The basic premise of Erik Erikson's Ego theory is that the ego, as the compendium of traits that form our personality, has to undergo a series of developmental and psychological challenges. This series of events compose the Psychosocial theory of development. In each challenge, all which coincide with a specific developmental stage, there can only be two outcomes upon meeting the challenge; a) to benefit and reinforce positive personality traits, or, b) to pathologically detour them from acceptable, social behavior.
In Erikson's theory, behavioral pathology is defined as the exact opposite of a behavioral strength or, more specifically, as
an antipathy of a virtue.
Hence, the successful completion of a stage entails that all the support systems, family members and social resources worked in tandem to ensure the success of the individual, hence developing in him outcomes such as
On the contrary, when social, cognitive, financial, or biological obstacles come into play, the developmental stage does not reach its expected outcome. For example, a child who is over-protected during ages 3-5 may not experience a sense of purpose nor individuality. Moreover, the overprotected and under-exposed child will not develop the personal defenses that will render him less prone to being co-dependent on others. When purpose and initiative are restrained, the outcome will be that the child will develop a sense of guilt, even inferiority that may permeate him throughout his life. Hence, through psychoanalysis and Gestalt therapy, among others an individual may re-gain that missing link that was lost during childhood and enforce a stronger sense of self awareness.