What personality structure and dynamics as defined by Erikson's Psychoanalytical Ego Psychology theory?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Sigmund Freud's ego theory states that personality structure is based on the basic Id, or our primal, most instinctive primitive behaviors, on the Ego, or our actual selves, and the Super Ego, or the critical and moralizing (judgemental) part of our personality. In Freud's theory, the Ego is a mediator between the Basic Id and the Super Ego.

As a Neo-Freudian, Erik Erikson also believes in an Id, Ego, and Super ego. However, the manner in which these parts of our conscious and unconscious are developed is what makes Erikson's theory detour from Freud's.

In Erikson's theory, personality is structured in the following manner. Stages 1-4 go from birth through age 11; the stages are

  • Trust Vs Mistrust
  • Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt
  • Initiative Vs. Guilt
  • Industry Vs. Inferiority

According to Erikson, during these stages our personalities are molded by our social and immediate support systems: our parents, our caretakers, the school system, and the social resource system.

Our Ego strongly depends on these first four stages and consistently battles the basic Id. At this point, the Super Ego is being indoctrinated onto us through the lessons and rules that are bestowed upon us at home and school. Hence, the dynamics of the personality structure are the Id (children's natural rowdiness and challenging behavior) versus the Ego (the young, conscious persona whose Super Ego is being enforced upon.

The next stages,

  • Identity Vs. Role confusion
  • Intimacy Vs. Isolation
  • Generativity Vs. Stagnation
  • Ego Integrity Vs. Despair

are mainly structured by the individual. It is during this stage where we put into practice the lessons learned from the first four stages. Here we often see the "missing factors" of individuals that did not have functional childhoods, or that were not disciplined as children. The dynamics that often happen is that the Ego is corrupted by a tendency to follow the basic Id, thus creating adults who are reckless, frustrated, or angry. Missing developmental stages tend to be repeated in aims to comply with unfinished business and midlife-crises are likely to come up. In all, it is during the beginning of life that our personalities should become molded and structured; it is the time where ego should be fed and disciplined. Failure to do so will result in underachieving and depressive adults who could have solve their problems had their caretakers and immediate support systems been more caring and responsible. 

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