aside from being an analyst, Erikson retired from Harvard in the early 1970s to return to California where he worked at the Mt. Zion Department of Psychiatry in San Francisco. In 1987 he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts. where an Erikson Center was established under Harvard's auspices. Erikson's final days were spent at a nursing home at Harwich on Cape Cod, near Cotuit where he and his wife Joan had long had a summer home.
Erikson's Childhood and Society first came out in 1950, and was reprinted more than any of his other books. Young Man Luther (1958) was a study in psychoanalysis and history, as Erikson treated Luther as an innovative psychologist whose Christian teachings complemented those of classical analysis. While Identity and the Life Cycle (1959) was a collection of his papers on ego psychology. Insight and Responsibility (1964) was a set of papers on the ethical implications of psychoanalytic insight. Gandhi's Truth (1969), a prize-winning book, sought the origins of militant non-violence in Gandhi's life. Erikson also gave the 1973 Jefferson Lectures in the Humanities, which appeared as Dimensions of a New Identity (1974). Life History and the Historical Moment (1975) was another collection of essays, and so was A Way of Looking at Things (1987).
Erikson used his concept of ego identity in order to move psychoanalytic theory away from Feud's libido approach; Erickson saw society as a constructive source of ego strength. Erikson also developed the notion of psychohistory as part of his effort to bring psychoanalysis into the modern social sciences.
Work discussed: Childhood and Society.
Notion developed: Ego identity.
See also: Burlingham-Rosenfeld/Hietzing Schule; Ego (ego psychology); Identity; Principle of identity preservation; Psychobiography; Psychohistory; United States.
Erikson, Erik H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton.
. (1958). Young Man Luther. NewYork: W. W. Norton.
. (1959). Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: International Universities Press.
. (1964). Insight and Responsibility. New York: W. W. Norton, 256 p.
. (1969). Gandhi's Truth. New York: W. W. Norton.